The article discusses the creativity of the «Astana Ballet» theater, which represents the young and renowned ballet troupe of the 21st century. The eloquent expressions of cultural figures, as well as illuminating articles about the «Astana Ballet» theater, shaping the enthusiasm and interests of the public. The article presents the chronological establishment of the ballet troupe and significant stages of its creativity, including its artistic achievements, stage productions, international musical and theatrical collaborations, and various aspects of creative exploration, along with professional and personal connections within the ensemble.
Keywords: choreography, ballet, theater, premiere, performance, culture, stage.
В статье рассматривается творческий облик молодой и популярной балетной труппы XXI века — театра «Астана Балет». Также были рассмотрены пожелания известных деятелей культуры, статьи опубликованные в средствах массовой информации о театре «Астана Балет». В статье отражены хронология создания и важные этапы творчества балетной труппы, т. е. мы видим многогранные творческие достижения театра и сценические постановки, глобальный музыкально-театральный процесс, а также различные этапы творческого поиска, профессиональные и личные творческие связи коллектива.
Ключевые слова. хореография, балет, театр, танец, премьера, спектакль, движение, сцена.
Introduction. The creativity of the young ballet theater is currently visible only on information pages. Scientific works that critically analyze the artistry of theater in the field of art are not yet prominent. Therefore, the repertoire of the theater and its artistic path are highlighted in the uniqueness of this article.
The «Astana Ballet» theater was established in 2012 under the auspices of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan. The theater made its debut in the late months of 2013 with its first concert program. The public immediately witnessed the opening of the new theater. Currently, the theater's productions are not only popular within Kazakhstan but also recognized internationally.
The fundamental domain where the collective showcases its artistic talents, the «Astana Ballet» theater, was inaugurated in December 2016. The new «Astana Ballet» theater seeks to discover its own unique approach to collective creativity, embrace the recurrent ensemble, safeguard the eminent aspects of classical heritage, and evolve with innovative ideas in body language and plastic artistry.
Materials and Methods. Articles and studies related to the discussed topic have been examined, including the articles in the information page dedicated to premier performances, as well as G. Zhumaseitova's article «Choreographic Art of Kazakhstan: Traditions and Modernity» from the scientific collective monograph, as well as the articles by A. Murzagulova, a 2nd- year doctoral student at the Kazakh National Academy of Choreography, and the master's degree thesis of A. Samarbaeva are being reviewed. Furthermore, significant interviews were conducted with key figures who played a huge role in establishing the theater and shaping its repertoire, including ballet masters Aigul Abikenkyzy Tati, Mukaram Saidakimovna Abubakhrieva (Avakhri), and Riza Kanatkyzy, one of the first students. The collected materials within the framework of this time period have been analyzed.
Main Section . The theater's repertoire encompasses a diverse range of genres, featuring both global and national choreographic productions. The theater's creative palette is richly filled with choreographic arrangements. The theater's artistic endeavors are initiated with ballet performances such as "Әлем» (World), choreographed by Russian ballet master Nikita Dmitrievsky (with libretto by Bakyt Kaiyrbekov), and «Жусан» (Harvest), choreographed by Mukaram Avakhri (with libretto by Bakyt Kaiyrbekov), as well as the ballets «Carmen» and "Ғасырдан ғасырға» (From Century to Century) based on the legacy of world-renowned Anna Pavlova, choreographed by Altynai Asylmuratova.
The ballet spectacles are initiated with performances like Brazilian choreographer Ricardo Amarante's «A Fuego Lento», «Love. Fear. Loss», and also enriched by eminent choreographers such as George Balanchine, William Forsythe, and Boris Eifman, who contribute with their remarkable choreographic creations.
The «Astana Ballet» theater in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, is a contemporary venue that introduces a fresh approach to theater, making it a welcoming place for everyone to discover. It's a space that doesn't leave anyone uninterested, capturing people's attention in today's world. One of the main tasks of the theater is to consistently offer new performances, oversee the theater's progress, and find more ways to appreciate and support the success of these shows. This commitment encourages more people to get involved and enjoy the artistry the theater provides.
