For Russians Tired of ‘Swan Lake,’ a Contemporary Alternative

At least one of her picks has gone on to make his mark: Vladimir Varnava, the first winner, in 2013. Now 29, he is considered one of the most promising young choreographers in Russia. This year he created a ballet, “Yaroslavna. The Eclipse,” for the Mariinsky, set to a score by the Soviet composer Boris Tishchenko.

Mr. Varnava is an interesting case; a dancer and choreographer who comes from the very fringes of Russian culture. He grew up in Kurgan, a town in the Urals, on the border with Kazakhstan. “Imagine a town that was all about agriculture and had a factory that produced tanks for the army,” he said between festival rehearsals. “But then, after the war, there was less demand, and it was slowly decaying.” He started out at a small studio run by a young couple; the wife had some ballet training, the husband was a folk dancer. Their inspiration often came from television and music videos.


Members of Gauthier Dance in Marko Goecke’s “Nijinsky” at the Mossovet Theater in Moscow.

James Hill for The New York Times

“We were inspired by some Western tendencies, like Michael Jackson, or shows like ‘Riverdance,’” he said. “It was all patched together.” But there was no connection between what he was doing and the larger world of contemporary dance. It wasn’t until he saw a video of a production by the French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj on YouTube, he said, that he realized what he was missing. He went to Paris to study for a year.

Mr. Varnava’s work was featured as part of a triple bill of Stravinsky ballets — all by Russian choreographers — at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theater, a house of moderate size. (All three works were performed by the Perm Ballet.) Mr. Varnava tackled the well-known ballet “Petrushka.” His staging was imaginative and musically…

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