It is hard to explain why I like classical ballet so much. I was introduced to it as a teenager, when my mother took me to watch The Ballet Russe as they stopped in dusty El Paso, Texas on their way to more cultured cities. I don’t remember the program, probably Swan Lake. But I loved it for some reason and thus always have. It is, to me, the natural coming together of music and human expression.
Martha Graham said it well, “Dance is the loftiest, most moving, most beautiful of the arts, because it is not a mere translation or abstraction of life; it is life itself!”
Dancers are the athletes of God.
It is not only the Russian ballet but also the music of American Aaron Copland and his great folk ballet scores, “Rodeo.” “Billy the Kid,” “Appalachian Spring” and others with the choreography of Agnes DeMille and Martha Graham. I love those stories and dance art.
But it is Russia where ballet reached it height as a performance art. In my opinion, it remains there. With the dedication and determination so typical in Russia, they took the dance from France and made it their own. Today still the Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg, known during Soviet times as the Kirov, is, for me, the world standard in classical ballet. My favorite ballet is “Romeo and Juliet” by Prokofiev. Their dancers, including the Corps de Ballet, are the best. My favorite dancer is Ulyana Lopatkina who as Odette/Odile in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake cannot be matched. She is The Swan.
I have been fortunate to see the Mariinsky (Kirov) in St. Petersburg many times, and in Moscow, London, the US. The ballet is another one of those art forms in which Russia has simply excelled. The immortal Anna Pavlova said it best, “No one can arrive from being talented alone. God gives talent; work transforms talent into genius.” And the Russians work very hard at it. That is why they are the best.