Friday, October 18, 2013

Go Bolshoi or Go Home

When I came to Moscow in 2005, the Bolshoi Theatre (Big Theatre) had just been closed for a $700 million renovation. It re-opened to much fanfare in 2011, and made headlines again last January when a bitter dancer ordered an attack on the art director, who was nearly blinded when a combination of sulfuric acid and urine was tossed in his face. Russians obviously take their ballet seriously, and tickets to the Bolshoi are in high demand. Since I was not about to drop $200 on ballet tickets or broker a deal on the black market, it was a relief to discover that students in possession of a Russian student ID are able to get 100-ruble tickets the day of the show. Seeing as the average latte in Moscow costs twice that much, I was more than willing to queue up in the cold for a $3 ticket to see the best ballet company in the world.

Molly and I had been advised to put our names down on a list the morning of the show, but I wasn’t feeling particularly eager to make a trip to the Bolshoi at the crack of dawn. Instead, we decided to chance it and joined the line flanking the box office at 5pm. It bears mentioning that I had opted for tights and a dress on the off-chance we got tickets, even though Moscow saw its first snow flurries on September 30. While we haven’t had snow since, the high in Moscow yesterday was 7 °C and things were far less balmy while we waited it out in line and the sun set over the Kremlin across the street. But luck was on our side and at 6:15, we were allowed inside to purchase tickets bearing the words неудобное место (“uncomfortable seat”). God love the Russians and their brutal honesty.

I've always liked ballet, but I do not pretend to be cultured enough to speak about it with any kind of authority. But Jesus Christ, the Bolshoi dancers are brilliant. I’ve seen a ballet in Russia before (at the Mariinsky Teatr in St. Petersburg) and I’ve seen ballets in Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, but I have never seen ballet on the level of what I saw last night. When the show started at 7, I was half asleep and contemplating a nap, but I was on my feet for a better view by the second act and distraught when Spartacus was killed and the curtain fell three hours later.

I am now desperate to see as many ballets as possible, and that isn’t just because the male soloist had a body that was made for tights (and really shouldn't be hidden with anything more). Becoming a regular at the Bolshoi will either require seducing an oligarch with box seats or standing in line for hours in subzero temperatures on a weekly basis. I suspect it’s going to be the latter, and I'm okay with that.


  1. Yes, I am so jealous! The most cultural thing around here is the Euro/Arab film festival which, sadly, is small this year than it has been in past years.