The Bolshoi.  Symbol of Russia, a national treasure – mystical and intriguing. Recently, however, the theatre has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons: intrigue, personal attacks and management changes have created lurid headlines.  Now, for the first time, the theatre directors have allowed a film crew access backstage. They saw it as a chance to open a new chapter, and were ready to allow the 2013 -14 season to be recorded as a unique cinematic experience. This groundbreaking documentary will be screened at the Phoenix Picturehouse on Sunday 10th January.

From the two-time Academy Award-winning Producer of Man on Wire and Searching for Sugar Man, BOLSHOI BABYLON gives a voice to artists and company members who are not usually in the limelight in irreverent and candid terms. Combining epic themes with intimate portraits, historic dramas are counterpointed with the untold personal stories of agony and ecstasy that lie behind every acclaimed performance. With unparalleled behind the scenes access, the film pays tribute to the dancers’ extraordinary artistic and athletic talents, their abiding fear of injury and the ruthless ambition needed to survive in the world’s most famous ballet company.  Directed by Nick Read and Mark Franchetti, the film features Maria Alexandrova, Maria Allash, Sergei Filin, Anatoliy Iksanov, Anastasia Meskova and Vladimir Urin.

You can read an account of the compelling story told by the documentary here

Date:  Sunday 10th January, 3.00pm

Venue:  Phoenix Picturehouse, 57 Walton Street, Oxford OX2 6AE

Tickets:  Adults £10.50, children £6, students and retired £9.50, family ticket £28

On Sunday 10 January Bolshoi principal dancer Anastasia Meskova will be joining the filmmakers and historian Simon Sebag Montefiore for a Q&A live via satellite after the film.

You can book tickets online here or call the Phoenix on 0871 902 5736

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It was courageous of the Bolshoi Ballet to take this quintessentially American ballet into their repertoire and then to relay it live around the world.  Created by George Balanchine in 1967 for a cast that included Violette Verdy, Patricia McBride and Suzanne Farrell, each of the three acts of Jewels (Emeralds, Rubies and Diamonds) is thought to celebrate a city (Paris, New York and St Petersburg) and its school of dance.

Emeralds weaves a pattern of music and dance, entwining the dancers in exquisite groups as they glide and subside, arranging them like gems in their settings in a jewellers’ window. (more…)

Bolshoi Ballet: La Bayadère, transmitted live to the Phoenix Cinema, Oxford. 27 January 2013

Glamorous and spectacular, the Bolshoi Ballet’s La Bayadère is both exciting and emotive. On Sunday, the easy and graceful style of Vladislav Lantratov (Solor) was elegant and sometimes thrilling. Maria Alexandrova, a very fine dancer, made Gamzatti’s jealousy of Nikia understandable and dramatically logical, and Svetlana Zakharova conveyed the full range of emotions, from love and happiness through revulsion at the Brahmin’s advances to despair at betrayal. Zakharova was exceptionally lyrical in the third act, although she seemed just a little tense in the variation with the shawl, which might have gone better for her. The corps de ballet dancers were impeccably correct, if perhaps a little rigid, as the Shades, gleaming in the blackness that made them seem to float on air as they glided down the ramp.

The “elephant in the room”, of course was the acid attack on Sergei Filin less than a fortnight ago. (more…)