Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bolshoi Dances Into New Era With a Tango

With the premiere of "Last Tango" on Thursday, Bolshoi ballet director Vyacheslav Gordeyev hopes to begin a new era in choreography at the theater.

"For 30 years Grigorovich taught us that there was only one way to dance and that dancing any other way was wrong," said Gordeyev, referring to Yury Grigorovich, whose three decades as Bolshoi artistic director and chief choreographer came to an acrimonious end last year. "We are breaking out of the barriers that have held us back."

Under Grigorovich's leadership, the Bolshoi was increasingly criticized as a ballet theater that had ossified from a lack of new repertoire.

While Gordeyev does not want to abandon the theater's traditional role in preserving the great classics, he says the Bolshoi is now ready to move forward with contemporary works. "The Bolshoi is changing its image," Gordeyev said. "'Last Tango'" represents a break with tradition."

Gordeyev's new ballet is based loosely on the plot of Bernardo Bertolucci's 1973 film "Last Tango in Paris," about an American expatriate in Paris who tries to dispel haunting memories after his wife's suicide through an anonymous, tragic affair with a chance acquaintance.

Theatergoers expecting something as shocking as the X-rated film will be disappointed, however. For Gordeyev, the plot is less a means to explore dark twists and turns of character than a vehicle to explore new types of physical movement and expression.

"It is not a tango ballet per se," Gordeyev said, meaning that the movements are not recreations of the tango's steps. "What I have tried to do is have each of the five main characters embody the various instruments used in playing the tango -- the accordion, the piano, the violin and the other instruments. Each has its own musical language."

Included in the 40-minute, one-act work is a brief pas de deux that Gordeyev choreographed while director of the Russian Ballet.

"Last Tango," with music by tango fusion composer Astor Piazzolla, will star Bolshoi principals Nadezhda Gracheva, Sergei Filin and Mark Peretokin, with soloists Irina Semirechenskaya and Sergei Antonov in other main roles.

Originally Gordeyev had invited five other choreographers to show their works during the contemporary evening at the Bolshoi, including Yevgeny Panfilov of Perm City Ballet, whose works often border on performance art -- one of his latest pieces features a hollering, submachine-gun-toting corps de ballet. The concept of a collective artistic evening does indeed indicate new thinking at the Bolshoi -- Grigorovich seldom allowed other living choreographers to use the Bolshoi stage as a forum.

Two other choreographers, Dmitry Bryantsev and Igor Chernyshev, accepted Gordeyev's invitation. Bryantsev, resident choreographer at the Stanislavsky Musical Theater, will present his lyrical and dreamlike "Imaginary Ball," which premiered last season. Chernyshev, a St. Petersburg choreographer who has worked for theaters in Odessa, Kishinev and Kuibyshev and now works at the Bolshoi, will present a piece called "Bolero."

Bryantsev applauded Gordeyev's initiative, adding, "anything that expands the Bolshoi repertoire in a positive direction is a good idea."

The evening will also include two other works by Gordeyev. A new piece that Gordeyev had planned to include -- his ballet to the popular Russian suite "Metel" ("Snowstorm") by Georgy Sviridov -- has been put off until April 25.

Gordeyev said the Bolshoi is set to dance a contemporary work by a foreign author on May 5 -- British choreographer John Cranko's 1969 ballet "The Taming of the Shrew."

The evening of contemporary dance will be performed at the Bolshoi Theater on Thursday at 7 p.m. and be repeated March 24, 26 and 27. For tickets, contact the theater box office, which is open daily from noon to 3 p.m., or EPS ticket service, which is located in the Metropol Hotel, 927-6982 or 6983. Nearest metro: Teatralnaya.