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A Guide to Ballet in St Petersburg

Inside Russia's Greatest Art Form   |   June 2017

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From the world famous Mariinsky Ballet Company to the Mikhailovsky Theatre, these are the best places to seek out ballet in St Petersburg

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Ballet in St Petersburg | Mikhailovsky Theatre 1 © Jack Devant

A princess turned into a swan; a young girl who falls asleep for 100 years; a mouse king with seven heads…many of the most extraordinary, and downright bizarre, ballets first found success on a St Petersburg stage. Having hosted an impressive roll call of ballet stars – including Vaslav Nijinsky and Anna Pavlova, not to mention composer, Tchaikovsky – St Petersburg has been at the forefront of the classical ballet scene for rather a long time. From the Alexandrinsky Theatre, to the world famous Mariinsky Ballet Company and the Mikhailovsky Theatre, these are the best places for culture vultures to seek out some ballet in St Petersburg.

The Mariinsky Ballet Company

An impressive mix of historic architecture and state-of–the art facilities, the Mariinsky Theatre is renowned for being the grandest theatre in St Petersburg. Its brand new glass and limestone extension (measuring an impressive 80,000 sq ft), adds a touch of the contemporary to this elegant building, and is one of the largest, and most expensive, cultural projects in the world. The extraordinary original theatre (where Tchaikovsky premiered the Nutcracker in 1892) still stands and comes complete with glitzy gold interiors and sparkling crystal chandeliers. Home to the Kirov Ballet – now known as the Mariinsky Ballet Company – this is one of the best places to catch a performance of Sleeping Beauty or Swan Lake.

The Mikhailovsky Theatre

Built by Russian artist Alexander Brullov in 1833 and named after Grand Prince Mikhail, brother of Nicholas I, the Mikhailovsky Theatre is among the oldest opera and ballet houses in Russia. Now under the direction of Russian oligarch Vladimir Kekhman – who donated $40 million of his own money to save the theatre from bankruptcy in 2007 – this impressive, canary yellow building boasts some of the best classical ballet in St Petersburg.

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Ballet in St Petersburg | Eifman Ballet © Eifman Ballet
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Ballet in St Petersburg | Dance Open Ballet Festival 1 © Angela Sterling

Alexandrinsky Theatre

The oldest national theatre in Russia, the neoclassical yellow and white Alexandrinsky Theatre was completed back in 1832 by Italian architect Carlo Rossi. With over 1000 seats, the theatre was once among the largest in Europe and was used for a variety of drama, opera and ballet performances by the Imperial Theatre Companies. Today, the theatre is known more for drama than ballet, but is still worth a visit for its impressive architecture alone.

Eifman Ballet Company

Bored of ballet blockbusters? Those in search of contemporary ballet in St Petersburg will enjoy a visit to the Eifman Ballet. Founded by choreographer Boris Eifman (he prefers the term ‘philosopher choreographer’) in 1977, the company is renowned for its bold, dynamic and experimental ballet style. Translating famous works like Don Quixote and The Master and Margarita into acrobatic dance pieces, Eifman fuses contemporary dance with a classical soundtrack and minimalist stage design.

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