Bolshoi Ballet

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Bolshoi Ballet
General information
NameBolshoi Ballet
Local nameБольшой Театр
Балетная труппа Большого театра
Baletnaya truppa Bol'shogo teatra
Year founded1776; 248 years ago (1776)
Principal venueBolshoi Theatre
Senior staff
DirectorVladimir Urin
Ballet DirectorMakhar Vaziev
Artistic staff
Deputy DirectorGalina Stepanenko
Music DirectorTugan Sokhiev
Ballet MasterYuri Grigorovich
Parent companyBolshoi Theatre
OrchestraOrchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre
Official schoolMoscow State Academy of Choreography
Lead soloist
First soloist
Corps de ballet

The Bolshoi Ballet is an internationally renowned classical ballet company based at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia. Founded in 1776, the Bolshoi is among the world's oldest ballet companies. In the early 20th century, it came to international prominence as Moscow became the capital of Soviet Russia. The Bolshoi has been recognised as one of the foremost ballet companies in the world. It has a branch at the Bolshoi Ballet Theater School in Joinville, Brazil.[1]


Soloists of the Bolshoi Ballet at the Schiphol airport, 9 June 1960

The earliest iteration of the Bolshoi Ballet can be found in the creation of a dance school for a Moscow orphanage in 1773.[2] In 1776, dancers from the school were employed by Prince Pyotr Vasilyevich Urusov and English theatrical entrepreneur Michael Maddox to form part of their new theatre company.[3] Originally performing in privately owned venues, they later acquired the Petrovsky Theatre, which, as a result of fires and erratic redevelopment, would later be rebuilt as today's Bolshoi Theatre. While some guest dancers come and go from other prestigious ballet companies, such as Mariinsky and American Ballet Theatre, most company dancers are graduates of the academy. In 1989, Michael Shannon was the first American ballet dancer to graduate from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and join the Bolshoi Ballet company.[4]

Despite staging many famous ballets, it struggled to compete with the reputation of the Imperial Russian Ballet, today's Mariinsky Ballet of St. Petersburg. It was not until the appointment of Alexander Gorsky as Ballet Master in 1900 that the company began to develop its own unique identity, with acclaimed productions of new or restaged ballets including Don Quixote (1900), Coppélia (1901), Swan Lake (1901), La fille mal gardée (1903), Giselle (1911), Le Corsaire (1912) and La Bayadère (1917).[5]

The Soviet leadership's preference for uncomplicated moral themes in the arts was demonstrated in Yuri Grigorovich's appointment as director in 1964. Grigorovich held his position until 1995, at which point a series of directors, including Boris Akimov, Alexei Ratmansky, Yuri Burlaka and Sergei Filin, brought more modern dance performance ideas to the company.[6]


Notable staff[edit]


Company structure[edit]

Today the Bolshoi Ballet remains one of the world's foremost ballet companies, in addition to being one of the largest, with approximately 220 dancers. The word "bolshoi" means "big" or "grand" in Russian. The company operates on a hierarchical system, similar to those used by other leading European ballet companies, with senior dancers ranked as principals, and descending in order of importance through lead soloist, first soloist, soloist and finally, corps de ballet. Due to its size, the company operates two troupes of corps de ballet.

In 2000, the Bolshoi Ballet opened its first Ballet Academy outside Russia, in Joinville, Brazil.[7][8][9][10]

Performance style[edit]

The performance style of the Bolshoi Ballet is typically identified as being colourful and bold, combining technique and athleticism with expressiveness and dramatic intensity. This style is commonly attributed to Alexander Gorsky. Historically there has been a fierce rivalry with the St. Petersburg Heritage Ballet Company, the Mariinsky. Both have developed very different performing styles: the Bolshoi has a more colourful and bold approach, whereas the Mariinsky is associated with more pure and refined classicism.


Principal dancers[edit]




Leading soloists[edit]


  • Anastasia Goryacheva
  • Kristina Kretova
  • Olga Marchenkova
  • Eva Sergeyenkova
  • Margarita Shrayner
  • Maria Vinogradova


Anna Tikhomirova performing in Delhi

First soloists[edit]


  • Arina Denisova
  • Daria Khokhlova
  • Anastasia Meskova
  • Anna Tikhomirova


  • Klim Efimov
  • Alexander Vodopetov
  • Dmitry Vyskubenko
  • Denis Zakharov



  • Anastasia Chapkina
  • Anastasia Denisova
  • Yulia Grebenshchikova
  • Kristina Karasyova
  • Olga Kishnyova
  • Nelli Kobakhidze [ru]
  • Elizaveta Kruteleva
  • Yulia Skvortsova
  • Ana Turazashvili [ru]
  • Anastasia Vinokur
  • Angelina Vlashnets
  • Viktoria Yakusheva
  • Ksenia Zhiganshina


  • Karim Abdullin
  • Klim Efimov
  • Alexander Fadeyechev
  • Georgy Gusev
  • Egor Khromushin
  • Anton Savichev
  • Alexander Smoliyaninov

Corps de ballet[edit]

The Bolshoi Ballet operates two troupes of corps de ballet, with approximately 169 dancers in total.


