The project is a journey into the history of the creation and development of ballet dance in Russia. The narration is about ballets that conquered the world and historical events that accompanied the development of ballet in Russia. It is also about the legendary choreographers, composers and dancers, whose names were included in the history of this art form, as well as the famous system of ballet education. The exhibition project demonstrated the evolution of ballet through the history of the country, through the prism of cultural, political and scientific revolutions in a complex multi-level exposition. The artistic solutions of the exhibition space provided the viewer with the opportunity to look behind the scenes of the theatre, to get in touch with the world of ballet and feel its beauty.
The almost 1,000 objects on display included not only artefacts from the history of Russian ballet, but also various artistic images that bring the viewer emotionally closer to the world of ballet art. Visitors could see paintings by Mikhail Vrubel and Zinaida Serebryakova, unique historical costumes, including Mathilde Kschessinska’s pointe shoes, personal belongings of Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Agrippina Vaganova and Alexander Benois, the Ballets Russes posters, as well as archival videos and photographs. The exhibition also allowed the viewer to discover a 150-year-old scenography that the Manege team especially restored from notes, diaries and archival records.
“The name of the exhibition project “First position. Russian Ballet” was not chosen by chance – this art form has always occupied a special place in our culture. Russian ballet opened the world to stars of the first magnitude, it had a significant impact on the development of choreographic skills, ballet pedagogy and musical art. In working on this exhibition, it was especially important for us to tell our visitor the history of the development of ballet in Russia in artistic language, focusing on the most important historical milestones, significant productions and outstanding masters.”
Anna Yalova, Concept creator, Director of the Manege Central Exhibition Hall
“Many years ago, we decided to make an exhibition dedicated to Russian ballet – a synthesis of fine arts and the sport of high achievements. The immensity of the topic allows you to find your own optics for the story. So we came together with a calm chronological story with the territory of laboratory work. It turned out like in a ballet, where traditions and regularity of observance of constant movement are combined, and only features in constant movement can qualify for the first selection.
Agniya Sterligova, Concept creator, project architect, founder and CEO of Planet9 Bureau
The artistic choice of the exhibition space will provide the viewer with the opportunity to look behind the scenes of the theatre, to get in touch with the world of ballet and feel its beauty. Visitors can see the stage from different perspectives: from the wings, the technical area, the auditorium (either from the stalls, the box, or the balcony).
The exposition includes several thematic sections:
– Tsar’s Box, here, the ballet appears before the audience in the form of red boxes silhouettes associated with the key milestones in the history of pre-revolutionary Russia;
– Russian Spirit is about Sergei Diaghilev’s enterprise and the productions of the Ballets Russes,
– Soviet Ballet is a section covering the period from 1917 to 1991 and reflecting the change in dance technique, the emergence of new heroes on the ballet scene, the rethinking of classical ballet plots;
– Wardrobe Department shows the transformation of the female canon in classical ballet;
– Ballet Anatomy allows the visitor to find out what happens to the ballet dancer's body from the standpoint of the general laws of physics and biomechanics;
– School becomes a visual reflection of the formation and development of ballet education in Russia, the activities of outstanding teachers and their students, and the continuity of traditions.
“One of the features of the exhibition is numerous participants and partners who supported our project, and museums that agreed to lend genuine masterpieces to the exhibition. When you say the name of the exhibition, “First position. Russian Ballet” it immediately becomes clear why this exhibition is needed, why it is relevant, you don’t need to convince for a long time. I hope that the same will happen with the audience's interest.”
Alexander Karmaev, Exhibition producer, Managing partner of Planet9 bureau
The exhibition is based on a combination of unique original exhibits from 46 museums, archives, and libraries in St Petersburg, Moscow, and Russian provinces – paintings, graphics, sculpture, costumes, documents and personal objects with multimedia installations created especially for the exhibition. An important addition to the project is the audio accompaniment that turns a regular visit into a new-level of experience, into an audiovisual journey. Guests will be guided through the exhibition by the voices of actors Yulia Rutberg and Igor Mirkurbanov.
“Surprise me” – a legendary Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev’s demand for his artists – was our guiding principle when elaborating the project concept. When our team was pre-selecting the works, we have sought not only to reflect the historical facts but also to convey the expressiveness of the ballet characters: lightness of movement, weightlessness, flight. The lines dedicated to ballerina Avdotya Istomina from Alexander Pushkin’s novel in verse “Eugene Onegin” – “…she's up and flying through the air like fluff before Aeolian breezes…” [Translation by Charles H. Johnston] served as inspiration to us.
Pavel Kaplevich, Creative curator
As part of the exhibition project, the Manege team will also present an eventful educational program, including lectures, professional discussions, performances by ballet dancers, and events for children and teenagers.
The project was implemented with the support of the Presidential Fund for Cultural Initiatives.
“This inter-museum project is a complex, multi-component exhibition created with the participation of more than 40 cultural organizations, and is truly long-awaited. The most important thing is that the support of the Presidential Fund for Cultural Initiatives has made it possible to build this ballet city in the St. Petersburg Manege in such a way that people want to come here. I am sure that this exhibition will be a great success.”
Roman Karmanov, Director General of the Presidential Fund for Cultural Initiatives
Concept creators: Anna Yalova (Manege Central Exhibition Hall), Agniya Sterligova (Planet9)
Producer: Alexander Karmaev (Planet9)
Creative Curator: Pavel Kaplevich
Coordinator: Elizaveta Pavlycheva (Manege Exhibition Hall)
Scientific advisers: Svetlana Lavrova, Pavel Maslennikov, Tatiana Noginova, Olga Fedorchenko