The words Russia and ballet seem to go hand in hand, so when I decided to visit this Baltic state, I knew I had to book to see a performance.
No ballet company in the world commands such an accolade as the Bolshoi Ballet, and no ballet dancer as famous as Rudolf Nureyev.
On my trip to Russia, I spent two nights in Moscow and four nights in St Petersburg, and this would be the first time I had been to see a ballet. I have to admit that I had never been interested to see a ballet performance before, but it seemed wrong not to go when in Russia.
Of course, there are several sensational Russian ballet companies and an equal amount of stunning theatres in Moscow and St Petersburg to see a ballet performance.
In this post, I will outline the theatres in St Petersburg and tell you about my experience of a night at the Russian Ballet.
This article may contain affiliate links. Please read the full disclaimer here.
Ballet at the Mikhailovsky Theatre
I was travelling with a girlfriend during Russia’s “White Nights” in June, a perfect time to enjoy night events in Russia when it never goes dark!
Swan Lake, the most popular ballet worldwide, would have been our first choice, but unfortunately, the performances at the Bolshoi in Moscow didn’t fit in with our schedule. Instead, we booked to see Don Quixote at the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St Petersburg. The story of Don Quixote is set in Spain and tells of love, poverty, chivalry and madness.
The Mikhailovsky Theatre is one of the oldest ballet venues in Russia, built circa 1833. It is a popular theatre for tourists and locals to see some of the most sensational classical ballet in St Petersburg. I booked in advance of my trip on the Mikhailovsky website as the tickets sell out quickly for obvious reasons.
A Night at the Russian Ballet
Dressed in our finery, we called a taxi and headed to the theatre. There was a real buzz when we got there. Women were dressed to the nines (including us), and men looked dapper in well-cut suits. The glam dress code isn’t a requirement, but I felt pleased we had packed our gowns!
Inside the theatre, we headed to the salon, where we sipped champagne before the performance began. When we were shown to our seats, we were delighted with the sumptuous interior of this historic Russian theatre.
The Mikhailovsky has red velvet chairs instead of the normal flip chairs that you find in most theatres. It is a small theatre and felt cosy and intimate. When the ballet dancers came onto the stage, it felt like they were dancing just for us – magical.
Of course, the dancing was sensational. The height the male dancers could jump was astonishing. The grace of the ballerinas was beautiful, and the whole ballet was mesmerising.
At the interval, we discussed if we actually understood the story through purely dance rather than speech or song – we concluded we did, which was a good thing!
The performance’s second half was as fabulous as the first, and we now really understand the characters and their personalities. Of course, the finale is when Don Quixote goes mad, which is perfectly portrayed by the dancers. The world-class orchestra was also fabulous.
At the end of the performance, the dancers were given a standing ovation, and just like that, it was all over. My experience at the Russian ballet had been fantastic, and I would definitely recommend it on a trip to Russia.
The Mikhailovsky Theatre is located at 1 Arts Square.
Nearest metro stations: Nevsky Prospekt; Gostiny Dvor.
Theatres in St Petersburg
The centuries-old Mariinsky Theatre is another popular venue in St Petersburg. Enjoy popular year-round performances such as Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Performances of The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and Giselle are shown throughout the year. This small theatre is the perfect choice if you can’t get booked up for the Mikhailovsky Theatre.
The Alexandrinsky Theatre is the oldest national theatre in Russia. Dating back to 1832, it was once among the largest theatres in Europe.
With over 1000 seats, the Imperial Theatre Company performers used it for various drama, ballet and operatic performances.
Nowadays, the Alexandrinsky Theatre is more famous for acting than ballet. It is worth visiting to see its impressive yellow and white neo-classical architecture.