New voices


Dear Artist,

Outside the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, a crowd mingles under swift June rainclouds before funnelling inside for speedy champagne and to take their seats. Red velvet armchairs secured to the floor tip forward only slightly, sloping from the royal box down to the orchestra. Five stories of golden balconies climb up to the trompe l’oeil ceiling like the tiers of an Imperial wedding cake.


Sae Eun Park – Palais Garnier, Paris
photographer: Dane Shitagi

This night at the Bolshoi, the ceremony for the Prix Benois de la Danse — an international juried ballet prize and showcase of this year’s nominees — is about to begin. And after the trophies are handed out, a succession of performances unfurl in a delicate eye massage of movement and form, bathed in the tinted half-light of an otherwise blank stage. Without sets or company, the soloists and duets hold the house breathless with their pure guts.


Isaac Hernandez
photographer: Erik Sawaya

The winners — the best ballerina dancers, choreographers, composer and director — are those who’ve scaled art’s juggernauts. Korean ballerina Park Sae-eun, tonight’s best ballerina, is among only five percent of the Paris Opera Ballet’s foreign members, becoming the first Korean to join in 2011 and promoted to premier danseur in 2016. “I’ve been living in Paris for seven years now, but because ballet is all I think about, I haven’t even been up the Eiffel Tower.”

Twenty-seven-year-old Mexican dancer Isaac Hernández won for his performances with the Rome Opera Ballet and the English National Ballet under the direction of Mikhail Baryshnikov. “Being the first Mexican in history to win this important prize is proof that everything can be achieved if we persevere with our dreams,” he said. “Everything is possible.”

Vladislav Lantratov also won for his leading role in The Bolshoi’s contemporary ballet about the life and work of dancer Rudolph Nureyev. The ballet Nureyev won for best composer and best choreographer, as well as for best production design by Director Kirill Serebrennikov. Last July, days before it was to open, the Bolshoi’s management postponed Nureyev’s premiere, saying the production wasn’t ready, while Director Serebrennikov was investigated for fraud and his supporters wondered if the charges weren’t politically motivated. The ballet includes a lyrical pas-de-deux depicting Nureyev and Danish dancer Erik Bruhn falling in love in 1961 (they would be romantic partners for the next 25 years), artistic material that could be seen as confronting Russia’s “LGTB propaganda law” passed in 2013. Nureyev did finally open in late 2017 under a replacement director, with director Serebrennikov under house arrest where he remains, awaiting trial. Tonight, the ballet’s composer Ilya Demutsky, along with receiving his own prize for best composer, accepted the award for best production design on behalf of his friend.


Vladislav Lantratov
photographer: Charles-Thompson



PS: “What is art? It is not just nature, it is nurtured nature. It is intelligence applied to what physical ability you have.” (Rudolf Nureyev)

Esoterica: In 1773’s Imperial Russia, a dance school was created for orphans in Moscow. Prince Ouroussoff, looking for a venture, partnered with English theatre manager Michael Maddox to form a company and the dancer orphans were hired. After their home at the Petrovsky Theatre burned down, Ouroussoff and Maddox built the Bolshoi. At first, the company struggled to compete with St. Petersburg’s Imperial Russian Ballet, later called the Kirov and now known as the Mariinsky Ballet. At the turn of the 20th Century and with the Russian Revolution in 1917, new Ballet Master Alexander Gorsky steered the company to distinction, cultivating what continues today as one of the foremost ballet companies in the world.

“Then came a moment of renaissance,
I looked up – you again are there,
A fleeting vision, the quintessence
Of all that’s beautiful and rare.” (Alexander Pushkin)


The Letters: Vol. 1 and 2, narrated by Dave Genn, are now available for download on Amazon, here. Proceeds of sales contribute to the production of The Painter’s Keys.

“Please, never despise the translator. He’s the mailman of human civilization.” (Alexander Pushkin)




  1. Sara – You are a most beautiful writer! Thank you for this fascinating glimpse into Russian Ballet! and thank you for continuing with The Painter’s Keys – this most generous work from your father and now you! With Much Appreciation!

  2. Hi, Sara. Great article. Just a note: the female dancers are “danseuse” while the men are “danseur”.

  3. OMG! Nureyev was a homosexual? OMG! There are homosexuals in ballet? OMG! There were homosexuals in 1961? OMG! There are homosexuals everywhere? OMG!!! (sarcasm)

    1961 was about the year I first got attacked for being not/masculine enough- at 7/8 years of age. My mother loved the ballet- and I’d already seen the Nutcracker multiple times- as SLC UT was culturally aware and had a definitive ballet company- which later on would be renamed Ballet West. Her husband hated all things cultural (which would eventually lead to the demise of their relationship) and so her children- especially me- became her *dates* to theater productions- symphony and dance concerts- and yes- the ballet. Already an artist- I loved these things. Later in life I’d realize just how dysfunctional it was that my mother had no functional partner…

    But- in very recent conversations with my younger brother- I was finally able to comprehend that when I got attacked for being a sissy/queer/homo/fag at the age of 8- my parents knew EXACTLY what that meant. And even though my mother tried to help- tried to deal with it- she was incapable of transcending her religious beliefs to the point that she could accurately explain to me what all those words meant in a way that I might have accepted myself for who I was to become (because she couldn’t accept who I might become) and help me to grasp why I was about to live through 10 years of abuse and public humiliation at the hands of my homophobic heterosexist mormon peer group- including my own father.

    And so the damage was done- and decades of depression ensued. No one should suffer through what I did at the hands of religion. No religion that holds onto anti-gay beliefs holds any respectable claim to truth. We exist. And we simply are what we are. There’s not one single thing wrong with us. And in fact- we bring great and healing gifts to the community at large- including our creative gifts.

    And if you think otherwise- you can go to…

  4. It was interesting to me that Park Sae-eun had lived in Paris for 7 years and thought only about ballet to the detriment of taking in the myriad of wonders that are available in that marvellous City of Light . It is actually quite sad from my perspective. I can’t imagine living such a one-dimensional life. But I guess that’s why there is chocolate and vanilla ice cream (and then some) – something for everyone.

  5. To J. Bruce Wilcox – I am so sorry that you went through so much. In my opinion most religions (if not all) are fanatical and I am happy to see that the world has changed an awful lot for the good. I feel very bad for the people who are still so narrow-minded. Best wishes to you.

Leave A Reply

Featured Workshop

Paint in Amalfi Italy
June 23, 2018 to June 30, 2018


The Amalfi Coast, a World heritage site, and one of the most spectacular vistas to be found in Italy.  Stay at our four-star hotel on the waterfront of Amalfi; all rooms with private bath and with Mediterranean Sea views.  Elevator available.  Small groups or painters with guests. Paint in Amalfi, Ravello, Positano, and Capri.  Work in oils or other media; beginners to advanced welcome.  Demos and individual instruction.  Breakfast each day along with 2 lunches & 5 dinners.
See for further details. late afternoon sun on the tip of Savary Island's Indian Point highlights the design elements of the logs and the summer surroundings of the island.

Featured Artist

My enjoyment in representing the beauty of our world with strong design and bold colours is what drives my passion for my landscape painting of Savary Island and other parts of our amazing planet.