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kirov ballet school st petersburg

Open Russia Tours

    St Petersburg's Mariinsky Ballet

    Mariinsky, the Best of Russian Ballet

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    Tour duration, 6 hours with guide & driver)

    Based on early French and Italian traditions, Russian ballet developed to become unique and highly regarded as being among the best and most influential in the world. St. Petersburg is the center of the Russian classical school of dancing and has produced its greatest dancers and choreographers.

    The Russian Ballet tour will acquaint you with such legendary names as Agrippina Vaganova, Anna Pavlova, Vatslav Nizhinsky, George Balanchin, Tamara Karsavina, Matilda Kschessinskaya, Rudolf Nureev, Michael Baryshnikov, Natalia Makarova, Galina Ulanova, Konstantin Sergeev and others, and will take to you to different sites in St. Petersburg connected with their life and work.
    You’ll have a unique opportunity to see the backstage of the world-famous Mariinsky Teatre, Opera and Ballet House (1 hour).

    The Mariinsky Theatre

    The Mariinsky Theatre opened it doors in 1860 and immediately became a cultural centerpiece, highlighting Russia’s achievements in the world of music, theatre and literature. The dazzling azure blue and gold auditorium, which seats 1700, is home to the celebrated Kirov Opera and Ballet Company. Accompanied by the Mariinsky Theatre Special Guide, you will visit the areas that are usually inaccessible to the general public. There is a lot to see on both sides of the curtain: stage machinery, engineering devices, costume storages and the set-design workshop, which is located right under the theatre cupola. You will look at the stage from the Tsar’s Box and visit the splendid White Hall at the foyer where Russian Tsars spent time during intermissions.

    Leonid Jacobson Ballet School

    Another very special visit on this tour is to the Leonid Jacobson Ballet School. The Leonid Jakobson Ballet School was founded in 1994 on the basis of the “Choreographic Miniatures” Academic Ballet House and was named after the artistic Director of that troupe. In 1997, the Ballet School established its own premises, with the highest level of professional facilities for the education of ballet students.

    After the guided tour of the school premises, you’ll attend a ballet class of students from various grades (15 min) and a concert including pieces from classic ballets and modern choreography (40 min).

    A distinguishing feature of the school is the age of its students, who start at the age of 6 or 7 – not аt 10 as has been done traditionally.

    Classic ballet, its study and performance, is inseparable from the most refined elements of Russian character. The Open Russian Ballet Tour will provide you with a rare behind the scenes look and a heightened appreciation of what it takes to develop the qualities to become a star of the Russian ballet stage.

    Combine the Mariinsky Ballet Tour with outher sightseeing tours of St Petersburg. Call us for details

    Mariinsky Theatre
    Jakobson Ballet School 1
    Jakobson Ballet School 2
    Mariinsky Theatre, interior

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    Step-by-step guide to dance


    Step-by-step guide to dance: Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet

    Our series demystifying major choreographers and companies heads to St Petersburg

    In pictures: The marvel of Mariinsky

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    The Kirov Ballet perform Swan Lake

    Graceful and aristocratic … Kirov’s Swan Lake. Photograph: Tristram Kenton

    In short

    The Mariinsky (Kirov) Ballet is not just a company. It’s a saga about a dynasty whose bloodline is that of ballet itself. Think of it as a sweeping Russian epic following the fortunes of an artistic, aristocratic family that is always, always aware of its breeding.


    Anna Pavlova

    Anna Pavlova’s dying swan. Photograph: Corbis

    The Mariinsky’s roots are tsarist. The company dates from 1738 when a French ballet-master founded a school of dancing in St Petersburg for Empress Anna Ivanovna. Initially dominated by French and Italians, the Imperial Ballet and its school changed dramatically in the late 19th century under Marius Petipa, another Frenchman. He upped the standard of dancing and choreography, and together with his right-hand man Lev Ivanov produced the pieces that are now forever identified as “classical ballet”, including the three all-time biggies: Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. If you think of Russia when you think of ballet, it’s because of Petipa.

    Following the 1917 revolution, the school consolidated its world-famous training system under Agrippina Vaganova, but the company went into decline. Yet it continued to influence the ballet world through its offshoot the Ballets Russes. Based in Paris, this company took Europe by storm and was the launchpad for über-choreographer George Balanchine.

    Back in Soviet Russia, by the 1950s the Kirov Ballet (as it came to be called) was eclipsed by its bolshier Moscow cousin, the Bolshoi. But from the 1960s it was in the ascendant again, its reputation boosted by foreign tours and the glamorous scandals of the defections to the west of its biggest stars – Rudolf Nureyev, Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

    More recently, the company – now named after its home theatre, the Mariinsky – has been reclaiming its “extended family”, performing period reconstructions of 19th-century classics and Ballets Russes works as well as later pieces by Balanchine and even “post-classical” works by American William Forsythe. At the same time, there have been dark rumblings about the current directorship of Valery Gergiev, and once again, the Bolshoi has recently been shining brighter.

    But remember: this is the Mariinsky Ballet . You can be sure the saga will continue.

    Watching the Kirov

    The Mariinsky is not just old-school, it’s one-school: almost all the dancers are from the Vaganova Academy. The corps de ballet is much praised for its unity. The Mariinsky style is graceful and aristocratic, emphasising carriage of the arms and head as well as the steps. And remember that Russian ballet began as imperial entertainment – they go in for a lot of ballet “bling” (glitter, tiaras and suchlike) and underline the beginnings and endings of phrases with preparations and flourishes. Cue applause!

    Who’s who

    Rudolf Nureyev

    Nureyev, king of ballet. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

    Almost every ballet dancer famous enough to become a household name has come from the Mariinsky: Pavlova, Nijinsky, Nureyev, Makarova, Baryshnikov. Recent top dancers include Uliana Lopatkina, Diana Vishneva, Igor Zelensky and Leonid Sarafanov. Charismatic maestro conductor Gergiev is currently artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre (which includes the opera and orchestra as well as the ballet).


    Earlier this year, after 19 years performing in Don Quixote, Monika the donkey finally retired from the Mariinsky stage. She is succeeded by Alina (also a donkey).

    In their own words

    Makhar Vaziev (former director of the Kirov Ballet): “As long as we first maintain our classical heritage, we will find the best way to make new productions in the future.”

    Gergiev : “We are like two arms of Russian culture, the Bolshoi and the Mariinsky.”

    Dancer Diana Vishneva : “For purity of style, you can keep it only when you follow traditions.”

    In other words

    Judith Mackrell , the Guardian, 2005: “At the Kirov the symmetrical graces of classical ballet are bred deeper in the dancers’ bones than anywhere in the world.”

    Judith Mackrell , the Guardian, 2008: “… collective classical grandeur … is the Kirov’s calling card.”

    Alastair Macaulay, the New York Times, 2008: “… the Kirov refracts ballet history like a hall of mirrors.”

    Do say

    Something about the company’s breeding, the continuity of its balletic bloodline. It’s the one thing that you cannot ignore, ever.

    Don’t say

    “PreDYdushiy osyOL YAvilsya LUCHshim.”* Even if they understood your Russian accent, people might mistake who you’re talking about and then they’d get cross.

    * “The old donkey was better.”

    See also

    Bolshoi Ballet
    Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes
    George Balanchine

    Now watch this

    Anna Pavlova (early 20th century)

    Baryshnikov at Kirov with Lyudmila Semenyaka (1960s)

    Diana Vishneva (21st century)

    The Mariinsky also has its own YouTube channel

    Where to see them next

    October 13-16, Sadler’s Wells , London. They’ll be performing modern works by Forsythe and Balanchine.


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