What can the theater offer to its audience? A special atmosphere and strong emotions, the ability to see art with one's own eyes, acceptance, and spiritual importance. The new theater house of Kazakhstan's capital, the «Astana Ballet» theater, holds numerous novelties and victories. Every season in the theater is filled with grand events, yet the process of creating remarkable and unparalleled performances never stops. The new layout of the stage allows for groundbreaking avant-garde presentations, enriching viewers with genuine and exceptional creativity. The impeccable execution of roles in captivating and thrilling performances, the distinctive stars of Kazakh and international choreography, is now anticipated to be joined by the emergence of new talents among young artists. Henceforth, with each new season, young talents will showcase their skills on the stage. The foremost graduates of the Kazakh National Choreography Academy have the opportunity to demonstrate their artistry on the theater's stage.
The repertoire style of the «Astana Ballet» theater is evident through its unique characteristics. It is enriched with national and global classics as well as distinctive choreographic creations, contributing to its fullness and uniqueness.
At various stages, the «Astana Ballet»s troupe is greatly supported by talented ballet masters such as Gulzhan Tutkibaeva, Aigul Tati, Altynai Asylmuratova, Mukaram Avakhri (Abubakhriyeva), Nikolai Markelov, Nikita Dmitrievsky, Patrick de Lacroix, Nannet Glushak, Paul Gordon Emerson, and Ricardo Amarante. Each of these exceptional ballet masters brings their distinctive expertise to collaborate with the ensemble, contributing to the creation of a unique artistic group through the theater's specialized repertoire.
This artistic ensemble stands out as one of the leading troupes among Kazakh ballet theaters and also shines on international tours. Within a short period, the «Astana Ballet» theater has presented its repertoire in various cities, including Saint Petersburg, Vienna, Moscow, Baku, New York, Tbilisi, Paris, and more. The theater's ensemble is actively involved in creative exploration, focusing on innovative experiments through the introduction of new productions.
Through the inclusion of classical elegance and contemporary ballet artistry in its repertoire, «Astana Ballet» aims to convey the essence of choreographic creativity and performing arts, while also imparting the values and achievements of both classical and modern ballet. The theater conducts a national examination, focusing on its development and providing a unique perspective on its contemporary interpretations. The foundation of this approach is evident in the choreographic miniatures created, reflecting the harmony of Kazakh culture's plasticity and its expansive color palette. Expert G. Zhumaseitova remarks on this: «Today, the «Astana Ballet» theater stands as a means to promote the synthesis of classic, national, and contemporary choreography. The diversity of the theater's repertoire reflects the wide spectrum of the ensemble's creative talents, encompassing everything from national and classical ballets to the latest contemporary choreography that the dancers have masterfully embraced». [Zhumaseitova G., 2, 215 page.].
The performances of the «Astana Ballet» theater are characterized by unique forms, depth of content, intricate compositional solutions, meticulously designed scenography that stimulates creative thinking, and the theater's distinctive methods of lighting and decoration, which all come together harmoniously.
The distinctiveness and diversity of the repertoire, the high level of performance and stage decoration quality, and the excellence in execution and staging make «Astana Ballet» not only a treasure within our country, but also a force to be reckoned with on the international stage. «We consider ourselves as a unique nation that has a special place on the global map of the 21st century. If we say that we are not just a nation with rich traditions, but also aspire to establish «Contemporary Kazakh Culture " as a foundation, it would not be an exaggeration. Our influence on the world is not limited to just our golden peaks or successful political initiatives; it also extends to our cultural achievements. Once we elevate the layers of our national culture to a higher level, we will then proceed to introduce these achievements to the world», .
