A week ago, a group of parents with their young children – 5-11 years-old – were refused entrance to a performance of Swan Lake, and without a refund being offered.
The Bolshoi's General Director, Vladimir Urin, said that varying age restrictions were allotted to the company's ballets after the theatre had received multiple complaints from its patrons, disturbed by the presence of young children.
The restriction is also applied to the opera, which is more easily understandable, but keeping children from seeing Giselle or Swan Lake until they are 12, or even Ivan the Terrible until they are 16, seems odd indeed. Some dancers are even dancing professionally at 16!
Nutcracker and Don Quixote seem to be the favoured children's ballets, where if you're aged six and over you can get in to a matinee, and if you've reached your tenth birthday you can attend the evening performance.
Strangely, the ages are only shown in the Russian version of the Bolshoi's site, whereas the English version labels ballets such as that scandalously raunchy work The Taming of the Shrew for “Adults only”. Opera is even odder, where Don Pasquale is signalled for adults, yet Don Carlo doesn't have an age restriction. On the Russian site, however, Don Pasquale is deemed fit for those who are 16+ and Don Carlo for 12+.
Elizaveta Dilanyan says,
One could argue that rules are rules, except that this particular rule is hardly ever enforced at the Bolshoi. Children, in general, are allowed to attend all performances, which makes the fact that the theatre administration suddenly decided to round up all parents with young children on 22 November and tell them to leave a little weird.
Nikolai Tsiskaridze – critical of the rules since they were introduced in 2013 – called the situation “disgraceful”.
This situation once again proves that not all is right at the Bolshoi… As a child, I had attended theatre regularly from when I was three, both afternoon and evening performances and I had never found a situation like this.
He also underlined the fact that students at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy start participating in the theatre's productions from when they are 10:
Swan Lake is a fairy tale and age restrictions are unjustified.
Anna Kasatkina, from the Mariinsky Theatre press office, told Sobesednik.ru:
We have never had a similar situation. Children, with the exception of infants, are allowed to attend all performances, including the evening ones, as long as they are accompanied by an adult. When selecting a ballet to attend, the parents are encouraged to familiarise themselves with the age category recommendations to ensure that the material is appropriate for their children.
This information is available on the Mariinsky website and is printed on tickets and posters. Hence, a visit to the theatre is an individual experience for everyone. Of course, the theatre may request a parent to leave the auditorium if their child's behaviour inconveniences the rest of the audience.
A much more sensible approach.
My thanks to Elizaveta Dilanyan for her research and translations for this article.
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.