What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word Russia? Go on, please shut your eyes and think about it.
For me when I decided I was going to go to Russia I immediately thought “BALLET”!
Surely no ballet company in the world commands such an accolade as the Bolshoi Ballet and no ballet dancer as famous as Rudolf Nureyev. So how could I visit Russia and not book to see a ballet performance?
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 my experience of a night at the Russian Ballet.
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On my trip to Russia, I spent 2 nights in Moscow and 4 nights in St Petersburg. This would be the first time I had been to the ballet. I have to admit that I had never been interested to see a ballet performance before, but, somehow it seemed wrong not to in Russia.
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 on 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 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 second half of the performance was as fabulous as the first, and we were now really understanding the characters and their personalities. Of course, the finale is that Don Quixote goes mad, which was 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 Nights Dream.
The Hermitage Theatre is a popular tourist destination in St Petersburg, located in the complex of the Winter Palace which includes the world-famous Hermitage Museum. 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.