Ballet star Laurent Hilaire: from Moscow to Munich | Culture and lifestyle in Germany and Europe | DW

For Moscow, leaving the post of artistic director of the ballet of the Moscow Academic Musical Theater (MAMT) named after K.S. Stanislavsky and V.I. Nemirovich-Danchenko stars of such magnitude as the French dancer, choreographer and teacher Laurent Hilaire is definitely a loss. But for Munich – good luck: a few days ago, Laurent Hilaire headed the Bavarian State Ballet. Hilaire, 59, who was the star of the Paris Opera Ballet for 22 years, is considered one of the world’s greatest ballet dancers.

Having decided to leave Russia in February 2022, three days after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Hilaire, the first French choreographer after Marius Pitep to lead the Russian troupe, “went nowhere”: at that time he did not yet know that he would be invited to Bavarian State Ballet. As Iler noted in an interview with the dpa news agency, he quit the Moscow theater “without any plan for the future.”

Since 2017, Laurent Hilaire has held the position of artistic director of the Musical Theater named after Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko. Under his leadership, this troupe was awarded the Russian national theater award “Golden Mask” three times – in 2018 in the nomination “Ballet / Performance” and in 2019 in the nominations “Ballet-Modern Dance / Choreographer’s Work” and “Ballet-Modern Dance” /Male role”.

Brilliant career and clear position

Laurent Hilaire was born on November 8, 1962 in Paris. In 1979 he graduated from the ballet school of the Paris National Opera and was accepted into the troupe as a corps de ballet dancer. And in 1985, at the age of 23, Hilaire jumped the stage of the first dancer and was elevated by the director of the ballet troupe Rudolf Nureyev to the rank of étoile of the Paris Opera Ballet – for his performance of the part of Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake. This is the highest rank of dancer in the ballet of the Paris National Opera.

Laurent Hilaire decided

Laurent Hilaire decided that the ballet “Giselle”, the staged version of which has not changed since 1991, is outdated and needs to be updated. All obsolete elements were removed from it. The end result is a spectacular performance.

Hilaire was involved in the performance of a huge repertoire. He danced lead roles in ballets by Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Fokine, William Forsyth, and many other stellar choreographers. Finally, Hilaire has performed as a guest soloist with companies such as the British Royal Ballet in London and the Berlin State Ballet.

At the Bavarian State Ballet, whose main stage, like the Bavarian State Opera, is the National Theater in Munich, Laurent Hilaire took up the duties of choreographer on 9 May. He succeeded the Russian Igor Zelensky, who resigned in early April. But why did Zelensky leave the Bavarian State Ballet?

As he himself stated, for family reasons. According to the Bavarian State Ballet, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Zelensky openly spoke out only against the war in general, but not against Russia’s aggressive war in Ukraine. In addition, he did not publicly distance himself from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

For Laurent Hilaire, on the contrary, it was unacceptable to stay in Moscow after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: the political situation in the Russian Federation was incompatible with his ideas of democracy and freedom. And the choreographer immediately left this country.

Nugget, professional, person

It is very valuable for the Bavarian State Ballet that Hilaire is close not only to traditional, classical ballet, but also to modern ballet, Markus Blume, the Bavarian State Minister for Science and Art, said in connection with the new appointment of a French choreographer in Munich.

The National Theater in Munich, which is the stage of the Bavarian State Ballet and the Bavarian State Opera

The National Theater in Munich, which is the stage of the Bavarian State Ballet and the Bavarian State Opera

In addition to the Russian Golden Mask award, Hilaire has received a number of high awards in his homeland – in France. And with his arrival at the Bavarian State Ballet, the Bavarian State Opera under Serge Dorny hopes to raise its prestige even further. “I am very pleased that Laurent Hilaire becomes the director of the Bavarian State Ballet. He is known as an open, communicative and respectful leader,” Dorney wrote on Twitter.

Attitude towards the war in Ukraine of Russian cultural figures

Every year more than 20 different ballet performances are staged in Munich, including those based on works by Tchaikovsky and other Russian composers. And these productions are not going to be excluded from the program of the Bavarian State Opera. Moreover and Daniel Barenboim(Daniel Barenboim), General Music Director of the Berlin State Opera and Staatschapel Berlin, warned of a “witch hunt” against the Russian people and Russian culture.

The outstanding conductor stated this at a solidarity concert, which he held in Berlin at the beginning of March 2022. Barenboim, himself of Ukrainian descent and married to a Russian, stressed that the boycott of Russian music or culture, which was raised in Germany after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, evoked the worst associations.

By the way, in connection with the refusal to clearly define their position regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine and publicly condemn the actions of the Russian government, the name of not only Igor Zelensky, but also Valery Gergiev, got into the headlines of German newspapers. Gergiev never spoke out about Russia’s aggressive war against Ukraine, despite a request from Munich Mayor Dieter Reiter to clearly and unequivocally distance himself from Russia. That is why in early March Gergiev was relieved of his post as chief conductor of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.

German theaters help dancers from Ukraine

Due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, the German ballet troupes are replenished. The Berlin State Ballet alone has received hundreds of requests from dancers who have fled or are about to flee Ukraine. Russian ballet dancers are also looking for new engagements outside their own country.

Olga Smirnova rehearsing in Amsterdam

Olga Smirnova rehearsing in Amsterdam

The clearest example of this is Olga Smirnova. In protest against the war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine, the famous dancer left the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow, where she was the prima ballerina. Now Smirnova is dancing in the Netherlands. Together with world-famous dancers from Ukraine, she collected donations for the Red Cross during a performance in Naples, Italy in early April. The participants of this concert, among whom were representatives of various nationalities, decided to jointly support Ukraine.

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