The Kirov Ballet is the company that the choreographer George Balanchine left behind when he sailed from Russia in 1924. It is the company from which Rudolf Nureyev defected in 1961, followed by Natalia Makarova in 1970, and Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1974. Formerly known as the Imperial Ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre (named after Czar Alexander II’s wife Marie), the Kirov is the great Russian mother company, a matryoshka doll hatching dancer after dancer—an infinity of dancers—from its Imperial School on Theatre Street, a continuum of star pupils that includes the legendary names Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Vaslav Nijinsky. The company that is today called The Kirov Ballet of the Mariinsky Theatre—still Dickensian in its selection standards; still trained within the meticulous, luminous rounds of Vaganova technique; still a constellation of coaches pushing, pulling, their protegés to the ...

 
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