«Astana Ballet» theater was established in 2012 under the leadership of the first President of the Republic, Nursultan Nazarbayev. It was founded based on the core group of top graduates of the Almaty Choreography School named after A. Seleznev. The group's repertoire was ready in a short period of time — the group, which started work in the first quarter, performed more than sixty dances after six months! Among them are the classical masterpieces that showcase the essence of Kazakh culture, such as Zaurybek Raibayev's «Ата толғауы»(Ata tolgau) and "Қос алқа»(Qos alqa); and the international diversity is reflected in Galia Ismailova's «Malaysian Dance», Nadezhda Kalinina's «Tao Yao " Chinese dance, and Arman Nurmakhamatuly's Turkic dance; the current Kazakh choreographers' contributions also mark the theater's repertoire with their miniatures: Gulzhan Tutkibaeva's "Қазақ вальсі" (Kazakh Waltz), «Жеті ару» (Seven brides), Aygul Tati's «Ақ қыз» (White girl), «Арулар» (Brides), Mukaram Avakhri's «Скиф фрескалары» (Scythian Frescoes), «Аққулар»(Swans), Anna Tsoy's "Қуанамын» (Happy) and more. These works form the foundation of the theater's diverse and captivating repertoire.
The achievements of the distinguished personalities of Kazakhstan, Alila Alisheva, Aigul Tati, and Asel Isabayeva, have formed the foundation of the troupe. Embarking on the journey of shaping the repertoire of the ensemble were Alila Alisheva and Aigul Tati, notable for promoting Kazakhstan's achievements. The ideas and creators of certain miniatures are recognized as the joint work of both teachers and mentors who have perpetuated their tradition. Shara Zhienkulova, in her creations, interweaves various elements of her diverse cultural background, enriching and resonating with the vibrant fabric of Kazakh national art through synthesis. The choreographers of the «Astana Ballet» theatre have also taken inspiration from this noble path.
On July 1, 2013, the ensemble's debut took place at the stage of the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation, becoming a significant symbol of unity of all nations cultural and spiritual heritage. After captivating the audience in Astana, the theater embarked on its first international tour, visiting the two largest megacities of the People's Republic of China — Beijing and Shanghai, as well as other cities in Kazakhstan, including Almaty, Atyrau, Kokshetau, Karaganda, and Semey. The theater's performances also graced the stages of St. Petersburg's Mikhailovsky and Mariinsky Theatres, signifying its prominence on the international scene. The recognition and acclaim received in St. Petersburg further solidified the «Astana Balet» theater's reputation, earning high praise from experts and audiences alike.
The inaugural concert program of the ensemble, titled «Eastern Rhapsody», was showcased on the stages of many countries around the world, and to this day, it remains a warm memory in the hearts of the audience. The graceful movements of the performers, the intricately designed costumes that catch the eye, and the enchanting melodies of the East all converged in a single space, creating a realm of beauty and splendor.
One of the main goals of the «Astana Ballet» theater is to develop national choreography and create new national ballets. This plan is being successfully implemented, and its overarching objectives contribute to the broader realm of art. In the current era, the trilogy of Kazakh ballets, based on the libretto by the renowned poet and ethnographer Bakhyt Kairbekov, has become a significant addition to the theater's repertoire. The first performance of the trilogy, the ballet "Әлем» (Alem) with music by A. Amar and B. Gafarov, choreographed by Moscow-based choreographer Nikita Dmitrievsky, premiered on June 26, 2014. «Alem» ballet vividly portrays the essence of nomadic culture. It is recognized as one of the first national ballets of the theater, demonstrating the unique identity of the Kazakh people. This production has gained widespread recognition, and with this performance, the theater has effectively showcased Kazakh art on the international stage. Ballet has been presented with great success in theaters in Vienna, Paris, Moscow, Seoul, and other cities, contributing to the promotion of Kazakh culture worldwide. The «Alem» ballet has been showcased at various events and festivals. It was performed at the «Silk Way» festival in Astana and at the «Stars of the White Nights» festival on the stage of the Mariinsky Theatre. These appearances have further highlighted the significance and international acclaim of the ballet, contributing to the global recognition of Kazakh artistry. About this performance A. Murzagulova said: «This is the first significant creation of «Astana Ballet», characterized by a diverse and harmonious interplay of various dance and musical styles and genres within vibrant and illuminating musical scores. The ballet «Alem» brings the world to life through a dialogue in the language of Contemporary Art, conveying both familiarity and uniqueness, and on the second hand, revealing the distinctive identity of the Kazakh people. Ultimately, the poetic realm of the ballet «Alem» is perceived through the psychological acceptance of the life of the Kazakh people, and it is presented as a global reflection and interpretation of the world's diversity and meaning. With its broad dramaturgy, the plot-driven ballet vividly portrays the nomadic spirit, mystical movement, and ancient traditions that illuminate the dance stage» [Murzagulova A., 3, 268 page.].
