Russian ballet is one of the best and most recognized companies of ballet in the whole wide world. It is more than just a performance but also the country’s pride and part of culture and history. Before 1689, Russia shut itself from the influence from the West under the order of the Tsarist. It was then the rise of Peter the Great that allowed the door to be opened by establishing Saint Petersburg to embrace the West and break free from the Moscow’s isolation. He wanted to build the new Russia not only through courts and palaces but also art, and ballet was the choice. It was Jean-Baptiste Landé who was appointed as the ballet master and head of the first Russian ballet school.
Theatres in Russia were already opened for public since the early 19th century. Anyone who could afford the tickets was invited to come and enjoy the performance though the seating was as simple as long wooden benches. Ballet, at that time, was not presented as a mass entertainment but to educate the Russians of how to behave ideally so they can be cultivated as the people of the new Russia that could rival the west. Today, people from all over the world who love performing art, in general, and ballet in particular, would try and come to Russia to enjoy its amazing ballet. If you are among the people, here are 5 Russian ballet theaters you can visit for an unforgettable experience.
1. Bolshoi Theater
The Bolshoi Theater began as a private theater of the provincial prosecutor, Prince Peter Urusov. On March 28, 1776, Empress Catherine II proposed a “privilege” to the prince for the content of performances. This date is considered as the founding day of the theater. Moscow Bolshoi Theater and its Ballet Company are among the oldest in the world. Here you can see the best ballet performances that bring legendary stories like Swan Lake, Anna Karenina, Romeo and Juliet, and many more.
The theater has gone through a few reconstructions and expansions that it now has more than just a main building but also a museum that preserves the historical memory of the Bolshoi Theater – outstanding performances, famous artists, and musicians since the first half of the 19th century. Here you can find the collection of archival materials, including repertoire posters and program performances gathered by the Moscow office of the Imperial Theaters.
2. Mariinsky Theater
Located in Saint Petersburg, Mariinsky Theater has been around for more than two centuries. First opened in 1860, Mariinsky was initially a music theater that has premiered the masterpieces of Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov. Today, it is the home to Mariinsky Ballet, Opera, and Orchestra. In the 50s to 70s, famous modern ballets such as “Shurale” by Farid Yarullin, “Spartak” by Aram Khachaturian, “Stone Flower” by Sergei Prokofiev and many more are performed in the theater, while at the same time ballet classics are also carefully preserved.
3. Hermitage Theater
This is another famous ballet theater in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It is one of five Hermitage buildings that line the Palace Embankment of the Neva River. Hermitage Theater was built between 1783 and 1787 to replace the Russian Imperial Theater. It has a marble semicircular auditorium surrounded by statues and it is very much unchanged from the initial state of the theater though it has gone through renovations and expansions. You can also visit Hermitage Museum while you’re in the complex. You can always get updated with the latest schedule of the ballet performances through the theater’s website and enjoy the classics like the Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, and Giselle.
4. Yekaterinburg State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater
Yekaterinburg is a city in Russia located to the east of the Ural Mountains. It only welcomed theaters in the 20th century, and Yekaterinburg State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater is among the modern and contemporary ones. Here you can see both modern and classic ballet performances, solo and group. If you are eager for something different, then this is the right theater for you. Talented dancers and choreographers collaborate to create new stories in graceful and mesmerizing movement to melt the cold temperature of the city away.
5. Bashkir State Opera and Ballet Theater
If theaters in big cities are not really your thing, then this could be the perfect one for you. Located in Ufa, Bashkortostan, Russia, the Bashkir State Opera and Ballet Theater was first opened for public on December 14, 1938. The theater became the winner of the X All-Russian competition of 1000 Best Enterprises and Organizations of Russia-2009 in the nomination of The Best Enterprise in the Field of Culture and Art of Russia and was also awarded an honorary status as a National Treasure of Russia in 2010. It hosts the 2019 International Ballet Festival other than the regular performances by ballet companies from outside of Russia. Here you can also visit the museum and enjoy other performances including orchestra, choir, musical comedy, and performances for children.
Ballet speaks many languages that it can be enjoyed by everyone regardless where they come from. Although it may not be for everyone, Russian ballet has proven itself to be on the elite line-up of the world’s ballet companies. Not only the performances are highly appreciated by ballet lovers from around the world, but Russian ballet academies have been considered as goals to school in by many dancers. Russia has been embracing theater life as a part of its culture that to learn to attend the performances in the right manner would teach you a lot about what being a real Russian is all about. Try and visit one of the 5 ballet theaters above while you are in Russia and reap the unforgettable experience.