Alexander Gorsky


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(b St Petersburg, 18 Aug. 1871; d Moscow, 20 Oct. 1924)

Russian dancer, choreographer, ballet master, and teacher. A pioneer in the development of dramatic ballet in Russia. He entered the Imperial Theatre School in St Petersburg in 1880, where he studied with Petipa, and graduated in 1889 into the Mariinsky Theatre where he was appointed soloist in 1895. He began teaching at the school in 1896 and was responsible for ensuring that the Stepanov system of notation was introduced into its syllabus. In 1899 he was sent to Moscow to mount Sleeping Beauty at the Bolshoi, using the notated score of Petipa's St Petersburg staging. In 1900 he moved full time to Moscow where he became premier danseur and regisseur of the Bolshoi Ballet; in 1902 he was appointed director, a position he held until his death in 1924. During this period he revitalized the company, modernizing its productions to give them greater dramatic relevance and creating new ballets. Shortly after arriving in Moscow, he produced his own version of Don Quixote, and in 1901 staged revised versions of Swan Lake and The Little Humpbacked Horse, which have remained extant. In 1902 he choreographed his first completely original work Gudule's Daughter (mus. Anton Simon and based on the story of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame). A list of his other works includes The Magic Mirror (mus. Arseny Koreshenko, 1905), Pharaoh's Daughter (mus. Pugni, 1905), Coppélia (1905), Raymonda (1908), Études (mus. Rubinstein, 1908), Salammbô (mus. Arends, 1910), Giselle (1907), Le Corsaire (mus. Adam, 1912), Love is Quick (mus. Grieg, 1913), Eunice and Petronius (mus. Chopin, 1915), Fifth Symphony (mus. Glazunov, 1916), La Bayadère (1917), Stenka Razin (mus. Glazunov, 1918), Nutcracker (1919, the first Moscow staging), Swan Lake (new version, 1920), Salome's Dance (mus. R. Strauss, 1921), Les Petits Riens (mus. Mozart, 1922), Giselle (1922), and The Venus Grotto (mus. Wagner, 1923). In 1911, for the coronation of George V, he staged The Dance Dream at the Alhambra Theatre in London. The victim of deteriorating mental health in his later life, he died in a mental hospital.

Subjects: Dance.

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