If asked, very
few Russians would say they know who Leonid Fyodorovich Myasin was
(his name is spelt ‘Massine’ in French). Once systematised information
on Leonid Myasin could be found in the ‘Encyclopaedia of Ballet’
only and, later, in ‘ Russian Ballet ’. Myasin’s personality became
known a little bit better when in 1997 his memoirs ‘My life in Ballet’
were published in Russian. His ballets, however, had been brought
to Russia by Western guest troupes very few times, therefore Myasin’s
choreographic heritage has remained known to just a handful of professionals.
A graduate of the Moscow school of dance, Alexandr
Gorsky’s pupil, Leonid Myasin joined the Bolshoi Company in 1912.
He also participated in the Maly Theatre’s productions. Soon, dancing
in Swan Lake and Don Quixote, the young dancer won attention of
Diaghilev. Since then the 19-year-old Myasin worked abroad in Diaghilev’s
troupe Ballets Russes, where he danced leading parts in The Legend
about Joseph and Petrushka (Punch). Some imperfections of the constitution
did not let him act classical parts. Myasin chose demi-character
emploi, in which he was beyond any rivalry.
With Diaghilev’s blessing, Myasin started choreographing,
and immediately distinguished himself in that field. He trod the
same path as the first choreographer of the famous ‘Russian Seasons'
Mikhail Fokin, who had mastered the format of one-act performances.
The list of his one-act productions mounted in France, USA and Italy
runs to over 70, to say nothing of numerous dance episodes in operas
and films. With a rare exception, for his choreography Myasin used
to choose symphonic and instrumental music, which had never been
considered to be choreographically apt and fitting. And he liked
various folk motives and comedies, so seldom seen on the ballet
stage; religious themes were also of great interest to him. Myasin
was able to convey impressions from architecture and painting and,
even, nature with the help of the choreographic vocabulary. Among
his co-authors were such icons as Pablo Picasso, with his Parade
and Pulchinella, Salvador Dali, author of Labyrinth and Bacchanalia,
and Henry Matisse, who painted Nightingale and The Red and The Black.
Myasin is the founder of an innovative genre of dance, the symphonic
ballet. In his elaborate productions Myasin attempted to reveal
the musical content and essence of symphonies by such renowned composers
as Ludwig van Beethoven and Hector Berlioz. In Russia only Alexandr
Gorsky in 1916 ventured to choreograph the Fifth Symphony by Glasunov,
and the talented Fyodor Lopukhov in 1923 created his Magnificence
of the Universe to Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony. Certainly, Myasin’s
symphonic ballets used to impress the public as extremely controversial.
His contemporary musicians stood up against abusing the Tchaikovsky,
Beethoven, Berlioz, Schubert and other classical scores and ‘ treading
them under feet ’ as they described it. But Myasin’s gift was so
great that he was able to head Diaghilev's company, Ballet Russes
de Monte Carlo, when Diaghilev died. He is the founding father of
British and American national ballet. It’s he whom the two countries
owe their ballets to. His name is among the best ballet celebrities
of the past century: Mikhail Fokin, Vaclav and Bronislava Nijinsky
and George Balanchine.
Nowadays the Bolshoi Ballet Company is the
first to have mounted Myasin’s ballets in Russia, the step which
is to make the name of the Russian-born choreographer regain its
fame at home. The program covers every aspect of his considerable
heritage. As the work on restoring the ballets, which has been going
on since early March, is headed by the choreographer’s son Lorka
Myasin, the authenticity of the choreography is beyond doubt.
So, what’s on the menu? To start with, the
Spanish ballet to the music by Manuel de Falla The Cocked Hat based
on Pedro Antonio de Alarcon’s novel. This piece of choreography
offers a chance to appreciate the stylised version of Spanish folk
dances such as Fandango, Farruco and Jota as well as the scenography
and costume findings of Pablo Picasso. The premiere of 1919, held
in London, was danced by Myasin himself and Tamara Karsavina (Miller
and his Wife), the parts which are now inherited by the Bolshoi’s
soloists Dmitry Gudanov, Yury Klevtsov, Ruslan Skvortsov, Denis
Savin, Maria Alexandrova, Nellie Kobakhidze and Anastasia Yatsenko.
Then comes The Presages to the music of the
Fifth Symphony by Tchaikovsky, the first symphonic ballet, produced
in Monte-Carlo in 1933. Myasin’s works conveyed his constant interest
in the eternal theme of ‘ Man and Fate ‘. Therefore, the four parts
of the symphony were titled: Action, Passion, Levity and Fate. The
part of Fate has traditionally been the male one. At the Bolshoi
the choice to embody it fell to Dmitry Belogolovtsev, Yan Godovsky
and Dmitry Gudanov. As to Andrey Uvarov, Vladimir Neporozhny, Alexandr
Volchkov and Karim Abdullin, they are to face the vicissitudes of
life and tricks of fortune. Maria Allash, Hadezhda Grachova and
Anna Antonicheva will dance Passion. The scenography and costumes
for the piece will be designed by the couturier Igor Chapurin. Meanwhile,
the theatre workshops are already busy decorating the costumes with
crystals from Swarovski.
The Merry-Making in Paris is a cascade of most
funny episodes from the life of a certain Tortony cafe. It abounds
in J. Offenbach-made operettas stirring motifs, flirting, lacy skirts,
sparkling dancing and, naturally, cancan. First shown in 1938 in
New York, the ballet immediately won the audience and so far has
been invariably associated with its creator’s name. Originally Myasin
had cut out the main part of the Peruvian for himself and acted
it in a most inimitable way for many years. The Bolshoi cast to
take part in the upcoming Bolshoi’s premiere are: Marianna Ryzhkina,
Svetlana Lunkina (the Gloves Girl), Yan Godovsky, Denis Medvedev
(the Peruvian), Anastasia Meskova, Anastasia Yatsenko (the cancan
soloists). The scenography is by Raymonda Gaetani.
The long-awaited premiere performances on the
Main Stage will take place on the 17th, 19th, 21st of April and
May 15. But it’s possible to satisfy curiosity as early as on the
6th of April when on the New Stage at 4 o’clock p.m. there will
be shown some episodes from the three ballet performances … absolutely
free of charge.