Dedicated to Semyon Kaplan

On 11 January the Mariinsky Theatre will be presenting the ballet La Bayadère with Diana Vishneva, Anastasia Kolegova and Yevgeny Ivanchenko to mark one century since the birth of the outstanding dancer Semyon Kaplan.


Semyon Kaplan (1912 – 1983) was an outstanding classical ballet dancer, one of the plethora of star dancers who formed the glory of Russian ballet in the mid 20th century. The performer’s stage career was linked with the Kirov (Mariinsky) Theatre. He appeared in almost every production then in the theatre’s repertoire, from Marius Petipa’s classical ballets and Michel Fokine’s innovative 1920s works to choreography by Kaplan’s own contemporaries, among them Fyodor Lopukhov, Vakhtang Chabukiani, Rostislav Zakharov, Leonid Lavrovsky, Vasily Vainonen and Konstantin Sergeyev.

Semyon Kaplan was remembered by balletomanes for his many, many roles, although the most significant one in the dancer’s repertoire was arguably that of Solor in La Bayadère. In 1941 Vakhtang Chabukiani and Vladimir Ponomarev reviewed the version of the ballet staged by Marius Petipa. In their version, Solor became a dance instead of a mime character and was given a well-developed choreographic text. Vakhtang Chabukiani himself had excelled in this role and, following his departure for Tbilisi, the finest Solor at the Kirov Theatre was Semyon Kaplan right up until the debut of Boris Bregvadze in this role. From the performing tradition of the 19th century he had inherited the noble manner and convincing phrasing of the pantomime scenes. In the dance episodes he enthralled the public with his masculinity, which was to become a distinctive characteristic of the classical male dancer in modern times. In The Kingdom of Shades – the final scene – Kaplan demonstrated his stupendous performing technique, total musicality and a rare sense of beauty in the poses in the adagio. Later, as a coach with the Kirov Ballet Company, Semyon Kaplan continued to train the next generation of Solors. Among them were Oleg Sokolov, Sergei Vikulov, Sergei Berezhnoi, Rejep Abdyev, Eldar Aliev, Valery Panov, Boris Blankov and Marat Daukayev – and even this is a far from exhaustive list of Kaplan’s “heirs” to the role.

For almost forty years Semyon Kaplan taught classical ballet at the Leningrad School of Dance, while he also led rehearsal classes with artistes of the ballet company at the Kirov Theatre for many years.

As long as the tradition remains alive, the name of Semyon Solomonovich Kaplan will doubtless be remembered, his art comprising one of the brightest pages in the history of ballet in St Petersburg in the 20th century.

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