International Ballet Competition in Moscow – Warning Signs – Part VIII

Dear Readers:

When I told you we would be done today with this ballet thing, I lied.  Today we will indeed finish Anna Gordeeva’s piece.  But I have one more thing to go over (tomorrow), namely, that RT Ballet Episode showing the conflict in a Russian theater between “classicists” and “modernists”.  And when I say “modern”, by the way, you need to take even that with a grain of salt.  Modern dance isn’t all that modern:  It’s been around almost 100 years, and it’s still just as much B.S. now as it was then.

But anyhow, Gordeeva is a serious critic of Russian ballet, and her warning bells and mockery are on target.  For the title of her piece she used a line from Pushkin’s “Poltava” poem — “The East lights up like a new dawn”, as ironic reference to the fact that most fresh new blood coming into the Russian ballet world is flowing from Asian countries such as Japan and also Central Asia.

Nikolai Tsiskaridze as a young boy.

But these are just the dancers, they shine with talent but hold little power.  Main power in this “sport” is still held by aging artifacts from the late Soviet and “kreakle” eras of the 1990’s.  And this is the root problem, I believe.  Many of these Theater Managers, Art Directors and “genius choreographers” simply misuse the huge talent which comes knocking on their doors.  And I personally don’t care if this young talent hails from Asia, Russia, Europe, or America.  The important thing is what is done with this valuable raw material.

“Гений и злодейство – две вещи несовместные…”

Already we saw Tsiskaridze leaving the Bolshoi in 2013.  It wasn’t just over the Filin shenanigans and the acid attack.  Tsiskaridze cited artistic differences with the management, who keep trying to sneak in decadent Western dance styles.  Tsiskaridze is a classicist, as well as a Russian patriot.  But this isn’t about patriotism.  It’s about the purity of the art.

Every art form has its own language, and its own vocabulary, by which it communicates its meaning.  The main vocabulary of classical ballet consists of precise footwork, and of “tricks”, such as jumps, leaps, turns, and lifts.  The job of a good choreographer is to take these elements, constructed from the basic ABC’s of the language, and to create new meaningful combinations.  Perhaps even to invent new elements to add to the repertoire.  A lazy choreographer, not having the talent or will to create something new, often just resorts to imitation, cheap tricks, or — when nothing else is working — just trying to shock or stimulate his audience.  For example, with pornography.

Yesterday we covered Anna’s almost hilarious review of the “Choreography” competition, some of the monstrously untalented compositions which she had to endure.  Including a few which skirted dangerously close to the edge of what is legally permitted to show in a Russian theater.  But Anna’s main plaint is not about the decadence, it’s the fact that none of these Russian choreographers is able to come up with anything new or original.  And when people can’t think of anything clever to say, well, just wave your arms about and writhe on the floor.

Probably the last great new Russian choreographer is Yuri Grigorovich,  and he’s 90 years old, for crying out loud!

Chilean dancer-choreographer Eduardo Zúñiga

It is not surprising, Anna complains, that almost all the prizes in the Choreography competition went to foreigners:  First prize went to the Chilean Eduardo Zúñiga, who created and danced himself, an elegant piece from the pop song Amor de Hombre.  First prize was shared also with the Chinese choreographer Xiaochao Wen who showed a tightly constructed neo-classical piece representing the overcoming of life’s difficulties.  Wen and his partner (who also happens to be his girlfriend) effectively mimed leaping across ravines, using a slightly modified classical lexicon of ballet jumps.

Anna’s plaint:  The main take-away from the Choreography competition is that there are no young choreographers in Russia any more.  To be more precise, there are no young choreographers who are interested in classical ballet.

Tax Payers Sigh Of Relief

By the end of the competition, nobody, neither dancer nor choreographer, was deemed worthy to receive the Grand Prix.  Imagine a dog show in which no pooch received a “best in show”.  Even better, imagine a child beauty pageant in which no brat was deemed a “Grand Supreme”.

Be that as it may, this withholding of the grand prize money saved Russian tax payes $200,000 American dollars!

Children auditioning for the Bolshoi Ballet School in Joinville, Brazil

The rest of the prizes were duly handed out, though, in the presence, in the audience, of two important dignitaries:  Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Brazilian President Michel Temer.  Turns out that the Brazilians are huge fans of Russian ballet — it’s almost like a cult there.  The Bolshoi Ballet School has a branch in Brazil, and a large Brazilian team came to Moscow to compete this year.  A Brazilian girl took the “silver” in singles, and one of their younglings took the “bronze” for boys.

Gordeeva ends her piece by pointing out that the next competition will be in 2021, and if the Ministry of Culture still hopes to make of this shindig a Ballet Olympics, then they better start working on the next one right now.

Next:  The Epic Battle between those who leap into the sky, versus those who crawl on the ground….

[to be continued]

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