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Fateyev Discusses Mariinsky’s Direction in Ballet

Published: May 12, 2009 (Issue # 1473)



  • Yuri Fateyev, acting artistic director of the Mariinsky Theater’s ballet troupe.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

Yuri Fateyev, in his mid-forties, was appointed by Valery Gergiev, head of the Mariinsky, as the acting artistic director of the theater’s ballet nearly a year ago in, June 2008. A former dancer of this greatest of classical ballet companies, he was a good character dancer and one of his memorable roles was the jester in “Swan Lake.” Fateev was also the main repetiteur for the Mariinsky’s large repertory of ballets by Balanchine, and is a valued teacher to many male dancers including the Mariinsky star Igor Zelensky. He has also taught at overseas companies including the Royal Ballet in London.

I interviewed Fateyev last month in his spacious office in the Mariinsky Theater, not far from the office of his predecessor Makhar Vaziev, who has since become the director of La Scala Ballet in Milan.

Fateyev began by praising the achievements of his predecessor, “I think that everything that has been done by Mr. Vaziev was not bad. I was actually working in Mr. Vaziev’s team. And according to his orders, I was working on the projects that he gave me to do, teaching the new ballets. We were working on the new premieres by Balanchine, Roland Petit and John Neumeier. I was assisting him. The major issue for me now is to keep the company in a good shape, and to achieve the highest standard of performance that has been the norm here for centuries. The other major issue is to bring up new young dancers, which has also been done before by Mr. Vaziev. It’s also most important to me.”

“There are three major policies that have been established for the artistic development of the company. The first is to keep up the classical repertoire as we have it, and to maintain it to the highest standards. The second is to find new choreographers, to introduce new choreographies for the company. The third is to look into the past artistic history of the Mariinsky Theater, and to consider which ballets deserve to be restored or restaged.”

But what new choreographers does he have in mind, besides the in-house choreographer Alexei Miroshnichenko who has created a number of ballets for the Mariinsky? “It’s very difficult to say for choreographers working for only half a year. It takes a very long time to bring up a choreographer. And it’s very difficult to find a good choreographer. I’ve got some names in mind, but I’d rather not say anything till I’ve seen some real results of their work.”

Last autumn, Fateyev promoted Alina Somova to a principal. It was a controversial decision, as there has been a lot of criticism of Somova distorting the classical line in her dancing. Fateyev explained, “I thought that by that time Somova had really grown and deserved the status of a principal.” Fateyev also brought into the Mariinsky earlier this year the star couple from the Mikhailovsky Theater – Denis Matviyenko and his wife Anastasia Matviyenko.

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