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Yury Grigorovich: A Living Russian Monument

Considered one of the most prominent living choreographers in Russia today, 90-year-old Yury Grigorovich has developed a large repertory of master works, which has transcended the choreographic landscape in the country. As artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet for more than 30 years, he has left a memorable legacy of historic proportions. ICONS spoke with him about his creative endurance, inspiration and advice to young choreographers.


ICONS: Why did you choose to dedicate your life to this art form? When you just started to create your first productions, who or what inspired you?


Yuri Grigorovich: The answer is simple -- I loved to create. I began to choreograph dances in the ballet studio of the Leningrad Palace of Culture, named after Gorky. I created my first ballets in 1947 and they were called The Stork (Russian: Aistenok) to music by D. Klebanov, and Slavic Dances to music by A. Dvořák. That was followed by choreograping ballet sections in operas, and later I started to work on full-length big ballets. My life is creation.



ICONS: You have created a large body of work. Do you have a favorite ballet?


YG: No, all of my works are meaningful to me. Each has its own relevance to a period of my life and creativity; they are all an important part of my path. I can't  say that any ballet is more special than another.




ICONS: Please tell us about your choreographic process. How does it all begin? With music, with a story, with a choice of dancers or with a thirst to explore and create?


YG: The first is the idea and the story. And the musical material is, of course, very important. On the other hand, one of my favorite composers is Sergei Prokofiev. His music itself gives rise to various ideas and choreographic images. It is impossible to say which component comes first. Sometimes I have an idea, and then I look for and listen to different music. I reflect on my existing thoughts and ideas, and it is different if the music is composed specifically for my ballet. There are times when I find some music that is close to what I have in mind and what I want to tell. So it's a bit like a puzzle -- all parts are important but may vary regarding the order of appearance. In summary, the story and music are dominant.


ICONS: What is your opinion on the current state of the ballet genre, and do you have any comments about the modern forms of dance?


YG: I never discuss modern works or modern choreographers. I think it's not tactful to comment on such topics and to talk about contemporaries, saying, "I like that choreographer, but not this one." I accept and appreciate the choreography in its various circles and types, especially if it is good quality. All art is great, as long as it's not boring. Art has to be exciting and interesting, because that's how it attracts and interests the audience.



ICONS: What do you think about mentoring? Can an experienced choreographer help and direct young choreographers?


YG: Yes, not only in choreography, but generally in life there is always a mentor and a student. And it is the students who choose their mentors. My mentor was a wonderful Russian choreographer named Fedor Lopukhov. I respected and adored him. His work had a huge influence on me. In addition, Kasyan Goleizovsky was my mentor. And I see and feel their impact on my work. Once again, it is important for the student to select and go to the teacher, speak with him, ask for his advice and opinion. It is not the other way around.


ICONS: If you had the opportunity to return to the past, what would you, as an experienced choreographer, advise the young Yury Grigorovich?


YG: I would advise him to choose another profession (laughs)! It is more difficult than I expected…


Video Work Sample:






Yury Grigorovich, the outstanding world renowned Russian choreographer and teacher, has been choreographer at the Kirov Ballet and the Bolshoi Theatre, head of the Krasnodar Ballet Theatre, head of the Choreography and Ballet Department of the Moscow State Academy of Choreography, as well as professor at the Vaganova Ballet Academy and the Choreography Department of the Leningrad Conservatory.


Mr. Grigorovich is also president of the International Dance Association (now the International Dance Union), head of Benois de la Danse project under the patronage of UNESCO and chairman of the jury, as well as winner of several state prizes. In 2008 he returned to the Bolshoi Theatre as a resident choreographer and currently serves in that postion. This year, he was awarded the State Prize of the Russian Federation and the title of Chevalier of the Order of St. Andrew the First-Called.  


Yury Grigorovich has been the artistic director and chairman of the jury of the Prix Benois de la Danse, known worldwide as the "Ballet Oscars" since it was founded in 1991. This year, for the 27th time, the international ballet Prix Benois de la Danse will convene authoritative figures of world choreography and ballet stars, defining the best choreographers, dancers, composers and stage designers of the year.


Interviewer: Ksenia Zvereva

Editor: Camilla Acquista

Photography: M. Logvinov, Courtesy of Bolshoi Ballet, Moscow


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