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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ballet Contest Set for Summer

Preliminary arrangements for Moscow's Eighth International Ballet Competition were announced this week, although the most important ballet contest in Russia is facing difficult times, its organizers said.

The competition, which will take place June 19 to 30, is for dancers 16 to 25 years old and will include many young talents from the Russian provinces and abroad, most notably from Japan.

The contest counts among its laureates such great dancers as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Andris Lyepa and Nina Ananiashvili, Held every four years since 1969, it has enjoyed full state support every time. However, as the June competition draws near and two years of negotiations and letters to the government remain fruitless, organizers are confessing to anxiety.

"Before, the state supported us, but now the Culture Ministry displays no enthusiasm," said Olga Lepeshinskaya, head of the organizing committee. "Everything is still ahead, and we wanted to make sure we had the press' support, so that we could go once again to the ministry and demand, instead of asking."

"There is no strained relationship between the organizers and the ministry," Yevgeny Gaponov, general director of the Republican and International Contests Directorate in the Culture Ministry, said at a press conference. "If there is no money in the ministry, there is no possibility of financing. There are structures in the government who simply don't care, and the financial questions are decided in close circles."

Though the Bolshoi Theater is not supporting the contest as actively as it has in the past, one of its dancers, Nikolai Tsiskaridze, is among the participants, together with two dancers from the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg.

The jury includes many acknowledged ballet authorities, such as Karen Khachaturian, the famed Russian composer, Natalya Makarova, a distinguished ballerina representing the United States, and Galina Ulanova, the jury's honorary chairman.

It also includes Tamara Finch of the United Kingdom, which was a rare guest at the competition, and Dawn Weller of South Africa, which makes its first appearance in the contest.

"The program will be mainly classical, Russian-style," said Yury Grigorovich, the chairman of the jury and former director of dance at the Bolshoi. "This is our measuring stick. We do not deny other styles, everything is important, and in the middle [of the contest] we shall have modern ballet as well."

However, some of the competition's traditions may have to go, the organizers said, due to lack of financing. The opening and closing ceremonies will be in the Kremlin Palace, but the competition itself will take place in the Operetta Theater, a former affiliate of the Bolshoi.

The Bolshoi, which used to stage the competition, is far too expensive, with a rental fee of $75,000 a day. The Culture Ministry has promised only 100 million to 200 million rubles ($17,500 to $35,000) to sponsor the competition.

Poor financing might also explain the lack of interest in the competition from the West, the organizers said, since most young dancers could not afford the trip on their own funds. But invitations were sent nevertheless.

"We would really like for them to be here," Grigorovich said. "But in spite of everything, the contest will happen and it will be on the highest level. It is a very important national competition, and we will save it."