The «Жусан» (Zhusan) is the second ballet in the national ballet trilogy of the «Astana Ballet» theater, created on the basis of the libretto by the renowned poet Bakhyt Kairbekov. The poetic component in this work is interwoven into all aspects of the production. Through the harmony of music, choreography, and the score, as well as the meaningful coordination of costumes, the poetic and metaphorical aspects are highlighted and expressed. [Musina F., 4].
The exceptional creativity and professional mastery of Mukharam Avakhri are distinctly evident in the third national ballet, where the choreographic variations titled "Ғашықтың тiлi тiлсiз тіл, көзбен көр де iшпен біл» (The language of love is beyond words, perceive with your eyes and understand with your heart) have been incorporated into Abai's compositions.
In addition to the performance «Zhusan», the ensemble of artists, including the Altynay Asylmuratova, presented the concert program titled «From Century to Century» (premiered on January 28, 2015). This program is a composition that beautifully combines the classical legacy of Marius Petipa's ballet tradition (including «Corsair» ballet's «The Captive Garden Scene») and miniatures from the repertoire of the great ballerina Anna Pavlova (such as «Russian Dance», «Dragonfly», «Rondino», «California Poppy», «Moon», «Snow») and brings out the essence of the ballet troupe's international ballet scope. The program allowed the classic ballet technique, which forms the foundation of any ballet ensemble, to shine and highlight the versatility of the ballet team's artistic talents. Preserving the purity of classical training, enhancing artists' skills, and leading them towards excellence are the responsibilities of the master instructors and rehearsal coaches. One of them is Maira Kadyrova, an accomplished artist and educator who has not only cultivated professional skills among young artists but has also imparted the hidden secrets of ballet artistry. In addition to imparting technical expertise, she also nurtures the essence of ballet artistry, enriching the dancers' understanding of the art form.
The «Astana Ballet» theater continues to remain at the forefront of contemporary choreography without losing sight of its essence. The theater's dedicated masters meticulously guide young artists through advanced coaching sessions and actively seek out acclaimed choreographers from around the world to infuse the ensemble's creativity, elevating their artistic output. As part of a strategic vision to be diverse and dynamic, the theater has evolved its repertoire from classical to neoclassical, from traditional to contemporary dance forms. This broad approach has enabled the ensemble to explore various artistic concepts. The evidence of this can be seen in the theater's premieres staged from 2015 to 2017.
The «Astana Ballet» theater has significantly expanded its repertoire with productions like Mukaram Avakhri's «Carmen», choreographed by Russian choreographer Nikolay Markelov's «Cleopatra», Chinese choreographer Isyang Zhang's «Sounds of the Ages», Argentine Rubén Terranova's «Contrast», and Georgy Kovtun's «Walpurgis Night». These additions, along with a distinct selection of choreographic works and a rich treasure trove of creative elements, have further enriched the theater's repertoire. After the premiere of choreographer Ricardo Amarante's ballet «GAIA» in 2016, a new era began for the «Astana Ballet» theater, marking the start of a fresh chapter in its development.
Ricardo Amarante, a graduate of the English National Ballet School, has served in numerous prominent theaters across the world. He has worked with the Paris Opera Ballet, the Ballet of France, and the Royal Ballet of Flanders. He has been involved in productions by choreographers such as William Forsythe, Hans van Manen, and Jiri Kylian. Serving as a dancer and choreographer, he has worked with the Royal Ballet School in Antwerp, the Dresden-based Palucca Schule, the New York City Ballet, and other ballet companies. His distinctive background as a Brazilian adds a carnival-like playfulness and emotional depth to his choreography, and he is celebrated for deviating from the rigidity of classical ballet's conventions. In his own creations, he explores the realm of neoclassicism. Ballets like «GAIA», «A Fuego Lento», and «Love Fear Loss», crafted in the neoclassical style, have received high acclaim from audiences and critics alike during the theater's tours to Japan and Poland, garnering exceptional recognition from the public and ballet enthusiasts.
