"Reflections" modern ballet takes on rigid Russia

Fri Jan 28, 2011 1:58pm EST
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By Nastassia Astrasheuskaya

MOSCOW (Reuters Life!) - The modern ballet "Reflections" faces a stern test from Russian audiences known for their rigid ideas about classical dance after scoring a victory with critics in the United States.

Reflections, which is a joint Russian-American production created by nine choreographers, had its Russian premiere at Moscow's infamous Bolshoi Theater on Thursday and is sold out all weekend.

The performance -- which challenges dancers as well as critics -- lacks a story line or historical context, leaves freedom of interpretation to its dancers and the audience and wreaks havoc on traditional timing, tutus and style.

All the 11 top dancers taking part in the show graduated from the Moscow State Academy of Choreography, known for its no-nonsense conservative approach.

"I respect art in all forms, and I am so grateful I've touched on this type of dance," said castmember and Bolshoi ballet dancer Natalia Osipova.

Some critics blame Russia -- ballet's stern master of heritage -- for holding back the evolution of dance by eschewing any form of modern choreography.

The top theatres in Moscow and St. Petersburg have been inviting modern dance companies to stage productions, but much of the Russian public remains hostile to modern dance, considering it "undeserving of Russian talent."

Little wonder there is no feeling that a change is needed when the list of Russian stars reads like a who's who of ballet over the last 100 years, with names such as Balanchine, Pavlova Danilova, Nureyev, Baryshnikov and many others.   Continued...

<p>Maria Kochetkova (L) and Yekaterina Shipulina perform during a rehearsal for "Reflections" at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow January 26, 2011. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov</p>