The great Vladimir Vasiliev turns 80 today. Vladimir was born in Moscow on April 18, 1940.
He studied at the Moscow Ballet School, a student of Mikhail Gabovich, and graduated into the Bolshoi Ballet in 1958. He was quickly promoted to principal dancer and for the next twenty years was the Bolshoi’s leading male star. Heroic and dynamic, possessing a then unparalleled virtuoso technique, he came to embody the image of the post-war Bolshoi male dancer. His dramatic athleticism was showcased most famously in Spartacus, but was also acclaimed for the romantic intensity with which he interpreted Albrecht. He created leading roles in Radunsky’s new staging of The Humpbacked Horse (1960), Tarasova and Lapauri’s Song of the Forests (1961), Lavrovsky’s Pages of (from) a Life (1961), Goleizovsky’s Leili and Medzhnun (1964), Grigorovich’s Nutcracker (1966), Spartacus (1968), Sleeping Beauty (1973), and Angara (1976), and Béjart’s Petrushka (1977). He also created the leading roles in several of his own ballets including Icarus (Bolshoi 1971), Macbeth (Bolshoi 1980), and Anyuta (Naples, 1986). He often danced abroad as a guest artist, in concert tours with his wife, the ballerina Ekaterina Maximova, and also with Béjart’s Ballet of the 20th Century, the Ballet de Marseilles, and American Ballet Theatre. The couple performed more frequently in the West after their open criticicism of Grigorovich’s directorship of the Bolshoi and from the late 1980s they were effectively banished from the Bolshoi’s stage. During the 1980s Vasiliev additionally worked as a guest choreographer in Berlin, Budapest, Naples, and Riga. From 1990 he was a member of the board of directors of the Ballet Theatre of the Kremlin Palace of Congress, for whom he made several ballets, including Cinderella (1991). He was artistic director of the Rome Opera Ballet (1993–5). In 1995 he returned to the Bolshoi to assume direction of the theatre’s opera and ballet companies. During the following five years he opened up the ballet’s repertoire to outside choreographers, and encouraged young choreographers at home. He also staged new productions of the classics, including Giselle and a much-criticized Swan Lake, and choreographed Balda (mus. Shostakovich, 1999). In 2000 he was replaced, since when he has worked as a freelance choreographer, staging his ballets worldwide including Argentina, Brazil, Tokyo, Europe, and Russia, choreographing Zeffirelli’s production of Aida (Verona, 2002), a new Cinderella for the State Ballet Theatre of Russia (2006), and Lungo Viaggio della Notte di Natale (mus. Tchaikovsky, Rome Opera). A list of his other ballets includes Icarus (mus. S. Slonimsky, 1971), These Charming Sounds (mus. Rameau, Mozart, and others, 1978), Macbeth (mus. K. Molchanov, 1980), Juno and Avos (mus. Rybnikov, 1981), Anyuta (mus. Gavrillyn, 1986), and Romeo and Juliet (mus. Prokofiev, 1990). He has appeared in many films including The Humpbacked Horse (1961), Secret of Success (1967), Narcissus (1971), Duet (also directed, 1972), Spartacus (1976), Gigolo and Gigoletta (also directed, 1980), The World of Ulanova (also directed, 1981), These Charming Sounds (also directed, 1981), La traviata (dir. Zeffirelli, 1982), Anyuta (also directed, 1982), I Want to Dance: Fragments of a Biography (also directed, 1985), and Fouetté (also directed, 1986). He also directed… And there remains, as always, something else (1990). He lectures widely and has served on many competition juries. Gold medal Varna (1964); Nijinsky Prize (Paris, 1964); Lenin Prize (1970).