Russian theatre appoints Spanish ballet director

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In a first for modern Russia, a leading Russian theatre on Wednesday appointed a celebrated Spanish choreographer as its ballet director.

The Mikhailovsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg said Spanish dance legend Nacho Duato would lead its ballet troupe from January 2011, the first time a foreigner has been appointed to such a post since the Tsarist era.

The last foreigner to lead a Russian ballet theatre was the French choreographer Marius Petipa who was invited by the Romanov imperial family to work in Saint Petersburg in the 19th century.

"I will start working in Saint Petersburg with energy and enthusiasm. It is a challenge for me" said Duato, currently chief of Spain's Compania Nacional de Danza and a choreographer of international renown.

"This is important not just for the Mikhailovsky Theatre but for Russian dance in general," said the theatre's director Vladimir Kekhman.

The Mikhailovsky Theatre lives in the shadow of the more famous Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg but is hailed as one of the city's cultural treasures.

Once the undisputed superpower of the dance world, the ballet scene in Russia has been criticised by some for failing to wholeheartedly embrace modern dance alongside the standard repertoire of classics.

© 2010 AFP

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