Enchanted Wanderers: The Unknown Pages of the History of Ballet

From March 10 to March 29 the Ronald Williams Library is hosting the exhibit “Enchanted Wanderers,” devoted to the creativity of artists of ballet and theater whose work is rooted in the distant and glorious Russian culture. The artifacts presented allow western society to better understand the impact these “Russians abroad” had on various art forms.

This exhibit was initiated through the collaboration of the Bakhrushin Central State Theater Museum in Moscow, Russia, the Museum of Russian Art, Jersey City, New Jersey, the University of North Carolina-Asheville, Northeastern Illinois University and Grabbe Inc.

OLEG BRIANSKY

As both premier danseur and choreographer, Mr. Briansky has performed with such renowned companies as the Ballet des Champs-Elysees, the Ballet de Paris, London Festival Ballet (English National Ballet) the New York Metropoli-tan Opera Ballet, the Munich Opera Ballet, the Teatro Colon of Buenos Aires and the Chicago Opera Ballet. During his career, he has also partnered many leading ballerinas, Margot Fonteyn, Sonia Arova, Maria Tallchief and Violette Verdy to name a few.

Internationally respected, Mr. Briansky has served on the jury of the Prix de Lausanne and ballet competitions in Nyon, Switzerland, Osaka, Japan,and Jackson, Mississippi.

Mr. Briansky served as the Associate Artistic Director of the Ballet de Rio de Janeiro and Artistic Director of “Children of Theatre Street,” the Academy Award nominationed feature documentary film about the Vaganova Choreographic Institute in Leningrad. He has also translated “100 Lessons in Classical Ballet” by Vera Kostrovitskaya of the Vaganova Institute and “Classes in Classical Bal-let” by Asaf Messerer, ballet master of the Bolshoi Ballet.

An international teacher and coach, Mr. Briansky has directed principal dancers from the New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, the Boston Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada. His ballets “Scheherazade” and “The Firebird” are in the repertory of the Ballet Memphis and the Southern Ballet Theatre in Orlando.

IGOR ROUSSANOFF

Igor Roussanoff is an internationally acclaimed artist who has worked profes-sionally around the world for more than 25 years as a costume and set de-signer, producer, and art director. His work has been praised by theatre critics Anna Kisselgoff and Jack Anderson of the New York Times, James Nelson of the Birmingham News, and Christopher Rawson of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Igor designed costumes for the Stars of Bolshoi, and the principal dancers of

The American Ballet Theatre. He worked with legendary directors such as

Dame Sonia Arova and Thor Sutowski, Mark DeGarmo, Wes Chapman, Victor Lytvynov, John Cage, Michael Khusied, Richard Helldobler to name a few.

In 2010, Igor received the J. F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Merit Award for “Excellence in Costume Design” for the production of “As You Like It” at West Chester University. He is currently a visiting professor of costume de-sign at the University of North Carolina Asheville and curator of the Bakhrushin Central State Theatre Museum (BCSTM) in Moscow, Russia. He is also a cos-tume designer in residence for Mark DeGarmo and Dancers in New York City.

DAME SONIA AROVA

Dame Sonia Arova, world renowned ballerina, knighted by King Olav V of Norway, frequent partner of Rudolph Nureyev and Erik Bruhn, won first prize in an international competition at the age of 12. As an acclaimed instructor, dancer and director, she was known for her willing-ness to take chances when they arose. With her great technical strength, she performed as a bravura dancer of attack and spirit. Her feminine personality and allure was unambiguous. She could seize a dramatic role and fill it with her own theatricality.

Sonia Arova’s long and distinguished career began with her training at the Sofia Opera’s School of Ballet. By age 8, Sonia Arova was selected to study dance in Paris with former Mary-insky ballerina, Olga Preobrajenska and Diaghilev’s last male star, Serge Lifar.

When the Germans invaded France, she escaped to England disguised as her piano teacher’s son. After four years of constant touring with Mona Iglesby’s International Ballet, she joined Ballet Rambert in 1946, dancing principal roles in Les Sylphides, Swan Lake, Act II, and as the Russian ballerina in Tudor’s Gala Performance receiving praise from Artistic Director Rambert as unsurpassed in her dancing and comedic interpretation.

Moving to the newly formed Metropolitan Ballet in 1947, Sonia Arova’s principal roles included the rewarding Design for Springs by John Taras and work with a new partner, Erik Bruhn from Copenhagen.

Sonia Arova’s freelance career took her throughout Europe and America and as far as Japan and Australia. She was the first western ballerina to perform in Japan since Anna Pavlova and was guest ballerina for the gala opening of The Australian Ballet. Recognized for her classical work, she also performed in new ballets created for her by Ruth Page.

Working with Ballet de Champs Elysées, London Festival Ballet and Page’s Chicago Opera Ballet, she was well known for her role as Azucena in Page’s Revenge (based on Il Trovatore), and the lead role in Merry Widow, Carmen, Camille and in the lighthearted Impromptu au Bois.

She performed as guest ballerina with other major companies such as American Ballet Theatre

(Helen of Troy, Mam’zelle Angot, Pas de Déesses), The Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas, Original Ballet Russe, the Australian Ballet, National Ballet of Canada and The Washington Ballet in the Sylvia Pas de Deux coached by George Balanchine.

In the early 1960’s, Anton Dolin extended an invitation to her, along with Rudolf Nureyev, who had just arrived in the West, Erik Bruhn and Rosella Hightower to perform duets in concert programs. The quartet then formed their own concert group, performing new and established works in Cannes and Paris to sold out houses.

With Nureyev, she performed as the first guest ballerina with the Royal Ballet (Swan Lake, Don Quixote Pas de Deux) and as his partner for his 1962 American debut at New York and Chi-cago.

Dame Sonia’s directorships included the Norwegian National Ballet (Den Norske Opera) where she received the equivalent to knighthood by King Olav V of Norway and Hamburg State Opera Ballet. She then co-directed the San Diego Ballet with husband and choreogra-pher, Thor Sutowski. In 1976, they moved to Birmingham, Alabama to develop the dance program at the Alabama School of Fine Arts. She and Sutowski were asked to direct the new State of Alabama Ballet/Ballet South (1981 – 1996). Well known for their collaboration and unique ability to coach young dancers, they were recognized by Mikhail Baryshnikov who named the Alabama School of Fine Arts Dance Program as one of the three best schools in the country for the training of young dancers. (New York Times, 1985)

Many accolades and credit have been given to her work as a ballerina, master teacher, artistic director, coach and mentor. Dame Sonia Arova passed away in California on February 4, 2001.

Enchanted Wanderers Exhibit

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