Moiseyev Dance Company
The 70-year-old Moiseyev Dance Company is consistently acclaimed throughout the world as the greatest of all folk dance groups. The ensemble, honored as Russia’s official “State Academic Ensemble of Popular Dance,” has captivated international audiences for decades with its peerless technical brilliance and exuberant evocations of traditional dances. At the heart of the group’s success is the genius of its visionary artistic director, choreographer and founder, the late Igor Moiseyev. Today, the Company’s fame is so widespread that it is often identified merely by its legendary founder’s surname: Moiseyev.
The Company’s origin can be traced back to 1936, when Igor Moiseyev, the then current Ballet Master and former principal dancer and сhoreographer of the Bolshoi Ballet, was asked by the Soviet government to organize the first Festival of National Dance. As a student, Mr. Moiseyev
had traversed the country on foot during his free time, immersing himself in the study of Russian folklore and in the treasury of songs, dances, customs, traditions and festivals belonging to the 180 national cultures that comprised the Soviet Union. Fascinated by what he found, he embraced this unprecedented task of bringing traditional dances to national attention. The festival’s subsequent success convinced Mr. Moiseyev that the formation of a professional company was necessary to preserve and develop the best traditions of folk dancing.
On February 10, 1937, Mr. Moiseyev gathered together a core of approximately 40 dancers in a studio on Moscow’s Leontievsky Street. The nascent company included the very best dancers from amateur companies across the country, as well as a handful of professional ballet dancers from the Bolshoi School and other classical companies. Mr. Moiseyev’s intent, as he wrote at the time, was not to reproduce exactly examples from the body of more than 3,000 existing national dances, but to raise the skill of performance to the highest artistic level in order to influence the creation of new national dances. His strong background in classical ballet would provide the basic training for his company, and his keen powers of observation and
thorough knowledge of folklore would lead him to establish a unique style for his company that would be at once dramatic, entertaining in a theatrical sense, and larger-than-life.
Six months after that fi rst gathering, the Moiseyev Dance Company gave its first performance at the city’s Green Theatre. The inaugural program contained dances from the Ukraine, Armenia, Belorussia, the Far North and Azerbaijan. The public acclaim was immediate and overwhelming.
Within a few years of this initial triumph, Moiseyev had molded the first professional ensemble of popular dance into a superb company of 100 dancers. They toured throughout the Soviet Union, constantly adding dances from other, more remote regions, including Georgia, the Caucausus,
Mongolia, Uzbekistan, the Gobi desert and the far reaches of Siberia. Mr. Moiseyev also created new works based on current themes, such as the desperate struggle of the Russian people during World War II.
When the Cold War fi rst eased in 1955, the Moiseyev Dance Company began to tour the world. It has since appeared in and returned to
more than 60 countries, covering all continents. Its ever growing repertoire now includes dances of
Spain, Japan, China, Bulgaria, Argentina, Mexico, Poland, Hungary and, of course, American jazz and rock ‘n’ roll. The company now numbers more than 200, has its own orchestra and school, and possesses a repertoire in excess of 200 dances.
America’s love aff air with the Moiseyev Dance Company began in 1958 when the impresario Sol Hurok brought it to New York’s old Metropolitan
Opera House on 39th Street. Th e explosive 25 minute ovation it received then has not abated in the succeeding visits of the company to these shores, made in 1961, 1965, 1970, 1974, 1986, 1989, 1991, 1995, 1999, 2002 and 2005.
The Moiseyev Dance Company returned to North America for an unprecedented second visit in 2005 to appear with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, conducted by John Mauceri. Their three performances at the legendary Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles marked the first time that the company has performed in the United States with a symphony orchestra. In 2008, the Moiseyev Dance Company returns to North America for a tour ommemorating the life and work of Mr. Moiseyev as well as the 50th anniversary of their fi rst US tour and the 70th anniversary of the Company.
Mr. Moiseyev won numerous awards for his artistic contributions to world culture. He was the recipient of UNESCO’s Mozart Medal for outstanding contribution to world music culture,” the Government of Moscow Award for “Legend of the Century,” and the award for “outstanding contribution
to the development of cultural relations between the United States and Russia”—an honor only accorded to two others: pianist Van Cliburn and cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.
On the occasion of his 100th birthday, a gala performance took place at the Kremlin Palace Theater in Moscow honoring his great contribution to the world of dance. Mr. Moiseyev was presented with Russia’s top civilian honor for service to the nation from President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Moiseyev died in Moscow in November 2007 at the age of 101.