The Grigorovich Era

MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Olga Sobolevskaya) - Gala evenings in honor of Yury Grigorovich will be held at the Bolshoi Theater, Moscow, January 18, and at London's Covent Garden on January 28 to crown his jubilee celebrations - one of the foremost 20th century ballet masters had his 80th birthday on January 2.

Compliments were always showered on him at home and abroad. Some epithets were commonplace, such as "great" and "outstanding," others effusive, as "dance fanatic" or "colossus." Maurice Bejart, his colleague of no smaller distinction, described Grigorovich as "an evergreen alpine meadow."

Ballet is the most authoritarian of all arts, and Grigorovich is its dictator of genius. Many never forgive his trademark harshness, and some smirk at him as authorities' favorite. Stars who worked with him for many glorious years and whom he suddenly fired for dissent, would not forget the wrong done.

Young dancers, however, envy what they know as "the Grigorovich generation," a constellation whose gift shone the brightest in his productions, and with whom he later fell out. Some of the best known names include Yekaterina Maksimova, Vladimir Vasilyev, Mikhail Lavrovsky, Maris Liepa and Natalya Bessmertnova, to name but a few.

Grigorovich became chief choreographer at the Bolshoi in 1964 to retain the post for 30 years and revive the time-tested company's global renown in a producer-performer union. Sweden, France, Italy, Denmark, Austria and East European countries applauded his ballets as Russian national treasures. The Russian ballet confirmed the repute it won early in the 20th century with the Saisons Russes.

"Success belongs to author crews," Grigorovich often repeated after he left the Bolshoi 10 years ago to establish his own company in Krasnodar, the south of European Russia. He works for it with keenness and enthusiasm to this day.

The Grigorovich Era of the Soviet ballet started with his debut in choreography - Sergei Prokofiev's "The Stone Flower," staged in 1957 at the Kirov Theater, the gem of St. Petersburg, which has now regained its name of Mariinsky. The young maestro gave classical dance a folksy spice. In the age of the pantomime ballet, he came out with dancing full of expressive power and psychological insights. The tale of a master stone carver received the philosophical depth of a "poem of creativity, with its torment and ecstasy."

This is what Dmitry Shostakovich said about the sensational ballet: "The new production alloys all the best traditions and the latest expressive means to present them in a striking and convincing way. It is a triumph of dancing, which expresses everything in its fabulously rich idiom."

"The Stone Flower" and Arif Melikov's "The Legend of Love," a 1961 endeavor, soon appeared at the Bolshoi. Grigorovich followed his productions to Moscow, where he brought the innovative spirit of the Leningrad ballet. Educated at the Leningrad Choreography School, he regarded trailblazing Fyodor Lopukhov as one of his favorite teachers.

However much he loves the classics, Grigorovich never saw them as sacred. "Do whatever you like but make a good production!" he often says.

Aram Khachaturyan's heroic tragedy "Spartacus" came as a landmark in 1968, generously interspersed with acrobatics and based on men's dance. Grigorovich was the first to make male dancers independent figures. "Spartacus" has not left the Bolshoi stage for 40 years. The whole world saw its guest performances, and there is a cinematic version.

Rich in psychological penetration and erotic undercurrent, Grigorovich's choreography codes a profound philosophy - the existential choice. We see it in "The Legend of Love," "Romeo and Juliet" and the 1969 "Swan Lake," which the Bolshoi revived in 2001.

The ballet master brings back from oblivion its forgotten tragic finale - Tchaikovsky finished his tale with the heroes perishing. As Grigorovich has it, Siegfried's love story is really the story of a haunted choice as the Prince rushes from good to evil and back, and his dreams clash with harsh reality. Odette here personifies everything sublime in his heart and mind and Odylle the down-to-earth.

Thanks to Grigorovich, the public discovered Shostakovich's ballets. Their return started with "The Golden Age," a first-ever crime story on the ballet stage.

He used Sergei Prokofiev's soundtrack to Eisenstein's "Ivan the Terrible" for a ballet of the same name.

"The Bolshoi presently stages nine of my productions, and I am grateful for that," says the ballet master.

The Bolshoi had a festival of his ballets early in January. The January 18 gala concert includes scenes from "Spartacus," "The Golden Age" and "The Nutcracker." The television often shows documentary films about Grigorovich and his interviews. Bookshops advertise books about him. The veteran maestro is getting ever more prizes, scoring a total 50 awards or so. He appears on the most prestigious juries and discovers young stars.

"I still leap about the stage with young dancers!" he says.

London will see his Krasnodar company on January 28.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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