First among Equals. Vladimir Vasiliev


Leonid Zhdanov (1927−2010) took this photograph of Vladimir Vasiliev (born 1940) in the role of Majnun in 1968 at the Bolshoi Theater during the rehearsals of the ballet Layla and Majnun choreographed by Kasian Goleizovsky (1889−1950). Vasiliev was born in Moscow and graduated from the Moscow Ballet School at the Bolshoi Theater (now known as Moscow State Academy of Choreography) in 1958 in the class of Michael Gabovich. His first main role at the Bolshoi was that of Bacchus in Walpurgis Night. This was followed by the role of Danila in Stone Flower and Ivan in Little Humpbacked Horse, based on the Russian fairy tales. By the time of the premiere of Layla and Majnun at the Bolshoi, Vasiliev, despite being only 24, was one of the most admired dancers in the company. Once asked about Vasiliev, Goleizovsky replied: "I saw Tikhomirov, who was a teacher of all our great dancers. I saw wonderful Sergei Legat. I saw Mordkin, an unusually beautiful person, well built, with a wild temperament. I saw Nijinsky. I was familiar with his technique, and his technique was soulful, but I have never seen anyone like Vladimir Vasiliev…." 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: February 3, 2015