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Alexander Shiryaev: A Belated Premiere

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For those with an interest in ballet history, here is a truly extraordinary film (it dates back a few years but has not been, so far as I can see, mentioned anywhere on this Forum):




This is a documentary compilation of the pre-WWI films of Alexander Shiryaev, Petipa's assistant. Many treasures to enjoy on a bank holiday. 



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Shiryaev wrote an extended memoir, mostly about the period before the revolution, ie his work as a dancer and assistant to Petipa during the glory days of the Imperial Ballet. 


Nadine Meisner refers to this rare document in her recent biography of Petipa. The book was finished but never issued: it was prepared for publication in 1941 but the whole edition was destroyed in the siege of Leningrad. Luckily a single advance copy survived in the Russian National Library (Meisner used a photocopy). It was eventually published in full in 2004 in a Russian film journal, after which it was translated into English and published in 2009 as part of the book "Alexander Shiryaev: Master of Movement".


This excellent English-language publication is hard but not impossible to find. One can try writing to the Italian publishers, who offer the book for sale (there is also currently one copy available from a reseller on Italian Amazon). Although the British Library do not hold a copy, nor does the BFI Library, there is a copy in the library of the University of Bristol.


The memoir is well worth seeking out by anyone interested in learning more about Shiryaev and Petipa's era at the Mariinsky. We know - direct from Petipa - that Shiryaev had an excellent memory, so this may be a more reliable account than most, with stories about Pavlova, Kschessinskaya, Marie Petipa and other stars of the period. 

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