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20 NOVEMBER '16
Only a month after Bolshoi star Andrei Uvarov was named acting head of Moscow's second ballet company, the Stanislavsky, he has been supplanted by the great Paris star Laurent Hilaire, a Nureyev protégé, who will become the new Stanislavsky ballet director from the New Year. It is a tremendous coup for the Stanislavsky Ballet, giving the prospect of a battle royal to come with the Bolshoi for classical honours in Moscow.
Hilaire became well known to British ballet-lovers as a frequent partner to Sylvie Guillem both when she was at the Paris Opera and after she joined the Royal Ballet. Tall, extraordinarily handsome, and with a charismatic French romantic courtesy in his dancing, Hilaire was felt by some observers to have been wrongly overlooked when the fashionable Benjamin Millepied was appointed to lead Paris Opera Ballet just two years ago - a view that seemed justified when Millepied rapidly resigned his position.
It is the Nureyev connection that helped win Hilaire his interesting new appointment, according to the new head of the Stanislavsky Theatre, Anton Getman, until this summer deputy director of the Bolshoi Theatre. Uvarov will remain at the 'Stasik' in the deputy role of ballet company manager.
The musical chairs going on in Russian ballet companies recently has reflected the oversupply of superb male ballet stars of the last generation. The Stanislavsky's roll of honour of ballet directors reads like a parade of A-listers over just the past decade: Bolshoi star Sergei Filin, Mariinsky star Igor Zelensky, Bolshoi star Andrei Uvarov, and now Paris Opera Ballet star Laurent Hilaire, one of Rudolf Nureyev's outstanding protégés in the golden age he created at the Paris Opera Ballet in the 1980s.
What will now be closely watched is what Moscow's dancers do. Under Zelensky the Stanislavsky had begun to scoop up major ballets by Kenneth MacMillan (Manon and Mayerling) and Frederick Ashton (Marguerite and Armand), and the erratic services of the celebrated Sergei Polunin. When Zelensky transferred to Munich this autumn to head the Bavarian Ballet, he took Polunin and other fine Russian dancers with him.
However, the Stanislavsky, under its serious new general director Getman and an illustrious new ballet director in Hilaire, will be seen as an enticing alternative for the best young dancers traditionally headed to the Bolshoi Ballet, whose own recently appointed director, Makhar Vaziev, is subject to a statist repertoire and bitter internal politics.
Russia's 'second' companies - the Mikhailovsky in St Petersburg, the Stanislavsky in Moscow - have both been winning international interest in their cosmopolitan dynamism and independence of attitude, sometimes favourably comparing with the Mariinsky and Bolshoi giants.
Here's my translation of the Hilaire news.
Laurent Hilaire to head Stanislavsky Ballet
Star of French and world ballet Laurent Hilaire will become artistic director of the Stanislavsky Ballet (the Moscow Academic Musical Theatre) on January 1, 2017. Andrei Uvarov, presently acting artistic director, will move to the post of ballet company manager, the theatre’s general director Anton Getman has announced.
“I am extremely pleased that following a month and a half of discussions and working trips to the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theatre, Laurent Hilaire has accepted my invitation to head the theatre’s ballet troupe,” said Getman. “Everyone acknowledges Mr Hilaire as a star of the Paris Opera Ballet, a leader of the famous ‘Nureyev generation' of dancers with an enormous breadth of repertoire. He danced the premiere of Nureyev’s La Bayadère, the world premiere of Preljocaj’s Le Parc, the legendary premiere of William Forsythe’s In the Middle Somewhat Elevated.
“But I also know Laurent as a balletmaster and repetiteur, and the deputy director of the Paris Opera Ballet under Madame Lefèvre. I observed Laurent at work both when the Bolshoi Theatre, where I used to work, hosted the Paris company and when the Bolshoi toured to the Palais Garnier. I am certain that Laurent Hilaire’s French standards, his gift for pedagogy, his sense of direction within the landscape of world ballet, and also his eight years of experience in the leadership of the complex organism that is the Paris Opera Ballet, will be nothing but advantageous in the difficult process of developing our ballet at the Stanislavsky,” said Getman.
