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Ballet and Opera

Fine opera houses and theatres abound in Kazakhstan. No significant city is without at least one fine stage sufficient for a major operatic or balletic performance; in Almaty, Astana and elsewhere, there is a choice of theatrical venues. All - by and large - fill their seats, perhaps most infallibly by the art of the dance.

As we have seen, Kazakh ballet has inherited great traditions of Russian ballet, and down the years Kazakh stages have been graced by such stars as Anna Pavlova, Vazlav Nizhinsky, Galina Ulanova, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolf Nureyev and Maya Plisetskaya, whose current partner is the Kazakh dancer Usman Khasanov. A substantial contribution to the formation of Kazakh ballet was made by Ulanova (who was dancing on the stage of Almaty Theatre in 1943), by Tamara Khanum and A. Seleznev, who was to found his choreographic school here. The pioneer of male Kazakh ballet dancing is the ballet-meister Dauren Abirov (b. 1923), who emerged in the early 1950s and has since created many ballets and many dance episodes in theatrical and filmic contexts. 

The factor of Kazakh tradition in indigenous ballet is central. That was clearly expressed by the launch in 1995 of the International Ballet Competition in Almaty and its 'Award for Traditions'. Today, Kazakh ballet has squared up to the financial challenges of the times and is nurturing a new generation of dancers. Kazakh competitors participate in all important international competitions and invariably - are either winners or centres of attention in the media as significant contributors to the art of the dance. For example, young dancer Serzhan Kaukov not only won the Maya award, but during the competition was offered a contract by the maitre of France's Young Ballet, Robert Bertier. Many young ballet dancers are moving on from Kazakhstan to Europe and the US and onto the international scene.

Yet there remain many wonderful dancers in Almaty and Astana Opera Houses, in whose repertoire are more than twenty ballets.

An outstanding contribution has been made by the relatively new ballet troupe Young Ballet of Almaty, established by Bulat Ayukhanov in 1968. This is a ballet loyal to the classical tradition, yet open to the idea of modernist dance. Most critics agree that this collective is more neo-classical than contemporary. This ballet company is frequently on tour, performing in Europe, India and throughout the CIS.

Meanwhile, performances of opera - both 'classical' (and often by the Russian masters like Borodin, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovski and Mussorgski) and essentially Kazakh musical dramas - fill the auditoriums, especially in Almaty's and Astana's several big-stage venues. A new school of popular Kazakh musical drama, retelling episodes of Kazakh folk history, has emerged, bringing to flower new talents in composition and the vocal arts.