The 1980s - Boston Ballet

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The 1980s

Curtain call in China

Photographer unknown, May 1980


Boston Ballet leapt onto the world stage in the 1980’s with tours to across the globe, from China to London.

Laura Young, Rudolf Nureyev, Arthur Leeth on stage in Swan Lake at the London Coliseum

Photographer unknown, June 1981

Rudolf Nureyev and Marie Christine Mouis in Don Quixote at the Metropolitan Center

Photographer unknown, Mar 1982

May 28, 1980: Boston Ballet became the first American Company to perform in China with a three week tour to Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou (Canton). The opening night performance of Ron Cunningham’s Cinderella received a rare standing ovation by the Chinese audience and was broadcast two days later over Chinese national TV to an audience of an estimated 30 million. The visit to China was part of a 12 week international tour of 11 cities in five countries, including Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, and France.

Mar 11, 1981: Due to the spaciousness of the stage at the Metropolitan Center, Boston Ballet was able to stage its first ever full-length Swan Lake.  Violette Verdy, who had become Co-Artistic Director the year before, and Bruce Wells staged the lavish production.

June 1981: Boston Ballet takes Swan Lake on tour to the London Coliseum with Rudolf Nureyev dancing the role of Price Siegfried opposite Laura Young and Marie-Christine Mois sharing the role of Odette/Odile

Mar 10, 1982: Boston Ballet premiered Rudolf Nureyev’s Don Quixote, Nureyev himself in the role of Basilo with Laura Young and Marie-Christine Mois alternating the role of Kitri. In April, Boston Ballet and Nureyev took the production on a five week North American tour to Atlanta, GA; San Antonio, TX; St. Louis, MO; New Orleans, LA; Miami, FL; Knoxville, TN; and Guanajuanto and Mexico City, Mexico. In August the company and Nureyev took the production on a four week tour through France and Italy. September brought the production on a three week tour to Los Angeles, CA and Detroit, MI. The company and Nureyev would finally premiere the production on Broadway for a three week run at the  Uris Theater in January of 1983.

Mar 1983: The Company announced that the Ballet’s founder, E. Virginia Williams, would step down as Artistic Director of Boston Ballet, turning sole directorship of the company to Violette Verdy. Williams would stay on as Artistic Advisor. Verdy had a long history with Boston Ballet, appearing as a guest artist in the early years of the company. She had joined Boston Ballet on tour in 1980 and had become Co-Artistic Director in 1981.

May 8, 1984: Boston Ballet founder E. Virginia Williams passed away at aged 70 in Malden, Massachusetts.

Curtain call 25th anniversary gala

Photographer unknown, Mar 1989

May 17, 1984: Boston Ballet presented the World Premiere of Choo-San Goh’s Romeo and Juliet, dedicated to E. Virginia Williams. It was Choo-San Goh’s first full-length ballet with sets by Alain Vaes. In a break with ballet tradition, the opening night featured two corps members, Deirdre Myles and Devon Carney, in the lead roles. Choo-San Goh also created the role of “Fate” in his production for Marie-Christine Mois.

Jun 1, 1985: Bruce Marks officially became the Artistic Director of Boston Ballet. A former principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre and The Royal Danish Ballet, Marks left his position at Ballet West to take on the role of Artistic Director at Boston Ballet.

Feb 5, 1986: Bruce Marks invited Mark Morris to choreograph a work for Boston Ballet after seeing him at the Choreographer’s Festival. The resulting piece was Mort Subite the first Morris work for the company. It premiered on February 5, 1986 and was presented again at the Pepsico Summerfare Festival in Purchase, NY later that year (July 11, 1986).

Oct 1, 1987: Boston Ballet presented Kirov version of Giselle staged by Anna-Marie Holmes and Natalia Dudinskaya. It marked one of the first performances of Fernando Bujones with Boston Ballet as he danced Albrecht to Laura Young’s Giselle during the run (they debuted on Oct. 7).

Mar 9, 1988: Boston Ballet presented “The Scandinavians,” a full-length evening featuring the works of three Scandinavian master choreographers, AUGUST BOURNONVILLE, Birgit Cullberg, and Harald Lander. Two of the pieces, Bournonville’s Napoli and Cullberg’s Miss Julie the company had performed before. However, it was the first time Boston Ballet had performed Harald Landers Études. Alexander Kolpin from the Royal Danish Ballet joined the company for the performances.

Mar 11, 1989: Boston Ballet celebrated 25 years with a performance in honor of E. Virginia Williams. Williams’ Sea Alliance was performed that evening as part of the gala program. During the performance the company also premiered Fernando Bujones staging of Raymonda Divertissments from Act III.

May 21, 1989: LAURA YOUNG, founding member of the Boston Ballet, retired from the stage, dancing her final performance in Rudolf Nureyev’s Don Quixote.


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