Vladimir Bourmeister


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(b Vitebsk, Belarus, 15 Jul. 1904; d Moscow, 5 Mar. 1971)

Soviet dancer, choreographer and ballet master. A distant relative of Tchaikovsky, he studied at Moscow's Lunacharsky Theatre Technicum (1925–9) and while still a student appeared with the Dramatic Ballet Workshop. In 1930 he joined the Moscow Art Ballet where he remained until his death, first as leading character dancer, then as chief choreographer and artistic director when the company became the Moscow Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theatre (1941–60, 1963–71). He was a prolific choreographer, and his use of heroic themes, such as the bravery of Soviet youth during the Second World War, helped to define the genre of Socialist Realism. The ballets he made in Moscow included Straussiana (1941), The Merry Wives of Windsor (mus. V. Oransky, 1942), Lola (mus. S. Vasilenko, 1943), Scheherazade (mus. Rimsky-Korsakov, 1944), Carnaval (mus. Schumann, 1946), The Coast of Happiness (mus. A. Spadavecchia, 1948), La Esmeralda (mus. Pugni, Glière, Vasilenko, 1950), Jeanne d'Arc (mus. N. Peiko, 1957), Kalevipoeg (mus. Eugen Kapp, 1961), Bolero (mus. Ravel, 1964), Appassionata (mus. Beethoven, 1970), and A Lonely White Sail (1970). For the Kirov Ballet he made Tatiana (mus. Aleksandr Krein, 1947). Today Bourmeister is best remembered for his 1953 production of Swan Lake which—controversially—used Tchaikovsky's score in its original sequence and restored cuts that had been made to the music. This production was introduced to the West when his company visited Paris in 1956; he then revived it for the Paris Opera in 1960. In 1961 he became the first Soviet choreographer permitted to work with a Western company when he was invited to choreograph The Snow Maiden (mus. Tchaikovsky) for London Festival Ballet. People's Artist of the USSR.

Subjects: Dance.

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