These images were taken in Amsterdam on the 9th of June, 1960. The Bolshoi Ballet arrives in the Netherlands for an international tour.
The Soviets believed nobody could surpass them in the arts, however dancers of the Bolshoi (Moscow) and Kirov (Saint Petersburg) companies were not always allowed to leave the USSR. Some dancers defected, while others were considered unsuitable, such as superstar Maya Plisetskaya, a Lithuanian Jew whose family faced heavy persecution in Russia.
Virginia Zucchi as Lise in Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov’s revival of La fille mal gardée. St. Petersburg, 1885.
La fille mal gardée (The Poorly Guarded Girl is the literal translation) premiered at the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux on the 1st of July, 1789. Back then it was performed under the name Le ballet de la paille, ou Il n’est qu’un pas du mal au bien (The Ballet of Straw, or There is Only One Step from Bad to Good) – quite a title for a ballet!
Having being involved in ballet from a very early age, I’m having trouble picturing the ballet as it would have been in the 18th century compared to the ballet it is today…
Nadia Nerina and David Blair premiere Frederick Ashton’s version of La Fille mal gardée. London, 1960.
The most famous version being performed today is Frederick Ashton’s. I’ve seen that version in a number of countries, including a couple of times at the Palais Garnier in Paris. It’s a comic ballet that involves lots of good dancing as well as quite a lot of cutesy twee. A few low-ranked dancers have the misfortune of having to perform in chicken costumes, and there’s even a real-life pony pulling a cart. In one of the performances I saw in France the horse and cart and passengers all got tangled up in the backdrop. There was some emergency improvised choreography to fix it!