Russian ballet goes "boneless" with modern upgrade

Fri Jul 22, 2011 8:17am EDT
 
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By Nastassia Astrasheuskaya

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's famed Bolshoi Theater got a modern British upgrade on Thursday evening with the premiere of a one-act ballet that tries to capture fluidity on the stage.

"Chroma," choreographed by 41-year-old Stockport native Wayne McGregor, forms the closing dance of the Bolshoi's 235th season and will become a permanent part of the 18th century opera and ballet house's repertoire.

Bolshoi's veteran, classically trained Russian dancers were initially resistant to the ultra-modern dance, which is dominated by abrupt, rippling body movements that make dancers appear boneless.

"When the artists first saw McGregor's ballet there was fear. There were many letters from artists refusing to take part in the production, which they said was either not for them or too difficult (to do)," Sergei Filin, the Bolshoi Ballet's artistic director, told Reuters ahead of the premiere.

The Bolshoi has recently embarked on a series of modern dance performances, inviting choreographers from abroad to work with their dancers. But the large majority of modern dance at the Bolshoi is performed by foreign troupes.

"Ballet is a contemporary art form, it has to speak to the audiences of today. One has to think 'how do we encourage more and more younger people?' said McGregor, who used alternative rock music and a white square backdrop for "Chroma."

McGregor, who studied experimental psychology at Cambridge University while already heading his own company Random Dance, jetted into Moscow only a week ago, where he tried to help the 10 performers push through their physical boundaries by training their minds.

"At first it seemed impossible, because we had to transform ourselves into invertebrate boneless creatures," said Ekaterina Shipulina, Bolshoi's leading soloist.   Continued...