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Rostislav Zakharov (Choreography)

Zakharov, Rostislav (b Astrakhan, 7 Sept. 1907, d Moscow, 14 Jan. 1984). Soviet dancer, choreographer, ballet director, and teacher. He studied at the Petrograd State Ballet School (later the Leningrad Choreographic Institute), a pupil of Vladimir Ponomarev, and graduated in 1926. He joined the Kharkov Ballet, then the Kiev Ballet (1926-8) before returning to Leningrad to further his studies at the Leningrad Institute of Theatrical Art, where he studied directing with Vladimir Soloviev, graduating in 1932. He cut his teeth as a choreographer by creating sketches for students at the School for Circus and Variety Actors. In 1934, at the invitation of the director Sergei Radlov, he joined GATOB (later the Kirov) as dancer and choreographer. After staging dances in several operas he choreographed The Fountain of Bakhchisarai (mus. Asafiev, 1934), one of the most important ballets in the Kirov‘s repertoire and Zakharov‘s biggest success; it has been staged by virtually every ballet company in Russia and the old Soviet Union. It, like his other works, was influenced by Stanislavsky‘s ideas about theatre, effectively turning ballets into danced dramatic plays. It also derived from a literary source (in this case Pushkin‘s narrative poem), a practice Zakharov repeated when he followed Fountain of Bakhchisarai with Lost Illusions (mus. Asafiev, 1935), based on Balzac; this ballet, however, was not a success. In 1938 he joined the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow as a choreographer and opera director, remaining there until 1956. There he choreographed The Prisoner of the Caucasus (mus. Asafiev, 1938), based on Pushkin; Don Quixote (mus. Minkus, 1940), Taras Bulba (mus. Soloviev-Sedoy, 1941), based on Gogol, Cinderella (mus. Prokofiev, 1945), and Mistress into Maid (mus. Asafiev, 1946), again based on Pushkin. For the Kirov, he also choreographed The Daughter of the People (mus. Kreyn, 1947) and The Bronze Horseman (mus. Gliиre, 1949). His last ballet, Into the Port Came Russia (mus. Soloviev-Sedoy, 1964), was also for the Kirov, although it was considered a total failure. He was artistic director of the Moscow Choreographic School (1945-7) and head of the choreography department at the State Institute for Theatrical Art (the Lunacharsky Institute) in Moscow from 1946 until his death. Author of The Art of the Choreographer (Moscow, 1954), Conversations on Dance (Moscow, 1963), The Choreographer‘s Work with Dancers (Moscow, 1967), Notes of a Choreographer (Moscow, 1976), and On Dancing (Moscow, 1977). A pioneer of new Soviet ballet, he was one of the most important influences in the spread of ‘dram-ballet’, although his critics complained about the lack of truly inventive dance in his productions. Zakharov, however, retaliated in print, frequently attacking young choreographers such as Yuri Grigorovich and Igor Belsky.

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