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Moscow Festival Ballet returns to Armstrong Auditorium as a local favorite

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Moscow Festival Ballet, which is based in Russia, will soon bring 41 dancers into Oklahoma for two nights of traditional ballet.

Russian ballet has become a January tradition at Edmond’s Armstrong Auditorium, 14400 S. Bryant Road. The ornate performing arts theater has welcomed either Moscow Festival Ballet or Russian National Ballet every year since its 2010-11 season.

Moscow Festival principal dancer Alexander Daev was in Oklahoma last year for the company’s two-night performance schedule in the city. The visit has become as much a tradition for the dancers as it is for the audience that pays to see them.

“We really do enjoy coming to the Armstrong Auditorium and are looking forward to this year’s visit,” Daev said in a translated email interview. “Everyone at the Armstrong treats us so very good. The people of Oklahoma are friendly and always encourage us with their response to our performance.”

The company will present its Best of Russian Ballet Gala beginning 7:30 p.m. Jan. 29 at the auditorium. At 7:30 p.m. Jan. 30, the dancers return to present Romeo and Juliet & Best of Tchaikovsky.

Last year, the company performed Cinderella and The Sleeping Beauty on consecutive nights. Daev said those who attend this year’s performances will be in for some of the best dancing they have ever seen.

Moscow Festival Ballet performs a scene from the classic Tchiakovsky ballet Romeo and Juliet. | Photo CAMI / provided
  • Moscow Festival Ballet performs a scene from the classic Tchiakovsky ballet Romeo and Juliet. | Photo CAMI / provided

Packed programs

Those attending the Best of Russian Ballet Gala can expect a sort of “greatest hits” night featuring bits from some of the most known and loved ballets.

“This is a lot of fun for us and for the audience,” Daev said. “You will see different ballets from classic Russian ballets such as The Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Don Quixote, The Dying Swan and more. Beautiful costumes and beautiful dancing.”

Daev is a 37-year-old dancer who graduated from Voronezh Ballet School in 1998. He has been working with Moscow Festival Ballet since 2002 and is now head assistant artistic director and ballet master.

The Russian ballet tradition is rich and densely populated with the world’s best known and reproduced ballets, including The Awakening of Flore, Swan Lake and The Firebird.

Moscow Festival Ballet will return the next night to perform Romeo and Juliet, another Russian favorite.

Romeo and Juliet provides an abbreviated version of the classic Shakespeare tragedy with all the elements of the story,” Daev said. “The emotions of this ballet captivate the audience from the very beginning.”

Romeo and Juliet was composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky in the 19th century. Sergei Prokofiev, another famous Russian composer, debuted his take on the Shakespeare classic in 1940.

Tchaikovsky’s legacy

Following Romeo and Juliet, the second half of the Jan. 30 show will be a mixture of classic scenes from Tchaikovsky’s other cherished ballets, including Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty.

Tchaikovsky’s ballet scores are by far the art form’s most well-known pieces of music. Daev said fans of the composer will not want to miss the performance.

“The beautiful music makes it a very memorable experience,” he said.

The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty and Swan Lake were all written by Tchaikovsky and are seen by many as the three pillars of ballet companies around the world. Part of the reason these productions are so often reproduced, Daev said, is because of the enduring quality of their musical scores.

“Tchaikovsky’s music can bring out every emotion for the listener,” he said. “When you add the dance, it is an unbeatable combination to enjoy.”

One of the most interesting things about Tchaikovsky’s legacy is that many of his ballets we cherish today were not box office hits at the time of their debuts. Of the big three, only Sleeping Beauty was widely seen by original audiences.

The quality of the music, however, helped bring the productions back to life and eventually endeared itself to a wide audience.

“The music lifts the ballet to its utmost heights,” Daev said. “Tchaikovsky’s music, along with the visual of the ballet, continues to be a delight to people all over the world.”

Edmond’s Armstrong Auditorium has welcomed either Moscow Festival Ballet pictured or Russian National Ballet every year since its 2010-11 season. | Photo CAMI / provided
  • Edmond’s Armstrong Auditorium has welcomed either Moscow Festival Ballet pictured or Russian National Ballet every year since its 2010-11 season. | Photo CAMI / provided

Future dates

Moscow Festival Ballet concludes a powerhouse January for Armstrong Auditorium, which also hosted world-renowned banjo player Béla Fleck and string quartet Brooklyn Rider on Jan. 16. But there are plenty of other acts that keep Armstrong’s momentum going through the conclusion of its 2017-18 performing arts series.

Dublin Irish Dance — a dance troop made of members who have performed with Riverdance, Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance, and Celtic Woman — will present its dance gala Feb. 20.

Prestigious German orchestra Staatskapelle Weimar, founded in 1491, makes a stop March 15 at Armstrong on its first North American tour in its 500-year history. On the historic tour, the orchestra will showcase Brahms’s Tragic Overture, his violin concerto with Ukrainian violinist Valeriy Sokolov, and his cherished Symphony No. 1.

On April 19, Armstrong Auditorium concert manager and Herbert W. Armstrong College choir director Ryan Malone presents the oratorio Abraham with assistance from the Edmond college’s choir and orchestra. The score captures the epic ups and downs in the Old Testament figure’s life.

Glenn Miller Orchestra concludes the season on May 10. The jazz big band is one of the most sought-after bands of its type in the world. The orchestra plays around 300 live dates each year.

Visit armstrongauditorium.org.

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