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Behind the scenes at the Bolshoi Theatre

Behind the scenes at the Bolshoi Theatre

Our reporter takes an intimate look inside the famous Russian institution

I had dreamed of discovering the Bolshoi for many years, so when I received the green light to visit, I could barely believe it at first. There I was in Moscow, about to spend an entire day visiting one of the most prestigious ballet and opera houses in the world. “Artists join the Bolshoi at an early age and spend their whole career with us”, explained Anna Zueva, the sponsorship manager and my guide for the day. “It’s hard to let go of the house once you are in it. One of our former ballet dancers, who is now over 70, refused to retire a few years ago. The only job we could offer her at the time was as a receptionist… and to our great surprise she gladly accepted it!” But what makes the Bolshoi so important to all of these artists? And where does all their great admiration for this institution come from? The best way to find out the answers to these questions is by taking a look behind the scenes.

The Bolshoi Ballet and Bolshoi Opera are amongst the oldest and most renowned ballet and opera companies in the world. The Bolshoi Ballet is the world's biggest ballet company; having more than 200 dancers. Group rehearsal starts every morning at 11 AM. I watched a rehearsal led by Nikonov Vladimir who finished his career as a ballet dancer in 1978 and has been teaching ever since. In the afternoon, artists attend various private classes in one of the 4 buildings interconnected by underground tunnels. “It’s almost impossible not to get lost here”, says Miss Zueva who has the key to every door and knows everyone. As we walk through the corridors that lead to the historic stage, melodious voices of opera singers come crawling to our ears; filling our heads with absolute bliss.

It is clear to me that the high reputation of this 239-year-old institution is based on its four essential values: discipline, excellence, tradition and creativity. What I most find admirable is the Bolshoi’s ability to keep its traditions while still adapting to the modern world. It is a complex institution with a long lineage of men and women who have played their roles with dedication and precision throughout history. This tradition continues today- with more than 3500 committed people playing vital roles in the institution. Roles that range from the most famous internationally performing soloists to the proud older woman who sits at the reception desk.