Speaking English

In the steps of the master DANCE OPEN International Ballet Festival 2 – 17 April (+18)

Photo: Nikolai Krusser

Given that St. Petersburg is widely recognized as the home of classical ballet, it’s odd that this annual festival is so little known outside specialist circles. Now in its seventeenth year, DANCE OPEN offers a programme of classical and contemporary dance that is eclectic, exciting, and of exceptional quality throughout. While football is taking centre stage all over Russia this year as the country prepares to host the FIFA World Cup for the first time, for a certain section of St. Petersburg’s population and for ballet lovers all over world 2018 is more significant as the bicentenary of the birth of Marius Petipa, the «father of classical ballet». Arriving in the city in 1847, Petipa turned the ballet company of the Imperial Theatres in St. Petersburg from a slavish follower of Western European fashions into the acme of choreographic art – and simultaneously cemented the place of ballet at the pinnacle of European high culture.

The XVII DANCE OPEN International Ballet Festival pays homage to Petipa directly – with the inclusion in the programme of Ekaterinburg Ballet’s La Fille Mal Gardée, a painstaking reconstruction of Petipa and Lev Ivanov’s 1885 staging – and indirectly, with almost every performance in the festival touched by the maestro’s shadow. There’s a darkly magical modern Nutcracker by the young Belgian choreographer Jeroen Verbruggen with the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève, further tribute to Petipa’s mastery of the fairy tale in dance is paid by Jean Christophe Maillot’s version of Prokofiev’s Cindarella with Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, and even José Antonio Ruiz’s Invocaciones Flamencas can be seen as a nod to Petipa’s time at the King’s Theatre in Madrid, where he immersed himself in traditional Spanish dancing and, like José Antonio, incorporated it into the ballets he was creating.

The performance schedule is rounded out with two programmes of short ballets – the impeccably stylish Left Right Left Right by Ballet Maribor of Slovenia, and Made in Amsterdam by Dutch National Ballet, widely hailed as the best classical dance company in the world – that showcase the variety and inventiveness of Petipa’s heirs, the leading choreographers of our day, among them Alexander Ekman, Hans van Manen, and Alexei Ratmansky. Finally, the Dance Open Gala, the all-star programme of which is always a carefully guarded secret and tickets for which always sell out several weeks in advance, will give some of the biggest names in contemporary ballet their chance to pay tribute to the genius of Marius Petipa in his adopted home.

All performances will take place on the historic stage of the Alexandrinsky Theatre, and the opportunity to see inside this magnificent neoclassical theatre (the «home of Russian drama») is yet further enticement to attend. For anyone here in St. Petersburg in early April, Dance Open is an unmissable opportunity to see some of the best of contemporary ballet in the city where the art form reached is apogee, and for ballet lovers everywhere the festival is a date to put in the calendar for a future visit.

Festival Highlights
April 2
Ekaterinburg Ballet
Alexandrinksy Theatre, 20:00

April 6&7

Les Ballets de Monte Carlo
Alexandrinksy Theatre, 19:00

April 8
José Antonio
Alexandrinksy Theatre, 19:00

April 10
Dutch National Ballet
Alexandrinksy Theatre, 19:00

April 13
Le Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève
Alexandrinksy Theatre, 19:00

April 15
Maribor Ballet
Alexandrinksy Theatre, 19:00



Erwin Olaf
The performance programme of the DANCE OPEN Festival is always complemented by a series of auxiliary events including choreography master-classes and lectures. Of particular interest to non-Russian speakers this year is this exhibition of work by Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf. Olaf has successfully pursued parallel and at times overlapping careers as an in-demand commercial photographer for some of the world’s leading brands, and a high-concept photographic artist known for his cinematic vision and sharp social commentary.

This exhibition at the contemporary art museum Erarta is the product of Olaf’s collaboration with the dancers of Dutch National Ballet and renowned choreographer Hans van Manen. With some of the world’s most accomplished dancers as his models, Olaf uses their remarkable physical abilities to explore themes of pain, discipline, dedication, and the limits of the flesh in a series of breathtaking but at times deeply discomforting images.

Erarta, 2, 29-ya Liniya V.O.
Daily from 10:00 to 22:00 (closed on Tuesdays)