Rostislav Zakharov


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(b Astrakhan, 7 Sept. 1907; d Moscow, 14 Jan. 1984)

Soviet dancer, choreographer, ballet director, and teacher. He studied at the Petrograd State Ballet School (later the Leningrad Ballet School) with Ponomarev, and graduated in 1926. He joined the Kharkov Ballet, then the Kiev Ballet (1926–8) before furthering his studies at the Leningrad Institute of Theatrical Art, where he studied directing with Vladimir Soloviev, graduating in 1932. His first choreography was created for students at the School for Circus and Variety Actors, but in 1934 he was invited to join GATOB (later the Kirov) as dancer and choreographer. Here he choreographed The Fountain of Bakhchisarai (mus. Asafiev, 1934), which became one of the most important ballets in the Kirov's repertoire and was subsequently staged by virtually every ballet company in the former Soviet Union. Its success was due in part to Zakharov's application of Stanislavsky's ideas about theatre to ballet, as well as to the power of its literary source (Pushkin's narrative poem). His subsequent work, Lost Illusions (mus. Asafiev, 1935), based on Balzac, was less acclaimed however. In 1938 he moved to the Bolshoi as choreographer and opera director, creating The Prisoner of the Caucasus (mus. Asafiev, 1938), based on Pushkin, Don Quixote (mus. Minkus, 1940), Taras Bulba (mus. Soloviev-Sedoy, 1941), based on Gogol, Cinderella (mus. Prokofiev, 1945), and Mistress into Maid (mus. Asafiev, 1946), again based on Pushkin. For the Kirov, he additionally choreographed The Daughter of the People (mus. Kreyn, 1947) and The Bronze Horseman (mus. Glière, 1949). His influence, as a pioneer of new Soviet ballet, and especially the genre of ‘dram-ballet’, was long-lasting although his critics complained about the lack of genuinely inventive dance in his productions. Zakharov retaliated in print, frequently attacking young choreographers such as Grigorovich and Belsky, however his last ballet, Into the Port Came Russia (mus. Soloviev-Sedoy, 1964, the Kirov), was considered a total failure. He remained at the Bolshoi until 1958 and was additionally artistic director of the Moscow Choreographic School (1945–7) and head of the choreography department at the State Institute for Theatrical Art (the Lunacharsky Institute) in Moscow from 1946 until his death. Author of The Art of the Choreographer (Moscow, 1954), Conversations on Dance (Moscow, 1963), The Choreographer's Work with Dancers (Moscow, 1967), Notes of a Choreographer (Moscow, 1976), and On Dancing (Moscow, 1977).

Subjects: Dance.

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