I recently had the pleasure of visiting Perm, Russia to help Nicolo Fonte stage the version of Petrouchka he choreographed on OBT this past fall. I had an amazing time there exploring and experiencing a different culture, working with the dancers, and learning about the structure of a Russian ballet company and opera house. There, the ballet company fits under the umbrella of the opera house. The opera house has within it the opera, of course, the ballet, and two orchestras (and perhaps more). There is a director of the whole organization (who also happens to be the conductor, in this case) with the artistic directors of the opera and ballet working under that person’s supervision.
Petrouchka was being performed on the opening evening of the Diaghilev festival that happens each year. Perm was the birthplace of Diaghilev and though it is somewhat provincial it has a very rich tradition of classical arts. During World War II, the ballet and operas from St. Petersburg (then Leningrad) were moved there to protect them from the front lines, so their training styles are derived from the same methods and traditions. Though Russian dancers are typically known for their classical prowess and somewhat less so for their work in contemporary ballet, the director of this ballet company, Alexey Miroshnichenko, has made concerted efforts to bring fantastic contemporary work to his company; that was certainly evident to me during my first studio rehearsal there.
My job there was to assist Nicolo in the technical and stage rehearsals of the ballet. He had spent some time there in February teaching all the steps, so my focus was more on staging elements (knowing the looks and placement of the light and rail cues, the dancers’ spacing, the movement of the decor, and the tempos). These can be difficult enough things to work though under the time pressure of tech week, but with the added language barrier this had the potential to be exponentially more difficult. We had the pleasure of working with some incredibly helpful and kind translators that were by our side at all times. I am happy to say that the premiere was a very exciting and successful event. The Russian people deeply love ballet and it was so exciting to see Petrouchka, a Russian story to Russian music, danced and appreciated by Russian people.
This experience reminded me of one of my favorite things about ballet….that dancers, musicians, and audiences all over the world from vastly different cultures get to have this shared experience of performing or witnessing the same ballets. We are connected to them and they are connected to us. How cool is that? Enjoy some pictures from my trip!
The Tchaikovsky Opera House in Perm:
What I believe to be a viking ship in front of the Hotel Ural (our hotel):
Lars (my husband) and I with Lenin in front of the Opera House: