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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mariinsky Blazes in Balanchine

ST. PETERSBURG -- It has been several years, probably dating from the beginning of perestroika, since the Mariinsky Theater has seen the kind of enthusiasm generated by the premiere of George Balanchine's "Symphony in C."

The ballet, which premiered earlier this month and has been added to the theater's repertoire, is at the Mariinsky (formerly Kirov) for the first time and has created a sensation among dancers, critics and members of the public alike.

"To dance 'Symphony in C' is a great change from the usual repertoire," said principal dancer Sergei Vikharev.

The fast-moving and intricate ballet combines the early music of Bizet and the brilliant choreography of Balanchine. Together, they capture the atmosphere in France and the United States in 1947, thus evoking a range of associations. One moment the performance conveys pure and honest happiness, and then comes a majestic finale in which the dancers -- eight principals and 16 soloists -- enter the stage one after another until they fill it completely with harmonic movement.

Balanchine, born in St. Petersburg in 1904, first staged Symphony in C in Paris under the name "Le Palais de Cristal," but a year later the name was changed in the United States to "Symphony in C" because, due to a lack of money for sets and of professional dancers, the feeling of being in a crystal palace could not be created.

The director of the Mariinsky Theater, Makhar Vasiyev, believes that "Symphony in C" is one of the most challenging ballets the theater has staged.

"The quantity of movements a solo ballerina has to make in 'Symphony' is the same as in "Sleeping Beauty" but 'Symphony' is one-third the length," said Vasiyev.

John Tarras, a former top Balanchine dancer who owns the rights to the ballet, was in St. Petersburg for the premiere. He said he was impressed by the quality of the Mariinsky production.

"We in America cannot afford to stage this ballet in such a luxurious way as the Mariinsky," said Tarras.

According to Tarras, Balanchine choreographed the ballet with lanky American ballerinas in mind. "At the beginning of the century, Russian dancers were shorter ... It was due to him that nowadays Russian dancers have long legs."

"Symphony in C," which is to be performed monthly for the near future, is next appearing in St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theater on March 8 at 7 p.m. Tickets, which cost up to 30,000 rubles ($6.30), may be purchased at the theater's box office at 1 Teatralnaya Ploshchad, tel. 812-114-5264.