Russian ballet is world famous. Musical Nutcracker is the most beloved Christmas fairy-tale. And at least once in a lifetime every person had a dreamlike moment when he or she go mesmerized by a magically elegant ballerina’s dance.
In present-day terms professional ballet is the ultimate choreography, the art of dance is raised to the heights of musical and theatrical performance. Was it always like that?
Russian Ballet History in a Nutshell
Today it’s difficult to figure out where exactly ballet originated. So it’s easier to just refer to more or less trustworthy sources. All I got at was that artful men of fashion – the French – adopted a new type of dance from the crazy about art Italians. There’re opinions that ballet existed in ancient Greece and Rome.
In medieval times ballet was not just music and dance. Early ballet performances were epic stagings that could last up to 10-17 hours and included dialogues, monologues, equestrian performances, fights and dancing – to some extent. The first silent ballet performances called “action ballets” with pure dancing and music appeared two centuries later.
Ballet was brought to the Russian Empire by the French. But it is our country, that ballet reached the true heights of flowering and became the symbol of Russia and a Russian art.
The first ballet school in Russia occupied several halls of the Winter Palace (specially equipped for the occasion). There were only 12 girls and boys recruited from common families. The training was free of charge for the parents – the school was public charge. Jean-Baptiste Landé, a French dancer and choreographer became the first teacher.
Ballet art was further developed in Russia in the days of Empress Elizabeth. And during the reign of Catherine the Great it enjoyed even greater popularity. Approximately at this period of time it became fashionable in the higher society to establish home theatres with serf dancers and singers performing.
In the days of Paul 1 ballet stayed in the trend. Paul was fond of ballet. It’s known that when the heir to the throne he even danced himself on the stage of the Imperial Court theatre. New rules appeared on the turn of the centuries: no men on the stage, all male parts were to be played by female dancers.
In the 19th century Russian ballet kept developing. Here I need to point out that before the 19th century ballerinas danced in enormous dresses with corsets and hoopskirts, with huge intricate wigs on the heads. Revolution in ballet is attributed to Maria Taglioni. She was the first one to deny stiff corsets and hoopskirts together with wigs, due to this fact the same ballet moves and pirouettes acquired new techniques, speed and lightness. Besides, Maria Taglioni was the first one to start dancing on the tips of the toes. And certainly, the fact that she performed in St. Petersburg theatres for five seasons in a row and participated in the young ballerinas teaching process influenced St. Petersburg classic ballet school greatly.
There’s a saying among ballet fans: “the 10th swan in the 5th row” meaning a dancer who hasn’t achieved much success in his career and remains an extra.
In the beginning of the 20th century Dyagilev made Russian ballet a world-recognized brand. Interesting enough, but Dyagilev himself didn’t think much of ballet at first. But since he was generously subsidized by the state, among other arts he chose to include ballet performances into his “Seasons Russes” too. And it won all hearts. Russian ballet rolled through Europe, the US, and South American countries, having a greater success with each performance and turning into a symbol of Russian culture.
Amazing Facts about Russian Ballet:
- Out of the top 5 world famous ballets 4 are Russian: “Swan Lake”, “Nutcracker” and “Sleeping Beauty” by Tchaikovsky and “Romeo and Juliette” by Prokofiev.
- Fragile and airy ballerinas on average weigh 51 kg. So, a leading male dancer on average lifts at least half a ton during each performance as he has to lift the prima about 200 times.
- A ballerina changes more than 300 pairs of dancing shoes a year.
- One of the biggest humiliations in ballet is a besom wrapped in a newspaper, thrown on the stage instead of flowers. There’s even a backstage curse: “You’ll get a besom in a newspaper”…
- The fame of Russian ballet dancers grew so much that Western dancers started to adopt Russian stage-names. So Englishmen Patrick Healey-Kay, Lilian Alice Marks and Hilda Munnings are known in the ballet history under the names of Anton Dolin, Alicia Markova and Lidia Sokolova.
St. Petersburg Classic Ballet Tickets
St. Petersburg theatres publish their playbill 2-3 months in advance and starting from that time tickets are available at the box offices and on-line. Upon your wish we can secure ballet tickets and arrange a transfer to and from the theatre.
The cost of the tickets varies from 35-40 USD and up to 180-200 USD per person, depending upon the theatre, performance and seats in the audience.
Summer time performances usually start at 8 p.m., which allows cruise tourists to even return on board the ship to change and refresh before the performance. Although one needs to check the tickets carefully, as some performances might have an earlier start time (7:30 or even 7 p.m.)
Book Russian ballet tickets and enjoy stunningly elegant dance performed in famous St. Petersburg theatres.