ballet

Esther Bintliff

Two weeks ago a masked assailant threw acid in the face of the Bolshoi’s artistic director Sergei Filin. The attack has cast a shadow over the reputation of one of the world’s most celebrated ballet troupes, as Courtney Weaver explains in her fascinating report on the tensions and rivalries that have emerged at the Moscow ballet in recent months.

What’s it like to dance at the Bolshoi? Here are four videos, and four dancers (well, three dancers and one choreographer, to be precise) who made their mark there over the years. For the sake of brevity, we limited ourselves to four, so they can only gesture at the Bolshoi’s long and varied history; please share your thoughts – and recommendations – in the comments.

1) Galina Sergeyevna Ulánova In this video from the Bolshoi’s official youtube channel, you can watch one of its most famous ballerinas – and one of the 20th century’s most acclaimed – fluttering across the stage, pressing down her net skirts, and talking about her favourite role (Giselle). Joseph Stalin himself is said to have ordered the transfer of Ulánova to the Bolshoi from its rival, the Mariinsky Theatre in Leningrad, in 1944 (“Although Leningrad was where the revolution started, Stalin never cared for it. He saw it as a rebellious city,The Economist notes in its obituary of Ulánova). Read more