Bolshoi Ballet

The Bolshoi Ballet is an internationally renowned classical ballet company, based at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Russia. Founded in 1776, the Bolshoi is among the world's oldest ballet companies. It only achieved worldwide acclaim, however, in the early 20th century when Moscow became the capital of Soviet Russia. Along with the Mariinsky Ballet in Saint Petersburg, the Bolshoi is recognised as one of the foremost ballet companies in the world.

Bolshoi Ballet
General information
NameBolshoi Ballet
Local nameБольшой Театр
Балетная труппа Большого театра
Baletnaya truppa Bol'shogo teatra
Year founded1776
Principal venueBolshoi Theatre
Senior staff
DirectorVladimir Urin
Ballet DirectorMakhar Vaziev
Artistic staff
Deputy DirectorGalina Stepanenko
Music DirectorTugan Sokhiev
Ballet MasterYuri Grigorovich
Parent companyBolshoi Theatre
OrchestraOrchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre
Official schoolMoscow State Academy of Choreography
Lead soloist
First soloist
Corps de ballet


The earliest origins of the Bolshoi Ballet can be found in the creation of a dance school for a Moscow orphanage in 1773.[1] In 1776, dancers from the school were employed by Prince Pyotr Vasilyevich Ouroussoff and the English theatrical entrepreneur Michael Maddox, to form part of their new theatre company.[2] Originally performing in privately owned venues, they later acquired the Petrovsky Theatre, which, as a result of fires and erratic redevelopment, would later be rebuilt as today's Bolshoi Theatre. While some guest dancers come and go from other very prestigious ballet companies—like the Mariinsky and American Ballet Theatre—many company dancers are graduates of the academy. In 1989, Michael Shannon was the first American ballet dancer to graduate from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy and join the Bolshoi Ballet company.[3]

Despite staging many famous ballets, it struggled to compete with the reputation of the Imperial Russian Ballet, today's Mariinsky Ballet of St. Petersburg. It was not until the appointment of Alexander Gorsky as Ballet Master in 1900 that the company began to develop its own unique identity, with acclaimed productions of new or restaged ballets including, Don Quixote (1900), Coppélia (1901), Swan Lake (1901), La fille mal gardée (1903), Giselle (1911), Le Corsaire (1912) and La Bayadère (1917).[4]

The Soviet leadership's preference for uncomplicated moral themes in the arts was demonstrated in Yuri Grigorovich's appointment as director in 1964. Grigorovich held his position until 1995, at which point a series of directors, including Boris Akimov, Alexei Ratmansky, Yuri Burlaka and Sergei Filin, brought more modern dance performance ideas to the company.[5]



Anastasia Volochkova has claimed that female dancers were forced to sleep with wealthy patrons. She said: “It mainly happened with the corps du [sic] ballet but also with the soloists. [...] I repeatedly received such propositions to share the beds of oligarchs." [6] American dancer Joy Womack echoed this concern when she left the company after being told that, to secure solo roles she must either pay $10,000 or "start a relationship with a sponsor."[7]

The January 2013 a sulfuric acid attack on art director Sergei Filin once again steeped the company in scandal. Bolshoi dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko, was convicted of organizing the attack and sentenced to six years in prison. Reasons for the attack include corruption within the company.[8]

In July 2017, the Bolshoi Theatre cancelled the premiere of a ballet about openly gay Soviet dancer Rudolf Nureyev. The Director General claimed it was due to the bad quality of the dancing; however, principal dancer Maria Alexandrova claimed it was the first sign of a 'new era' of censorship.[9] It was the first time a show has been pulled in such a way since the collapse of the Soviet Union, sparking rumours about the motivation behind it.[10]

Notable people

Former dancers


Company structure

Today the Bolshoi Ballet remains one of the world's foremost ballet companies, in addition to being one of the largest, with approximately 220 dancers. The word "bolshoi" means "big" or "grand" in Russian. The company operates on a hierarchical system, similar to those used by other leading European ballet companies, with senior dancers ranked as principals, and descending in order of importance through lead soloist, first soloist, soloist and finally, corps de ballet. Due to its size, the company operates two troupes of corps de ballet.

