Bringing Russian ballet to the UK

Impresarios Victor and Lilian Hochhauser have been bringing over Russian ballet dancers and musicians since the 1940s, and this is the 50th year they are hosting the Bolshoi Ballet in London. Alice Lagnado talked to impresario Lilian Hochhauser about her 50th Bolshoi tour.

Lilian Hochhauser said: "It’s always been a fairly explosive company, in the sense that there are always a lot of high feelings around. There was the revolt against [Yuri] Grigorovich … They never hid their feelings, if you like. But of course, this is exceptional. Nothing like this ever was envisaged or happened before. Hopefully, it will stop. I’m sure it will. But the most incredible thing is that nothing affects the dancing."

How did you make your first steps in the business of bringing artists to the UK? I understand that it all started with Sunday afternoon concerts after the war …

Hochhauser said: "Actually, I have to say that that was started by Victor, in 1946, I think. We married two years later. He had asked to mount a charity concert, and it was such a huge success – and he was very young, about 22 – that he decided that that was for him. And when I met him, I thought, right, that’s for me, too! We’ve worked together ever since."

"The Bolshoi has always been explosive" - Lilian Hochhauser 


Bolshoi dancers on Filin attack

As the Bolshoi Theatre’s artistic director Sergei Filin continued his recovery after an acid attack in January, VoR’s Alice Lagnado brought to us the reactions from Bolshoi dancers about how the off-stage drama was affecting them.

Ekaterina Krysanova, a principal dancer with the Bolshoi, spoke to us during a break in rehearsals for a ballet gala at the Coliseum in London: "Right now we are in a very difficult situation, all of us, the artists and the management. And the most important thing for us to do right now is to unite and to stick together as a collective. We absolutely have to support our artistic director Sergei Filin in this awful situation that he has found himself."

Yevgenia Obraztsova, also a principal dancer with the company, said: The atmosphere is difficult because there are a lot of things which make people nervous. Everybody is really nervous about our director who is in hospital now. This is an awful thing and a terrible thing and I cannot comment more. [There is] just one thing I want to believe - that Sergei Filin will come very soon, in good shape, and that he will see, and that he will be fine."

Bolshoi ballerinas express sadness at Filin attack 


Making the ballet happen - behind Bolshoi's curtain

When the Bolshoi Ballet began a three-week residency in London, Alice Lagnado went behind the scenes to find out more about the practical side of making the shows happen. What many people do not realise is that the glamorous ballerinas gliding along the stage are only half of the story. Behind the scenes at the Royal Opera House, a small army of people ensure the show goes on.

Martin Taylor, a technical interpreter for the Bolshoi, who started working for the Russian ballet in 1985, said: “We started at eight o’clock, did some technical work on stage for lighting and then after that I came to what’s called the ‘build’ area in the Opera House, where a lot of stuff gets unloaded, and then it gets built.

“And that’s what’s happening now – they’re building Sleeping Beauty.

“That’s going to carry on through the whole day, and then you’ve got the evening show, which finishes about ten o’clock, so the days are long, eight o’clock till ten o’clock.”

Paul Godfrey is the tour and technical manager for the Bolshoi in London. Seven months ago he flew to Moscow to see the biggest production that the Bolshoi has brought over, Sleeping Beauty – to see what the set is like in technical terms.

Godfrey said: “Well, shipping is how they come here.

“We’ve got 31 containers – this is the largest amount of containers we’ve ever had to bring here, mainly because Sleeping Beauty is so big.

“It has 11 containers all of its own.

“It was the first production presented in the new historic stage of the Bolshoi, and they went in style with a production of Sleeping Beauty by the Italian designer [Ezio] Frigerio, who is very uncompromising in what he requires!”

Behind the scenes with the Bolshoi


(Voice of Russia)