Why this Perm will never go out of fashion
‘See the music, hear the dance”, an oft-quoted remark from the celebrated US choreographer George Balanchine, was his invocation to think anew about ballet, as he himself did, reinventing and reinvigorating the classical tradition in which he was trained in early 20th-century St Petersburg.
It is a mantra familiar to Alexey Miroshnichenko, another ballet graduate from that former imperial city, as he leads his full ballet corps to Dublin this week from the Tchaikovsky Perm State Ballet to perform The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.
Miroshnichenko is artistic director, ballet master and house choreographer of this leading Russian company. He understands the need to continue to re-energise an interest in ballet and is passionate about the future of the classical form and the distinctive place of Perm. In this tradition, Perm seems to have had its destiny written in the stars; there are coincidences and interconnections that have led to this Ural city, 2,000 miles east of Moscow, taking its place with St Petersburg and Moscow as a third focal point in the Russian territories of ballet.
Tchaikovsky was born in a neighbouring town. Diaghilev, the innovator and founder of the Ballets Russes, had his roots in Perm. During the second World War, the famous Kirov ballet decamped and headed for artistic shelter and sustenance to Perm’s theatre, a move that would have a profound influence upon the establishment and development of the Perm ballet.
Alexey Miroshnichenko is an embodiment of this interconnected tradition. Although born in the Ukraine (his family had moved there during the second World War), he trained in the famous Vaganova Academy, danced and choreographed in the Mariinsky ballet company, and has created works for other companies in Russia, as well as forging relationships with American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet.
Invitation to Perm
In 2009, Miroshnichenko accepted an invitation to go to Perm where he has been guiding the company through the classics while reinvigorating the tradition with new and recovered works. He is conscious of the heritage of Tchaikovsky, whose music is synonymous with the theatre (they renamed it in honour of the composer in 1969). He recently created Variations on a Rococo Theme with music by Tchaikovsky and recreated a new version of the little seen Chout by Prokofiev.
Perm, in common with the Mariinsky, has its own training academy. Monica Loughman, one of a group of young Irish students who trained in Perm in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was the first Westerner to be invited to join the full company. She then set up her own academy in Ireland.
These associations between the training schools are one of the ways in which the style and classic tradition is conserved in a “live” connection, as Miroshnichenko says, not just in historic fact. Teachers and dancers interchange not only between the Vaganov and the Perm academies but are also dispersed across many of the Russian republics, keeping the style alive.
We will have a chance to see this in action as two of the principals for the Dublin performances – Alexandra Surodeeva and Ruslan Savdenov – are recent additions to the Perm company. Both are winners of the prestigious Arabesque open ballet competition, which is hosted in Perm.
Miroshnichenko is positive about the future appeal of classical ballet, for dancers and for audiences. He believes “it is the scale of the company, that full Russian experience of the ballet that attracts the audiences . . . We have a cast of 60 dancers and a live orchestra [here accompanied by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra].”