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' It’s no simple matter to work with people in the ballet world. Ballet people are emotional and vulnerable characters'
29 OCT 15
Izvestia is the one newspaper that packs in culture coverage, especially so in anything to do with the Bolshoi. Hence it surprised me to see its report on the appointment of Makhar Vaziev as the next chief for the Bolshoi Ballet buried discreetly down-page on its Culture page, so far down you can almost miss it - well below an old report on the Bolshoi's changes to ticket discounts.
It comprises a short sample of opinions from three Bolshoi veterans, all supportive of the Vaziev appointment. Ex-ballerina and senior coach Marina Kondratieva hopes for an improvement in classical productions (this may be code for replacing Yuri Grigorovich's versions); former ballet managers Yuri Burlaka and Vyacheslav Gordeyev cautiously expect a balance of the great world ballets with 'Russia's traditions'.
The coverage certainly pales by comparison with the amount of prominent supportive coverage Izvestia has long given to Nikolai Tsiskaridze in his campaigns in the past to be ballet director, and then to be the Bolshoi Theatre chief.
Tsiskaridze's own reaction I've reported in a separate piece.
‘Vaziev will bring the academic tradition to the Bolshoi’
From March 2016 the head of the Bolshoi Ballet will be the Honoured Artist of Russia Makhar Vaziev. He will leave La Scala, Milan, where he has been ballet director since 2009, before the end of his contract in order to join Russia’s chief theatre. Izvestia asked former artistic directors and leading teacher-coaches of the Bolshoi Ballet what they expect from Makhar Vaziev.
[Bolshoi ballerina of the 1950s & 60s, resident coach to Natalia Osipova and Olga Smirnova, among others]
Makhar Vaziev’s appointment is very significant for our theatre because he’s a professional with much experience in leadership. It’s no simple matter to work with people in the ballet world. Ballet people are emotional and vulnerable characters.
Makhar was artistic director at the Mariinsky, and the Bolshoi and Mariinsky theatres are close to each other. I think it will work out for us. I very much hope that under his leadership the quality of classical productions n our repertoire will improve. After all our theatre is a classical one, and it bears the flag for Russian classicism, which we must not forget. And in the professional world any theatre is being judged by its classical ballet. When our company goes on foreign tours, the classical work is our visiting card.
[Bolshoi Ballet artistic director 1995-1997 - succeeded Yuri Grigorovich, now artistic director of the "Russian Ballet"]
Makhar Vaziev comes from the fine school of the Mariinsky Theatre. When he became leader of the Mariinsky ballet he continued dancing. Makhar knows from inside all the hardships of the ballet life. Anastasia Volochkova, Diana Vishneva and Ulyana Lopatkina all emerged under his leadership - this alone shows he’s a good leader.
In the ballet you often have very unexpected things happening: someone leaves, someone gets sick. In any great company unexpected things are always happening, but Makhar always finds the right way out of the situation. He also, looks after the dancers: when Vishneva had a leg injury, Makhar organised her surgery in Germany.
I am generally a supporter of the idea that the Bolshoi Theatre should be led by people who have worked in the Bolshoi. Still the Bolshoi and Mariinsky theatres have different schools; there was always a definite rivalry between Petersburg and Moscow. But, considering Makhar Vaziev’s experience, the choice is right for current circumstances. Makhar will bring to the Bolshoi the academism and tradition of classical dance.
[Bolshoi Ballet artistic director 2009-2011, between Alexei Ratmansky and Sergei Filin]
Makhar Vaziev is a highly experienced professional and a demanding leader. At the Mariinsky Theatre Vaziev put on a lot of wonderful work, he invited new choreographers and teachers. I am convinced that Makhar Khasanovich will maintain Russian traditions in the Bolshoi Theatre, and our signature productions.
Under him the Mariinsky Theatre stage also presented the finest Western ballets. I am confident that he will continue this process of uniting Russian classicism and great ballets of world repertoire in the Bolshoi too.
As regards the differences between the Petersburg and Moscow schools that people love to talk about, it seems to me that we are all students of one school, and there is absolutely no difference at all.
Makhar Vaziev, Bolshoi ballet director designate: [photo Petr Kassin/ Kommersant]