Teacher and Student. Alexei Yermolaev and Vladimir Vasiliev


Photographer Leonid Zhdanov (1927−2010) took this picture in 1971 at the Bolshoi Theater. Two legends of the world of ballet are seen in the rehearsal room: Alexei Yermolaev (1910−75), a teacher, and Vladimir Vasiliev (born 1940), a principal dancer of the Bolshoi company. A graduate of the school of dance in Leningrad, in 1926 Yermolaev became a leading dancer of the Leningrad Opera and Ballet Theater (the Mariinsky Theater). He boldly challenged the supremacy of the ballerina and made men's dance more dramatic and virtuoso. He was essentially the founder of the heroic male dance. In 1930 Yermolaev was transferred to Moscow, where he joined the ballet company of the Bolshoi Theater—the most important theater of the Soviet Union. Among his best roles were the Ocean in The Little Humpbacked Horse, Blue Bird in Sleeping Beauty, Basil in Don Quixote, and Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet. Yermolaev retired from the stage early because of injuries and became a leading ballet teacher at the Bolshoi Theater. In the 1960s, stars of world ballet and the best dancers of the Bolshoi, such as Mikhail Lavrovsky, Yuri Vladimirov, Maris Liepa, Boris Akimov, Alexander Godunov, and Vyacheslav Gordeev, all worked with Yermolaev. Vladimir Vasiliev was Yermolaev’s first student and his successor as a dancer. He continued his teacher’s tradition as an artist and brought virtuoso male dance to an unprecedented height. Zhdanov, a Bolshoi dancer and then a professor of choreography for 50 years, was also a professional photographer for most of his career. His pictures are spontaneous and capture on film the movements, moods, and emotions of the unposed dancers. The Reborn Art Foundation in Moscow holds this image and the rest of the Zhdanov archive.

Last updated: February 3, 2015