MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's Bolshoi Theatre has invited the modern choreographer and artistic director of Les Ballets de Monte Carlo to teach Moscow's more conservative dancers how to let loose on stage.
France-born Jean-Christophe Maillot, 52, has led the Monte Carlo company for nearly 20 years and during those two decades has not created a ballet for an outside company, until now.
The full-length dramatic ballet, the title of which remains to be announced, is expected to premiere at Moscow's main ballet and opera house next season, the Bolshoi's 237th.
"In the past 20 years, I haven't set a single performance in a troupe other than my own. But it wasn't because I didn't want to, it was because to make a ballet I need to have a strong relationship with the dancers I work with," Maillot said.
"As concerns the Bolshoi, I really want to do it. It will be a unique experience for me, but I also hope to teach the Bolshoi dancers something."
Russian ballet dancers, traditionally brought up on works such as "Swan Lake" and "Giselle", have only recently started engaging in modern dance at choreography academies and theatres.
Bolshoi members who tried out freer, more modern techniques recently, said they felt strange, while choreographers who have worked with local dancers in Russia have found that the "sharpness" of the moves often stood in the way.
The announcement was made at a recent press-conference at the Bolshoi, where Maillot presented his four-person, heavily erotic pointe-less creation "Daphnis and Chloe", which goes beyond the classical repertoire of Russian ballet.
The Bolshoi stepped up its engagement with contemporary dance last year with the appointment of Sergei Filin, formerly a dancer with Moscow's second-largest ballet house, Stanislavsky Nemirovich-Danchenko, that was the first to invite modern choreographers from overseas several years ago.
It took Filin three years to persuade Maillot, whose troupe has performed at the Bolshoi several times before, to come and work with Russian dancers.
"I've been asking Jean-Christophe for three years. Every time he brought his ballet here I kept saying, 'Let's make something new, let's do something you have never done.' This time around I told him it was time, before the moment passes," Filin said.
One reasons Maillot was keen to work with Russian dancers was the challenge of teaching them how to be a little less serious on stage.
"The challenge in working with very academic dancers is that they do not understand the subtlety of acting, they make it too academic," Maillot told Reuters in an interview.
"I think for a troupe with such good technical skills, it is much easier to make a dance that stands out for its radicalism rather than its lightness," he added.
For him, choreography was only successful when it disappeared from the dance, leaving personalities to express themselves - something the Russian dancers have yet to master.
Reporting By Nastassia Astrasheuskaya; Editing by Lidia Kelly, Mike Collett-White and Paul Casciato