Arts & Culture

Moscow Festival Ballet to perform 'Giselle'

Members of the Moscow Festival Ballet in their "Giselle" costumes.
Members of the Moscow Festival Ballet in their "Giselle" costumes.

When Sergei Radchenko, a celebrated principal dancer with Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet, founded the Moscow Festival Ballet in 1989, his goal was to have a classical ballet company that would perform to the highest standard of Russian classical ballet. It would be large enough to perform full-length productions, but at the same time, small enough to tour the world.

That goal, described by ballet master and assistant artistic director Alexander Daev, has been met, and the company’s world tour brings its production of “Giselle” to San Luis Obispo on Saturday.

Moon Ja Minn Suhr, Cal Poly professor emeritus, will give a free pre-show lecture about “Giselle” at 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center’s Philips Lecture Hall.

Daev was interviewed by email at the request of the company’s publicist because few members of the ballet company speak English. Suhr spoke to me about “Giselle” and her talk.

While the Moscow Festival Ballet performs in the classic style of the Bolshoi and the Mariinsky (Kirov), Daev notes that it has special attributes.

“Our dancers have very strong personalities and are wonderful actors as well as their advanced technique. We are a very tight-knit family. We travel, live and work together. Many of us have been with the company for many years. … We are very happy and full of love and the wonderful experience of classical ballet is what we give to the world.”

There are 40 dancers on the tour, 22 women and 18 men ages 21 to 34. The dancers have trained in different schools all over Russia and Kazakshstan before joining the company, Daev explains.

“The dancers must audition to get into the company. The process is they take ballet classes with us and we can see their capabilities and talent.”

Radchenko, artistic director, presents master classes, inviting leading teachers from the Bolshoi and Mariinsky theaters to ensure the continuation of the traditions of the Russian classical school.

Suhr, who has met Radchenko, said he chose the right time and opportunity to establish the company.

“It was when the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s Perestroika system began. This was the year of the revolution of 1989. Before this time freedom was not easily granted for an individual artist to establish his or her own dance company.”

Suhr calls “Giselle” “a perfect ballet.” “The libretto, music, scenery, costumes, choreography and dancers all blend beautifully. The story deserves or demands equally top-notch dancers and actors.”

She urges audience members to attend her talk where she will show slides of historically significant “Giselle” productions. The 173-year-old ballet tells a tangled story of love, betrayal and the supernatural, a tale that may not be completely realized by audiences from the dancing alone.

“The story of ‘Giselle’ is explained according to how the story unfolds with my explanations in between the slides. My aim is to inform the audience enough that they understand ‘Giselle.’ ”

The enduring ballet has had many memorable productions, she noted. In addition to the title role, there are strong male roles. Among famous ballerinas who have been “Giselle” are Anna Pavlova, Margot Fonteyn and Natalia Makarova. Vaslav Nijinsky, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov are some of the powerful male dancers.

“To dance ‘Giselle’ is all ballerinas’ dream,” Suhr said. “The 1977 video that featured Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov of American Ballet Theatre is absolutely breathtaking.”

Saturday’s performance will feature Maria Sokolnikova as Giselle, Nurlan Kinerbayev as Count Albrecht and Evgeny Rudakov as Hilarion The Forester.   



8 p.m. Saturday

Cohan Center, Cal Poly

$30 to $66

756-4849 or