He added that Igor Zelensky, head of the ballet, had from September 1 taken up his new position as intendant and artistic director of the Bavarian Ballet. He remains at the Stanislavsky as an adviser to the general director until the end of the current season.
Laurent Hilaire admitted in an interview with TASS that the offer to head the ballet troupe had come as “quite a surprise” to him.
"The invitation, which Anton Getman extended to me during our meeting in Paris, was unexpected, and even rather unlikely - but the idea at once appealed to me, and I also liked how the director of the theatre sees the prospects for the ballet company,” said Hilaire. “In the last six weeks I’ve been in Moscow twice for classes and rehearsals, and I felt the enthusiasm with which the dancers work. I see their problems, but I also see their potential, and and I am fully aware of the responsibility that I will be taking on in leading the company. For me this feels like a professional challenge.”
Asked whether he intended to move from Paris to Moscow, he replied that for the next few years Moscow will be his place of permanent residence. “There’s no other way - the artistic director of a ballet company must be with it at all time,” he said. “So I am moving to Moscow which I have visited many times with the Paris Opera. The city has changed, become gentler and more attractive. I will pack my bags without fear!”
Hilaire refused to say what his artistic plans were. “It’s too soon to say,” he said, explaining that he did not want to “repeat platitudes”.
"I have the greatest respect for Russian ballet, for its school, heritage, traditions, and I understand that I will be heading a Russian classical ballet company. In that regard, it will be essential to look forward, to find new choreographers, Russians in particular. In a word, I am ready to work,” he concluded.
Laurent Hilaire's Biography
Laurent Hilaire (Laurent Hilaire) was born in 1962. He graduated from the Paris Opera Ballet School and in 1979 was admitted to the corps de ballet of the Paris Opera. In 1985, aged 23, he was promoted by Rudolf Nureyev to the rank of étoile at the Paris Opera Ballet.
His repertoire included leading roles in ballets by Lacotte, Balanchine, Robbins, Lifar, Nureyev, Fokine, MacMillan, Petit, Béjart, Cunningham, Kylián, Forsythe, Preljocaj, De Keersmaeker and others.
He was a guest star with the Royal Ballet in London, La Scala Milan, American Ballet Theatre in New York, the Australian Ballet, the Berlin Staatsoper Ballet and Tokyo Ballet. He was the regular partner of Sylvie Guillem, Isabelle Guérin, Elisabeth Platel, Agnes Letestu, Darcey Bussell, Alessandra Ferri, Altynai Asylmuratova and Svetlana Zakharova.
In 2007, he gave his farewell performance at the Paris Opera Ballet in Balanchine’s Apollo and Béjart’s Songs of a Wayfarer.
Since 2005 he has held the position of balletmaster/ repétiteur at the Paris Opera. He prepared soloists and corps de ballet in repertoire by Lacotte, Nureyev, Lifar and Balanchine, and was choreographer's assistant to Kylián, Forsythe, De Keersmaeker and Ratmansky; he also headed the revival of Béjart’s The Rite of Spring.
In 2011 he became the deputy to ballet director Brigitte Lefèvre, participating in the planning of artistic repertoire, and being wholly responsible for the ballet company's production side.
In 2014, after the appointment of Benjamin Millepied as artistic director of the Paris Opera Ballet, Laurent Hilaire left the company alongside Brigitte Lefèvre.
For the past two years he has worked with the National Ballet of Canada, Rome Opera Ballet, Royal Swedish Ballet, La Scala Milan and the Shanghai Ballet.
He is the father of two daughters. He holds two Benois de la Danse awards (2004, 2007), is a Knight of the Legion of Honour (2004), and Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters (2007) of the French Republic.
' I see their problems, but I also see their potential. I understand that I will be leading a Russian classical company'