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ALEKSANDRS LEMBERGS AND LATVIAN BALLET 1960S-1980S

Aleksandrs Lembergs (1921–1985) is associated with many important ballet productions, which won the Riga ballet troupe recognition abroad; innovation in form; helping young dancers find their individual style; as well as luring foreign choreographers to Riga.

In his first productions – "Pan and Syringa" (1963), "Per Gynt" (1966) – his chief means of expression was bodily gracefulness and expressiveness, while retaining the classical elements of dance.

The production of Barskov’s ballet "The Gold of the Inca" in 1967 was accomplished on a grand scale, demonstrating emotional and multifaceted choreography. It showed good taste, great feeling for the stage, and a range of expressive plasticity. A great part of the success of the production can be attributed to the brilliant cast:  M. Bilalova, A. Dragone, A. Ēķis, J.  Bīviņš, A. Spura, V. Lukjanovs et al.

The first elements of modern choreography were present in the 1970 production of "La Esmeralda" ("Parīzes Dievmātes katedrāle") by Cesare Pugni and Riccardo Drigo. Over the one hundred years since the ballet has been in the repertoire of world theaters, it has benefitted from the contributions of different ballet masters who have tried to adapt the choreography to the development of the art of dance. Lembergs succeeded at his synthesis of several choreographic styles, using stage action on several levels.

The production of "Carmen" (1971) by Georges Bizet and Rodion Schedrin is one of the summits of Lembergs’s work as a choreographer. In his interpretation, the classic vocabulary of dance was synthesized with contemporary elements: it was elegant, precise, and deeply emotional.  Among the most outstanding ballerinas who danced Carmen were A. Dragone, I. Ābele, V. Vilciņa, L. Tuisova. Larisa Tuisova was ranked by the critics among the world’s best Carmens, highlighting the classical clarity, lightness, and mystery of her interpretation. Lembergs’s production of "Carmen" met critical success everywhere it was shown: Mexico, Egypt, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Switzerland, Italy, and France.  Of special note were the performances in Moscow in 1979, with Māris Liepa  starring as Jose.

The choreography of Latvian composer Arvīds Žilinskis’s children’s ballets "Sprīdītis" (1968; 1983) and "Lolitas brīnumputns" (1979) was colorful, easily perceived and understood and in complete harmony with the music, which accounted for the popularity and longevity of these productions.

An importantly uplifting period in the history of the troupe started in 1976 when foreign choreographers were invited to Riga. Boris Eifmann in Khachaturyan’s "Gayne" demonstrated complete freedom using both classical elements and plasticity, highlighting the national color and temperament. Eifmann’s penchant for seeking out the new and topical was obvious in the "Interrupted Song" (using the music of Part I of Imants Kalniņš’s Fourth Symphony" and "Duet" (music by Pink Floyd) for the solo performance by star dancer Genādijs Gorbaņovs in 1978. In the following years there was a series of other choreographers who worked with the Riga Ballet.

In the 1970s and 1980s the troupe was joined by many new and talented dancers: Zita Errs, Genādijs Gorbaņovs, Aleksandrs Rumjancevs, Lita Beiris, Viesturs Jansons, Gunta Bāliņa, Aivars Leimanis, Inese Dumpe, and many others who  won prizes at international competitions and festivals.

Gunta Bāliņa

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