Carlo Blasis in Russia (1861 - 1864)

Elizabeth Souritz

Translated by Irene Huntoon
Preface by Selma Jeanne Cohen

Drawing of BlasisBorn in Italy and trained in France, Carlo Blasis left his mark on mid-nineteenth-century ballet as a choreographer, theorist, and pédagogue extraordinaire who trained the first generation of great Italian ballerinas. In 1861, he went to Russia, where he spent the next several years teaching at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theater, reviving and restaging ballets from the company’s repertory, and mounting new productions.

Written by Russia’s foremost dance historian, Elizabeth Souritz, this short book offers a full account of the four works Blasis choreographed for the Bolshoi – Faust (1861), Two Days in Venice, or The Venetian Carnival (1862), Orfa (1862), andPygmalion (1863) – as well as one that failed to materialize, Cagliostro. It also includes a discussion of Blasis’s last book, a fascinating but little-known volume written in Russian and published in Moscow in 1864. Entitled Tantsy voobshche, baletnye znamenitosti i natsional’nye tantsy (Dances in General, Ballet Celebrities, and National Dances), it is probably the best single source of information about the era’s Bolshoi dancers.

As is her custom, Souritz pieces together her story from a host of archival sources and an encyclopedic knowledge of Bolshoi history. She has created a small treasure.

"Now we have a detailed account of the works [Blasis] choreographed in Moscow, based not only on contemporary notices in the press but also on extensive archival material. . . . From Souritz’s meticulous research we learn a great deal about Blasis [and] about the Russian theater of his time – its manner of working, its values, and its critics." – Selma Jeanne Cohen

Elizabeth Souritz is the author of Soviet Choreographers in the 1920s (Duke University Press, 1990), which won the De la Torre Bueno Prize in 1991 as the outstanding work on dance published in the previous year. She is associated with Moscow’s Institute for Research in the Arts.

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