Mysterious Kasian Goleizovsky


This photograph is from a series about the choreographer Kasian Goleizovsky (1892–1970), by photographer Leonid Zhdanov (1927–2010). It was taken during the staging of the ballet Layla and Majnun to music by Sergei Balasanyan. It shows Natalia Bessmertnova (1941–2008) and Goleizovsky in the rehearsal hall of the Bolshoi Theater. Bessmertnova joined the Bolshoi in 1961, where she remained as a prima ballerina for more than three decades. Goleizovsky was inspired by the innovative ideas of two outstanding choreographers, Alexander Gorsky and Michel Fokine, and his interests expanded beyond his work at the Bolshoi. He created dances for performances in cabarets, music hall, the circus, drama theaters (with Stanislavsky, Nemirovich-Danchenko, Meyerhold, and Tairov), and film. His own studio company, Chamber Ballet, became a platform for his creative experimentation. It performed pioneering work in modern dance and influenced a whole generation of novice choreographers, including Georgi Balanchivadze (the future George Balanchine). Goleizovsky refused an offer from Sergei Diaghilev to stage Sergei Prokofiev’s Le pas d'acier for the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, saying that the music "is not suitable for dancing," and yet he created ballets set to jazz. Goleizovsky fell out of favor for some 30 years. Banished from the state theaters as a decadent esthete, alien to the ideology of the Soviet art, he was unable to work as a choreographer from the beginning of 1930s to the end of the 1950s. His only breakthrough in this period occurred in 1934 when he staged at the Bolshoi the "Polovtsian Dances" in Borodin's opera Prince Igor. Zhdanov’s numerous photographs of Goleizovsky show him creating dances and provide insight into his methods of working with dancers. Zhdanov, a Bolshoi dancer and then a professor of choreography for 50 years, was also a professional ballet 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: January 4, 2016