An integral part in developing the role of the male dancer, Vladimir Vasiliev helped prove that the male figure in ballet is much more than just a supportive partner for the ballerina. Male dancing has since evolved into a career that receives equal billing and acclaim alongside that of the admired and established ballerina.
Vasiliev was first seen on Bolshoi’s stage in Moscow as a student in the production of Soldiers by Chapayev. His performance as Giotto in Francesca da Rimini at the school’s graduation concert brought awareness that indeed this young man would succeed greatly in the world of ballet.
In 1959, at age nineteen, he was made a principal dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet. His first leading role was in Grigorovich’s production of The Stone Flower by Prokofiev, which he performed alongside his partner and soon-to-be wife, Ekaterina Maksimova. The couple married only two years later in the year 1961.
Individually they provided stunning examples of what could be accomplished as solo dancers; as a pair they were mesmerizing. Perhaps one of the most important characteristics a performing artist can display is genuineness. Certainly, Vasiliev and his wife were genuinely full of love for one another and equally genuine in their love for ballet.
While being most well known around the world for roles such as Spartacus and Albrecht in Giselle, Vasiliev has also actively advanced the world of ballet through his work as choreographer. His first ballet, Icarus, masterfully develops the myth of young Icarus who, disregarding his father’s warning, flies too near the sun and falls into the ocean where he drowns. Vasiliev achieved equal success in his development of the plotless ballet called These Charming Sounds. Set to the music of composers such as Mozart, Rameau, and Corelli, this ballet of classical cameos lived up to its description in the title as charming.
Still active in the world of dance, one of Vasiliev’s most recent projects has been the creation of the Bolshoi Theatre School in Joinville, Brazil. The school opened in March of the year 2000, and will soon celebrate its 17th anniversary. Vasiliev reflected in a 2015 article that, when first approached with the idea by Alexander Bogatyrev, Director of the Dance Company and a former Bolshoi dancer, it was hard not to trust Bogatyrev’s proposal as he delivered it with such confidence and persuasion. At that time, Vasiliev held the position of Bolshoi Theatre’s General and Artistic Director.
Vasiliev agreed to follow through with the proposal, and, since then, the project has been successfully completed and has taken in numerous talented students from poor and struggling backgrounds. With the education these students have received, many of them have gone on to pursue careers in internationally acclaimed ballet companies across the globe.
Within itself, the ‘Bolshoi’ of Brazil incorporates three of the toughest ballets in ballet repertoire: The Nutcracker, Giselle, and Don Quixote. However, Vasiliev’s remaining wish is that the town of Joinville would eventually house its very own Joinville ballet theatre. Currently, the Bolshoi school in Joinville is the first and only Bolshoi ballet school outside of Russia. It is a wonderful feat for Vasiliev to have expanded the Russian ballet tradition across the globe through his performances, choreography, and most recently, his educational projects.