|Local name||? |
Baletnaya truppa Bol'shogo teatra
|Principal venue||Bolshoi Theatre|
|Ballet Director||Makhar Vaziev|
|Deputy Director||Galina Stepanenko|
|Music Director||Tugan Sokhiev|
|Ballet Master||Yuri Grigorovich|
|Parent company||Bolshoi Theatre|
|Orchestra||Orchestra of the Bolshoi Theatre|
|Official school||Moscow State Academy of Choreography|
Corps de 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.
The earliest origins of the Bolshoi Ballet can be found in the creation of a dance school for a Moscow orphanage in 1773. 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. 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.
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).
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.
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."  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."
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
The Bolshoi Ballet operates two troupes of corps de ballet, with approximately 169 dancers in total.