Festival History

The Festival was founded in the year of the 100th anniversary of Sergei Diaghilev’s Les Saisons Russes in St Petersburg, which had given to the great impresario of the XX century the initial start and inspiration. The mission of the festival is to continue the line of Sergei Diaghilev and facilitate the cultural exchange of all new ideas in the arts between Russia and the rest of the world. During the 5 years since then the Festival has become one of the major cultural events in the city. It has brought to St Petersburg tours of the best contemporary dance companies – the Hamburg Ballet of John Neumeier with his premiere production of “Le Pavilion d’Armide”, his masterpiece “Le Sacre du printemps” and others, tour of the Aix-en-Provence company of Angelin Preljokaj with the Russian premiere of his ballet «The Snow White», The Bolshoi Ballet of Russia, orchestra of Perm opera and ballet theatre under maestro Theodor Kurentzis.

The exhibitions of the Festival at the State Hermitage Museum, the State Russian Museum and State Museum of Ethnography discovered for the citizens some masterpieces from the leading international museums of the world.

In the year of Russian-Italian cultural cooperation the festival presented in Rome for the Roman carnival concert “RUSSIAN MASLENITSA” and exhibition “RUSSIAN WINTER” showing Russian traditions to Italians.

In 2012 the Festival was devoted to the great contemporary choreographer John Neumeier. In the programme of the Festival famous Neumeier’s ballet “The Lady of the Camellias” for the first time was performed in Saint-Petersburg. Also in the frames of the Festival audience could enjoy the splendid Gala concert. One of the main events of the festival programme was exhibition Vaslav Nijinsky and John Neumeier in The St.Petersburg State Museum of Theatre and Music.

In 2013, an exhibition of onstage dresses and costumes for operas and ballets of the main Italian fashion houses Style on Stage. Art of Elegance was a sensation. The ballet programme emphasized the works of Kylián, who presented the Bavarian and the Norwegian National Ballet. “The Nights” by Angelin Preljocaj left no one indifferent. The chamber programme was devoted mainly to Igor Stravinsky, and it was successfully complemented by the American exhibition Russian Los Angeles in the Theater Museum. All this is not an exhaustive list of the main achievements of the Festival.

In 2014 as part of the UK-Russia Year of Culture, two British ballet companies appeared as special guests of the Festival with performances FAR (choreography by Wayne McGregor | Random Dance) and Sutra (choreography by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui). Wayne McGregor’s choreography establishes its own unique and independent dance system. It has been described as the “higher mathematics” of modern choreography, bringing to it the latest scientific advances in the realm of the human body’s bio-rhythms. The participation of 17 monks from Shaolin Temple brings Kung Fu techniques into the heart of the choreography of Sutra, and combined with an extravagant set design by the outstanding modern sculptor Antony Gormley they make this ballet one of the most powerful and thought-provoking in the modern repertory.
The Festival gave a major focus to the Perm Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet with concert performances conducted by Teodor Currentzis, and with the premieres of the Ballet Russes’ Heritage: ballets “The Jester” (Prokofiev / Miroshnichenko) and “Les Noces” (Stravinsky / Kylián).
The 110th anniversary of the birth of George Balanchine was celebrated with a photo exhibition by an eminent chronicler of New York City Ballet – American photographer Paul Kolnik.

The Festival introduced — performing for the first time in St Petersburg — the two distinguished masters of dance, Akram Khan and Israel Galván, who performed their remarkable ‘dance duel’ “Torobaka”.
The legendary American company of Martha Graham was a further dance highlight of the Festival. Alongside them, that unique icon of modern choreography, Angelin Preljocaj, was celebrating the 30th anniversary of his company, Le Ballet Preljocaj, with us during the Festival.
The Festival featured Mozart’s opera “Don Giovanni” performed by MusicAeterna, under the direction of Maestro
Theodor Currentzis.
Then the audience enjoyed a ‘Spanish evening’ at the St Petersburg Capella, with a performance given by the brothers of the exciting Moreno Gistain Piano Duo.
The three exhibitions dedicated to aspect of Theatre were in the program: “The Silver and Gold of the Queen of Spades”; a photographic exhibition of images by Eugenia Grandchamp des Raux inspired by Rudolf Nureyev’s magical “La Bayadère”; and exhibition of paintings and graphics by Sergei Sudeykin.

Ballets created by Maurice Béjart, choreography of Izadora Weiss, Slava Samodurov’s interpretation of Romeo and Juliet from Yekaterinburg, and Teodor Currentzis conducting musicAeterna orchestra, together formed the performance part of the program.
The intellectual component of the Festival was represented by the conference ‘In Diaghilev’s Circle’, four exhibitions, Images being the largest and dedicated to Russian avant-garde artists from Kazimir Malevich to Andrei Bartenev; and, finally, the Festival’s first toe was dipped in the waters of publishing — a newly discovered manuscript by Sergei Grigoriev, Diaghilev’s assistant and régisseur, which the original is today housed in the U. S. Library of Congress.