Another director has entered into the Bolshoi
Ballet’s tangled politics. Two and a half years
after the acid attack on its artistic director
Sergei Filin, the Russian company decided to
eliminate his position and search for a replacement. Last October, it was announced Makhar
Vaziev, until recently La Scala Ballet’s director,
had taken up the challenge. He officially takes
over as ballet director this month, though
much remains unclear about his new role in
The acid attack in January 2013 left Filin’s
vision permanently diminished. But his departure is no medical retirement: The decision
was made by Vladimir Urin, who replaced
Anatoly Iksanov as general director of the
Bolshoi in the summer of 2013. While Iksanov
was hands-off and focused on administrative
matters, Urin is keen to exert more artistic
control over the venerable institution.
Urin also joined from the Stanislavsky
Theatre, where Filin was ballet director until
the Bolshoi snapped him up. Filin took several
top Stanislavsky dancers with him, Kristina
Kretova among them, and the relationship
between the two men has remained strained
since. When Urin announced Filin’s departure last summer, he explained the position of
artistic director of the ballet company would
be eliminated and replaced by a company
manager, who would focus more on administrative duties.
New ballet director Vaziev brings im-
peccable artistic credentials to the Bolshoi,
Mariinsky Ballet, where he nurtured the likes
of Svetlana Zakharova, Diana Vishneva and
Evgenia Obraztsova, he took over as direc-
tor of La Scala Ballet in early 2009. Over the
years, he has championed the reconstructions
of Sergei Vikharev and the works of Alexei
Ratmansky, and has extensive experience in
navigating the realities of Russian ballet.
Will he be given a free hand? Urin has
stated he intends to oversee programming,
but Vaziev, who left the Mariinsky because of
the limits imposed on him by opera director
Valery Gergiev and dealt with strong unions
at La Scala, is unlikely to play second fiddle.
While the new director says it’s too early
to announce any plans, he has mentioned
Ratmansky as a choreographer he’d like to see
return to the Bolshoi, and has also expressed
admiration for Forsythe and others.
Repertoire is a key issue for the Russian
company, long accused of excessive conservatism. While Filin’s tenure brought successful new productions and premieres, from
Cranko’s Onegin to Jean-Christophe Maillot’s
Taming of the Shrew, it takes a strong artistic
director to make such projects happen. The
excellent young generation of dancers Filin
pushed, from Olga Smirnova to Vladislav
Lantratov, thrived in them, but others
clamored for a return to the Soviet tradition.
Vaziev has his work cut out for him to find
middle ground between the Bolshoi’s factions.
A New Bolshoi?
Makhar Vaziev takes leadership at the ballet.
A national festival features
The 13th annual U.S. Flamenco Festival
will visit seven cities, February 27 through
March 19—and with it will come Spain’s
world-renowned, avant-garde flamenco
choreographers: Manuel Liñán, Israel
Galván, Rocío Molina, Rafaela Carrasco
and improvisational master Farruquito.
These performers are stepping away from
the stereotypes often associated with
flamenco as the style grows beyond a folk
expression and regains a strong presence on
the concert dance stage.
Flamenco’s renewal is being driven by a
young generation trained in multiple styles
of dance, and also in theater and philosophy. It’s being redefined by the fusion of
contemporary movement, particularly in
the upper body; a
return to the classical styles of Spanish
dance, such as escuela
bolera; and collaborative experimental
forms such as kathak
and hip hop. In this
year’s festival, Liñán
will dance in a bata de
cola (a long-trained
dress) and a mantón (a
large shawl), in a solo
that explores male
gender roles. “I like to move between the
masculine and the feminine styles, between
old-fashioned and modern,” says Liñán.
Truthfully, since its inception, flamenco
has developed from a disobedient blending
of other styles. Over time, those influences
have changed, but its rebellious borrowing
of other techniques is stronger than ever. For
more information, see flamencofestival.org.
Kara Medoff Barnett has been named
executive director of American Ballet Theatre. She was previously managing director
of Lincoln Center International. Cynthia
Harvey will become artistic director of
the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in
May. ■ Ballet San Antonio has named former Joffrey Ballet dancer and ballet master
Willy Shives its artistic director.