In 2013, ballerina Anastasia Volochkova claimed that female dancers were forced to sleep with wealthy patrons, saying: "It mainly happened with the corps du [sic] ballet but also with the soloists. [...] I repeatedly received such propositions to share the beds of oligarchs."[12] American dancer Joy Womack echoed this concern when she left the company after being told that, to secure solo roles, she must either pay $10,000 or "start a relationship with a sponsor."[13]

In January 2013, a sulfuric acid attack on art director Sergei Filin once again steeped the company in scandal. Bolshoi dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko was convicted of organizing the attack and was sentenced to six years in prison. Reasons for the attack include corruption within the company.[14]

In 2014, 25-year-old ballet dancer Olga Demina mysteriously went missing. In September 2020, Russian investigators announced that they believe Demina may have been killed in a blackmail plot by Malkhaz Dzhavoev, whom she was dating and was allegedly her "manager."[15]

In July 2017, the Bolshoi Theatre cancelled the premiere of a ballet about openly gay Soviet dancer Rudolf Nureyev. The Director General claimed that it was due to poor dancing quality; however, principal dancer Maria Alexandrova claimed it was the first sign of a 'new era' of censorship.[16] It was the first time a show has been pulled in such a way since the collapse of the Soviet Union, sparking rumours about the motivation behind the move.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Galayda, A. (11 February 2020). "Why the only Bolshoi Theater school outside Russia is in Brazil". Russia Beyond the Headlines. Retrieved 19 February 2020.
  2. ^ "Bolshoi Ballet". InfoPlease. Archived from the original on 18 January 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  3. ^ "The Bolshoi Ballet". IMG Artists. Archived from the original on 8 October 2011. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  4. ^ Parks, Michael (18 November 1989). "American Michael Shannon Joins the Bolshoi Ballet". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 23 April 2015. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  5. ^ Linda (12 August 2010). "The Bolshoi Ballet". The Ballet Bag. Archived from the original on 16 August 2010.
  6. ^ Mackrell, Judith (18 January 2013). "Sergei Filin may be as much a victim of Bolshoi ballet politics as acid attack". The Guardian. London, UK. Archived from the original on 4 January 2016. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  7. ^ "Classical: Bolshoi finds a home in the land of Samba". Irish Independent.
  8. ^ Rohter, Larry (3 July 2001). "The Discipline of the Bolshoi In the Land of the Samba; A Satellite School in Brazil to Train Tomorrow's Ballet Stars". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 14 March 2017.
  9. ^ "The Bolshoi Ballet: The Discipline of Russia in Brazil". Centro Y Sur. Archived from the original on 18 July 2014. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  10. ^ "The Bolshoi Theater School in Brazil – a reference in art and education". Escola Bolshoi. Archived from the original on 6 January 2013. Retrieved 22 May 2022.
  11. ^ "Bolshoi Ballet, Artists & Staff". Retrieved 16 June 2022.
  12. ^ "Bolshoi ballet was 'giant brothel' claims former dancer". BBC. Archived from the original on 20 March 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  13. ^ Files, Emily (14 November 2013). "American ballerina lobs a $10,000 accusation at the Bolshoi Company". PRI. Boston, United States. Archived from the original on 17 November 2013. Retrieved 14 November 2013.
  14. ^ BBC News Europe (3 December 2013). "Bolshoi acid attack: Soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko jailed". BBC News. Archived from the original on 25 March 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  15. ^ Steinbuch, Yaron (17 September 2020). "Missing Russian ballerina may have been dismembered, dissolved in acid". New York Post. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  16. ^ "Maria Alexandrova Instagram Post". Instagram. 8 July 2017. Archived from the original on 4 May 2018. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  17. ^ "Bolshoi Theatre postpones Rudolf Nureyev ballet". BBC News. 11 July 2017. Archived from the original on 11 July 2017. Retrieved 11 July 2017.

External links[edit]