The annual Benois de la danse prize-giving ceremony, one of the dance world’s most prestigious awards, was held at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow at the end of May. The prix is awarded not only to dancers and choreographers but also to composers and designers, reflecting Diaghilev’s noble concept that ballet is a fusion of all the arts. It is no coincidence, therefore, that the Prix is named for Ballets Russes designer Alexandre Benois and that the statuette – the ‘Dance Oscar’ – is a creation by sculptor Igor Ustinov, son of the late Sir Peter Ustinov and a descendant of the Benois family.
Italy and the town of Positano were present inside the Muscovite theatre as the Benois is twinned with the prize that the resort, perched on the rocks of the Amalfi coast, dedicates every late-summer to another name inextricably linked with that of the Ballets Russes: Léonide Massine. The prize was established in 1969 and named after Massine when he died in 1979.
The union of these two awards has resulted in the birth of the joint Prix Benois-Massine Moscow-Positano. The artistic director of the Massine, Daniele Cipriani, handed the statuette – which again is an original creation by Ustinov – to Spanish dancer Ana Laguna, muse (and wife) of Swedish choreographer Mats Ek.
Before the gala that traditionally follows the award-giving ceremony, a video about Positano was screened on stage. Cipriani thanked Yuri Grigorovich, Nina Loory and Regina Nifikorova for masterminding the Benois and enthusiastically sustaining his idea of establishing a link between the two prizes that honour the extraordinary Ballets Russes adventure. Cipriani underlined the special relationship between Positano and Russian ballet,
People like Diaghilev and Nijinsky used to stroll the streets of Positano… So deep was the love Massine and Rudolf Nureyev had for this town, kissed by the waves and the sun, that they bought the islands of Li Galli.
He also spoke of the relationship between the Italian ballet and the Bolshoi Theatre,
Earlier today Maestro Grigorovich was reminding me about the important relations in the 19th century between Italian dancers and Bolshoi Theatre and this makes me all the more moved to be here this evening.
Cipriani, whose interview was featured on the front-page online edition of the Russian version of Elle magazine, concluded his address by exclaiming,
What a difference there is between the magnificence of this theatre, a true shrine to ballet, and our stage on the beach at Positano, under the moonlight! And yet the two are bonded by a universal language: dance. Tonight I feel as if we are symbolically bringing Massine back to his home-city and theatre!
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.