The conclusion of the third theater season was marked by significant and special events in the history of the theater — the world-famous ensemble acquired its own venue. On December 10, 2016, the theater opened its new chapter with the extraordinary performance «Diversity». Rather than resting on its laurels, the theater expanded its artistic possibilities and embarked on a journey to elevate the art of choreography on a global scale, fulfilling the long-awaited aspirations of the nation. The new theater stage was constructed in accordance with modern standards, and the technical capabilities of the «Astana Ballet» theater stage became the canvas for directors and scenographers to bring forward groundbreaking ideas. The expansive and innovative architectural design of the new theater safeguards the essence of the ballet, preserving the pinnacle of classical artistry while infusing it with unique and contemporary vitality, harmoniously intertwining the traditions of the past with the evolving future of choreography.
Establishing its own stage, the theater transformed into a realm where new horizons were explored, becoming a catalyst for embracing contemporary choreography classics of the 20th century. The productions of George Balanchine's «Serenade» and William Forsythe's «In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated» not only enriched the Kazakh stage but also marked a significant milestone in the context of Central Asian dance. All of this exemplifies the fruit of «Astana Ballet» theater's comprehensive repertoire policy. The young ensemble wasn't daunted by the challenging lexicon, demanding musicality, or technical prowess demanded by the diverse choreographic pieces. Within a short period, with the guidance of experienced coaches Victoria Simon and Agnes Noltenius, the theater's artists mastered the performances. Under the choreographic assistant Kazbek Akhmedyarov's supervision, the ensemble perfected their technical skills, ensuring the seamless execution of complex productions through diligent rehearsals.
Over the course of a decade, tirelessly working, the «Astana Ballet» has emerged as a Kazakhstani artistic brand known all around the world. The theater's performances have been showcased not only in our country but also on international stages, including Moscow and St. Petersburg (Russia), Beijing and Shanghai (China), Paris (France), Vienna (Austria), Seoul (South Korea), Budapest (Hungary), Baku (Azerbaijan), New York (USA), Tokyo (Japan), Warsaw (Poland), Minsk (Belarus), Brussels (Belgium), Milan (Italy), and Monte Carlo (Monaco). In a relatively short span of time, the theater has not only gained recognition in our homeland but also left an indelible mark in foreign countries, showcasing its artistry to the world.
In recent years, the artistic direction of the ensemble has been led by the art-manager- Asel Isabayeva. With her unwavering commitment, innovative vision, exceptional ability to grasp the intricacies of global choreographic artistry, and her drive to uplift the nation's cultural heritage to new heights, she has skillfully gathered talented individuals under her leadership and spearheaded the establishment of a ballet theater that excels even in the most challenging circumstances. In a remarkably short time, she has elevated the national choreographic artistry to an international level of excellence. The theater requires a closely knit ensemble, supported by a comprehensive artistic and production infrastructure. The successful realization of numerous annual premieres, along with national and international touring programs, demands efficient management and the seamless coordination of administrative and creative teams. The technical service responsible for executing ambitious experiments, embracing innovations, and staging elaborate productions contributes significantly to the theater's success.
Under the leadership of Valery Kuzembayev, a dedicated and experienced figure in Kazakhstan's cultural scene, this cohesive organization has accomplished remarkable achievements.
Nowadays, the theater celebrates its second anniversary with grand festivities. Between past achievements and future aspirations, lies a carefully planned path and substantial responsibilities. Over the course of a decade, the «Astana Ballet» stage has hosted 46 productions (ballets and concerts), enchanting audiences with over 34,000. The theater has left an indelible mark, captivating more than 5,000 enthusiastic viewers in its national and international touring performances across Kazakhstan and abroad.
Currently, the theater's repertoire boasts 30 ballets and 62 choreographic miniatures. Artists, choreographers, and the eager audience anticipate new productions. One of these eagerly awaited premieres is A. Rayimkulova’s "Қозы Көрпеш — Баян Сұлу» (Qozy Korpesh — Bayan Sulu) choreographed by Georgiy Kovtun.
