Mikhail Messerer: Classical Ballet as a Life Choice

Mikhail Messerer: Classical Ballet as a Life Choice

As fate would have it, choreographer Messerer connected his life with ballet. However, he charted his artistic path all by himself.

The stage path of a person from a famous family

Mikhail Messerer was born in December 1948 into a family directly related to the ballet world. His mother, Sulamith Mikhailovna Messerer, was a prima ballerina of the Bolshoi; later she became a stepmother for Maya Plisetskaya. Father, Grigory Emmanuilovich Levitin, was a motorcycle and racing car driver who founded a school of figure-acrobatic riding on a vertical wall. Following in the footsteps of his mother, Mikhail chose the art of classical dance, and in 1968 he graduated from the Moscow Academic Choreographic School. The very next year he got into the Bolshoi Ballet company. Messerer's stage career turned out to be rich in locations: he danced at the Kirov Theater in Leningrad, the Perm Opera and Ballet Theater, as well as at the Prague National Ballet as a guest artist.

At the age of 30, Mikhail Messerer changed his creative vector: in 1978, being a GITIS graduate, he became a ballet master-repetiteur. A new chapter in life takes place in a new setting: Messerer emigrates abroad. 

A citizen of the world: choreographer in Russia and abroad

The 1980s began with emigration for Mikhail Messerer and his mother Sulamith. While on a tour in Japan, they sought political asylum at the US Embassy in Tokyo. He is what Mikhail Grigorievich recalls about this decision

“My reasons are known: I wanted to live freely so that my children and grandchildren were born free people. I wanted to travel wherever I wanted, work wherever I was invited, freely say what I consider necessary, and think freely too. But it was a long time ago.”

Since that time, he has been teaching at the major stage venues in the world: in America, Paris, Italy, Sweden, Denmark and working with other companies around the globe. For over a quarter of a century, starting from the 1980s, Mikhail Grigorievich has been a visiting teacher at the Covent Garden in London.

But ties with Russia were not completely severed either: since the 2000s, Messerer has been working with the Mariinsky and Bolshoi ballet companies. At the Mariinsky, he served as a visiting teacher from 2002 to 2009. At the same time, he restored the Class Concert production for the Bolshoi (2007), which had previously been staged for the main Moscow theater by his uncle Asaf Messerer. 

The next stage - from 2009 to 2018 - was associated for Messerer with the St. Petersburg Mikhailovsky Theater ballet company, where he worked as Ballet Master in Chief. Since 2019, Mikhail Grigorievich has remained the main guest choreographer of the Mikhailovsky Theater. 

Eternal love for classics 

Classical ballets have always been a special area of Messerer's professional interests. Thus, he staged for the Mikhailovsky Theater such ballets as Swan Lake (2009), Don Quixote (2012), Le Corsaire (2015), Cinderella (2017), The Little Humpbacked Horse (2021). The choreographer once said about his creative method: 

“I try to give artists an opportunity to experience different styles. Our company stands on three pillars: the 19th century classics, modern ballets and ballets of the period that you call “Stalin”.”

Mikhail Grigorievich Messerer devoted over 53 years to ballet, and this fateful choice wasn’t accidental for him: 

“... if classical ballet (and this is a delicate matter) is not nurtured, it can disappear for real, and it will be a pity: I find classical ballet one of the highest achievements of human civilization.”