Fifty of Russia’s ballet stars will bring their talents to the stage at the Alabama Theatre Jan. 17 and 18, when the State Ballet Theatre of Russia presents Swan Lake.
The company, founded in 1961 by Maya Plissetskaya, the former Prima Ballerina of the Bolshoi Theatre Ballet, is known for bringing the work of classical and modern Russian composers to audiences around the world. The southeastern leg of its current U.S. tour brings it to Alabama for the first time.
Igor Levin, president of the Hollywood Entertainment Group, which is organizing the American tour, answered a few questions about the company and Swan Lake for Weld.
Weld: How did the State Ballet Theatre of Russia come to bring Swan Lake to Birmingham? Why Birmingham?
Igor Levin: The ballet is on a tour through southeastern states at the moment. We have performances in Florida and Georgia and we very much wanted to bring the ballet to Alabama for the first time. The city of Birmingham is making a name for itself and we saw in this city a significant interest and commitment to the arts — and also one of the finest venues we will perform in during this tour: the Alabama Theatre. So we are pleased to perform in a great city of the American South and in such a historic and remarkable venue as the Alabama Theatre.
Weld: Where else has your company performed Swan Lake? Where else are you taking it? How big have your audiences been?
IL: We have performed before large and enthusiastic crowds throughout our U.S. tour. I mentioned Florida and Georgia, but we also have performances in New York, Long Island, several dates in Canada, we will visit Kentucky, Chicago and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Our last US performance will be February 15 at the 2,800-seat Performing Arts Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Weld: Why is Swan Lake so beloved?
IL: Swan Lake is the world’s most popular ballet. It’s everyone’s favorite — great music, great love story, great choreography. The music of Tchaikovsky is unbelievably beautiful. You have a story about lust and love and you have the incredible choreography. This is why it is a timeless favorite.
Weld: Is there anything that makes your version of Swan Lake better, or more memorable?
IL: Foremost, we will perform the traditional, original choreography for Swan Lake, the same as it was first performed in 1875 under the direction of Marius Petipa, who is considered the father of Russian ballet. Also, I must say there are no better performers than the State Ballet Theatre of Russia. These young dancers are selected at the age of 8 or 9 years old for the choreography school. For 10 years they live, eat, sleep and dance at ballet school. [They] only go home for winter and summer break. They graduate and go into theaters as professionals. And the government pays 100 percent for their schooling. This is how we have the world’s finest dancers who can bring Swan Lake to life like no others.
Weld: Does the State Ballet Theatre of Russia have any role in creating good will — any public relations function? Currently diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Russia are in a less than ideal state.
IL: When our ballet company went to the American embassy to get their visas for this tour they were treated royally and the embassy enthusiastically welcomed our tour of America. We want only to share the joy and beauty of our inspiring and beautiful ballet. We have no mission other than to share our love for the dance and Swan Lake with the United States and the world.
Weld: Another way of looking at the same question: Does the love for and appreciation for ballet across geopolitical lines allow this performance of Swan Lake or your visit here and/or anywhere else in the U.S. suggest the potential for a peaceable relationship between our two countries?
IL: In a shared love and appreciation for the ballet and art of all kinds we find common ground. Our Swan Lake performances bring people together to share a rare and beautiful experience.
Weld: What else would you like to make sure our readership knows in the run up to your performance here?
IL: We invite our guests to enjoy a very special performance of Swan Lake, unlike any they have seen before or may ever see again. Whether you are a ballet aficionado or you just enjoy beautiful music, love stories and dance, you will truly enjoy this wonderful Swan Lake performance with choreography in the old classical traditional production. We hope to see you in Birmingham at the Alabama Theatre.
The State Ballet Theatre of Russia will present Swan Lake on Saturday, Jan. 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 18 at 2 p.m. at the Alabama Theatre, located at 1817 Third Ave. N. Tickets range from $25 to $55.