On Le Tricorne, Les Presages and Gaite Parisienne premiered in Russia.
Å. Nikolaev
Updating: 15.06.2005 EVENTSsss
THE PUPIL OF THE BOLSHOI’S NEST

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.

Rehearsal premiere of Leonid Myasin's ballets.
Photo by Elena Fetisova (the Bolshoi Theatre)
23 photo, 717 Kb
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