Diversifying the classical repertoire remains a fundamental aspect of the theater's artistic pursuits. As part of this endeavor, the ensemble under the guidance of Vasily Vainonen presented notable adaptations of Pyotr Tchaikovsky's ballets «The Nutcracker» and «Giselle», choreographed by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, as well as Ricardo Amarante's rendition of «Giselle».
Results. Starting the road is never easy. Starting a journey is never straightforward, especially among the first ones. The initial steps are not simple either. This process has a significant cost in terms of facing challenging events that were previously unfamiliar. After all, this turmoil is not only for creators and performers but also for observers who transform their perception and understanding, add new threads to the cultural fabric of the nation, and contribute to the development of a novel trend in the field of creative production.
Each new phase in the cultural life of the nation is an assurance that progress is taking place in art, and a demonstration that the world perception in socio-cultural progress is evolving. From one perspective, it highlights the existence of various aspirations and unveils the growing demands for fresh ideas and profound presentations in the realm of creativity. Furthermore, this is an essential milestone for transferring the national heritage from the realm of thought to the heart of the people, which signifies the significance of cultural advancement.
Discussion. The development of Kazakhstan's choreographic art has formed a unique place for classical ballet in its growth. Until this time, the Kazakh National Opera and Ballet Theatre named after Abay, located in Almaty, has been serving the public. The 21st century brought specific demands to Kazakh art. In this context, a two ballet company's for classical art was established in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. We have successfully addressed the spiritual necessity of the audience by fully satisfying the cultural hunger of the viewers through the ensemble of «Astana Ballet» theatre.
Conclusion. The profound emotions of numbers, the sensation of life's richness, can truly be felt during the premieres of artistic productions, that is, the significant moments of theatrical presentations. This is because, precisely during these premieres, a dialogue unfolds between the stage and the audience. Theater is an art of dialogue. However, every premiere, every concert program, not only adds to our cultural treasury but also enriches the artistic diversity within classical, national, and contemporary ballet.
Nevertheless, the value bestowed upon the art of performance is immensely high. The ballet master, President of the State Academy Ballet Theatre of St. Petersburg, prominent choreographer, and Russian national artist Boris Eifman mentioned: «I've heard some opinions about this company and, after observing its high level of performance at the historical Mariinsky stage, I am genuinely pleased with its contribution to the overall wealth of art. The creation of the Kazakh ballet is a spectacle, showcasing the foundation of an ensemble that can introduce Kazakhstan's ballet to the world». As a choreographer, I wish new innovations and numerous touring experiences. I would simply say: «Onward, the white path!" [ASTANA BALLET, 1.]
After experiencing the performances of «Astana Ballet» theatre, one truly witnesses the remarkable contribution of classical, national, and contemporary ballet to the global stage. Each production carries emotional depth, delivering a profound impact and significant artistic representation. The enduring appeal of these performances lies in the combination of various elements. This success is the result of a deliberate effort to refresh the repertoire, led by the theater's leadership, while also acknowledging the dedication of the troupe. The artists of the troupe, with their exceptional skills and expertise, consistently elevate their performances, underscoring the theater's commitment to artistic growth and excellence with each and every show.
- ASTANA BALLET — Almaty: LLP «Brand book», 2019.-184p.
- Zhumaseitova G. New searches in the field of staging a national performance. //«Choreographic Art of Kazakhstan: Traditions and Modernity» Collective monograph. Astana: IE «Bulatov А. Z»., 2022. — 359 p.
- Murzagulova A. Formation of the theater «ASTANA BALLET». //«Choreographic Art of Kazakhstan: Traditions and Modernity» Collective monograph. Astana: IE «Bulatov А. Z»., 2022. — 359 p.
- F. Musina «Artemisia bitter aroma»... https://astanaballet.com/ru/stagings/zhusan (reviewed on 07.12.2022. 19.00)
- N. Nazarbayev's article «Towards the Future: Spiritual Revival» https://www.akorda.kz/kz/events/akorda_news/press_conferences/memleket-basshysynyn-bolashakka-bagdar-ruhani-zhangyru-atty-makalasy (reviewed on 05.12.2022. 10.30)