There are events with a strong official program and without one, with guest stars from local theaters and with the famous troupes; there are festivals strictly adhering to the classics and those that prefer to experiment - Russian ballet festivals are diverse. Let's talk about the most notable ones!
Dance Open International Ballet Festival, St. Petersburg
The Dance Open festival has existed for two decades. It takes place in March-April in St. Petersburg. The project began in 2001 with master classes for students of ballet schools and gradually grew into one of the major ballet forums in Russia. The event lasts two weeks, its program includes an educational block and an official program with exhibitions, presentations, meetings with choreographers. The permanent leader of the forum is Ekaterina Galanova, a former ballerina of the Mariinsky Theater.
Dance Open is much appreciated by ballet intellectuals, because its organizers don’t look for easy ways and know how to fill the auditorium having an absolutely “non-pop” program, because of their attention to interesting regional companies. For example, in 2019, the last year before the pandemic, the Vienna State Ballet, the Zürich Ballet, the Dortmund Ballet, the Dutch company Introdans and the Perm Opera and Ballet Theater performed in St. Petersburg.
Dance Open is famous for its gala concert, whose program is never known in advance (imagine the level of confidence that the audience has in the festival!). Like any other international project, it had a difficult time last year, but despite all the lockdowns and restrictions, they managed to make a program with three Russian theaters and a gala concert with European artists.
Diaghilev Festival, Perm
In 2003, the Perm Academic Opera and Ballet Theater named after Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky for the first time held the festival called “Diaghilev Seasons: Perm, St. Petersburg, Paris”. Starting from 2012, under Theodore Currentzis, the forum has become an annual event and was renamed the Diaghilev Festival. Since then, every year in June, music lovers and theatergoers go to Perm.
Sergei Diaghilev spent his childhood in this city, here he went to school, where his museum is now located. So the choice of the ballet impresario as a brand was obvious. After Theodor Currentzis left the Perm theater, there was something going on around the festival, but, apparently, they managed to reach a truce as Diaghilev-2021 will be held during June 10-20 in the traditional format, and Currentzis will be its artistic director. Last year's festival fell victim to the pandemic, but in November a three-day musical Diaghilev + took place. They plan to make this autumn project annual.
The Perm festival has a special atmosphere — it’s a get-together (happening not in the capital city) for the musical and theatrical people from all over Russia. World premieres by major directors, such as Romeo Castellucci, are also invited to Perm.
A multi-genre festival, Diaghilev often balances at the intersection of different types of art, but it never forgets about ballet. Thus, in 2012, American choreographer Nicolo Fonte presented his version of Stravinsky's Petrushka; in 2013, Romeo and Juliet choreographed by the British classic Kenneth MacMillan premiered; in 2014, the festival showed the Russian premiere of George Balanchine's ballet Symphony in Three Movements; and 2018 was remembered not only for the dramatic oratorio by Castellucci Joan of Arc at the Stake, but also for the choreographic performance Not Sleep by Alain Platel. As time goes on, the ballet program moves away from classics to modern dance more and more.
Diaghilev PS, St. Petersburg
There is another festival dedicated to the most famous Russian impresario held in St. Petersburg. Diaghilev PS is far outside the box of one type of art, but ballet tours are the highlight of the program. Ballets by John Neumeier and Angelin Preljocaj, performances by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, ballets by Bejart, Mats Ek and Ana Laguna were brought to the festival. The forum was co-producer of the world premiere of Wayne McGregor’s AutoBIOgraphy.
Since the festival is founded by the Museum of Theater and Musical Art, the program always includes scientific conferences, discussions and exhibitions dedicated to Diaghilev's legacy, ballet anniversaries or contemporary theater issues.
International Festival of Classical Ballet named after Rudolf Nureyev, Kazan
The Nureyev Festival first appeared in 1987. This May, it will be held for the 34th time. The forum was named after the famous dancer in 1993, the year of Nureyev's death. By that time, the artist managed to visit the Musa Jalil Tatar State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater and even conducted the Nutcracker ballet at the festival - at the end of his life the dancer tried his hand in a new profession.
Today, the Nureyev festival structure resembles many other regional Russian festivals where guest stars dance in repertoire performances of the local theater. The Shalyapin festival, which appeared in Kazan a few years earlier, is organized in the same way. But the forum at the Tatar Opera and Ballet Theater was one of the first and remains one of the most ambitious and high-quality. Although, it is sometimes criticized for the lack of an additional program and excessive adherence to the classics.
Kremlin Gala, Ballet Stars of the 21st Century, Moscow
The gala is an important part of any ballet festival, but only Kremlin Gala made a whole festival out of one gala. Ballet Stars of the 21st Century has been gathering prima ballerinas and principal dancers from all over the world in the Kremlin Palace since 2010.
In the early years, there were galas dedicated to contemporary dance, but now the program is eclectic and combines well-known numbers from classical ballets, the 20th century dance and modern choreography.
Performances by Diana Vishneva, Vladimir Shklyarov, Ivan Vasiliev, Desmond Richardson, Mikhail Kaniskin and other stars allow the organizer, the Vladimir Vinokur Foundation, to put together a high-quality program and make the Kremlin Gala a popular social event. The concert, by the way, is always recorded for television.
All-Russian Festival of Classical Ballet called Sterkh (Siberian white crane), Republic of Sakha (Yakutia)
The festival appeared in Yakutia in 2000. Since 2004, it has been held as All-Russian festival, and since 2015 it has become international. During this time, Natalia Ledovskaya, Denis Matvienko, Evgenia Obraztsova and other famous soloists have danced in the performances of the Yakutsk Opera and Ballet Theater. Sterkh is distinguished from many other regional festivals by its vast off-program: master classes taught by teachers from the capitals and roundtable discussions with the Russian ballet critics are organized here. At the close of the Xth festival in 2019, artists from Russia, Italy, Japan and South Korea performed.