In 2000, the Bolshoi Ballet opened its first Ballet Academy outside Russia, in Joinville, Brazil.[11][12][13][14]

Performance style

The performance style of the Bolshoi Ballet is typically identified as being colourful and bold, combining technique and athleticism with expressiveness and dramatic intensity. This style is commonly attributed to Alexander Gorsky. Historically there has been a fierce rivalry with the St. Petersburg Heritage Ballet Company, the Mariinsky. Both have developed very different performing styles: the Bolshoi has a more colourful and bold approach, whereas the Mariinsky is associated with more pure and refined classicism.


Principal dancers[15]



It was announced 30 January 2013, that Svetlana Lunkina told the Russian newspaper Izvestia that she wants to remain in Canada, because she fears for her safety if she returned to Russia.[16]

Leading Soloists


  • Anastasia Goryacheva
  • Kristina Kretova
  • Maria Vinogradova


  • Artemy Belyakov
  • Denis Savin

First Soloists


  • Daria Khokhlova
  • Anastasia Meskova
  • Maria Pogosyan
  • Anna Tikhomirova


  • Yuri Baranov
  • Vitaly Biktimirov
  • Andrei Bolotin
  • Jacopo Tissi
  • Alexander Vodopetov



  • Yulia Grebenshchikova
  • Kristina Karasyova
  • Angelina Karpova
  • Olga Kishnyova
  • Nelli Kobakhidze
  • Alyona Kovalyova
  • Yanina Parienko
  • Svetlana Pavlova
  • Anna Rebetskaya
  • Yulia Skvortsova
  • Ana Turazashvili
  • Anastasia Vinokur
  • Victoria Yakusheva


  • Karim Abdullin
  • Alexander Fadeyechev
  • Egor Khromushin
  • Anton Savichev
  • Alexander Smoliyaninov
  • Alexander Vorobiyov
  • Alexander Voytyuk

Corps de ballet

The Bolshoi Ballet operates two troupes of corps de ballet, with approximately 169 dancers in total.


  1. "Bolshoi Ballet - Infoplease". InfoPlease. Archived from the original on 18 January 2012. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  2. "IMG Artists - Celebrate Performance". IMG Artists. Archived from the original on 8 October 2011. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  3. "American Michael Shannon Joins the Bolshoi Ballet"- LATimes Article, November 18, 1989; "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-04-23. Retrieved 2015-04-21.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. Ballet Bag Archived 2010-08-16 at the Wayback Machine, August 12, 2010
  5. Mackrell, Judith (18 January 2013). "Sergei Filin may be as much a victim of Bolshoi ballet politics as acid attack". The Guardian. London, UK. Archived from the original on 4 January 2016. Retrieved 18 January 2013.
  6. "Bolshoi ballet was 'giant brothel' claims former dancer". BBC. Archived from the original on 20 March 2013. Retrieved 21 March 2013.
  7. Files, Emily (14 November 2013). "American ballerina lobs a $10,000 accusation at the Bolshoi Company". PRI. Boston, United States. Archived from the original on 17 November 2013. Retrieved 14 November 2013.
  8. BBC News Europe. "Bolshoi acid attack: Soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko jailed". BBC. Archived from the original on 25 March 2014. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  9. "Maria Alexandrova Instagram Post". Instagram. 8 July 2017. Archived from the original on 4 May 2018. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  10. "Bolshoi Theatre postpones Rudolf Nureyev ballet". BBC News. 11 July 2017. Archived from the original on 11 July 2017. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
  11. "Classical: Bolshoi finds a home in the land of Samba". Irish Independent.
  12. Rohter, Larry (3 July 2001). "The Discipline of the Bolshoi In the Land of the Samba; A Satellite School in Brazil to Train Tomorrow's Ballet Stars". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 14 March 2017.
  13. "The Bolshoi Ballet: The Discipline of Russia in Brazil - Centro Y Sur". Archived from the original on 2014-07-18. Retrieved 4 May 2018.
  15. "Bolshoi Ballet". Archived from the original on 28 October 2013. Retrieved 8 September 2015.
  16. "BOLSHOI BALLERINA SAYS SHE FEARS FOR HER SAFETY". AP. Archived from the original on 24 February 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
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