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A hidden gem: Gala will feature U.S. debut of forgotten Petipa work

A hidden gem: Gala will feature U.S. debut of forgotten Petipa work

In a celebration of ballet's rich history and modern influence, the Petipa Heritage Foundation is set to host anawards gala on Sept. 23. The event, dedicated to honoring exceptional ballet dancers and preserving the legacy of Marius Petipa, promises an evening that bridges the gap between past and present.

"We will recognize the best female and male dancers in the world and admire ballet legends for their longtime careers, influence and achievements," said Stanislav Fečo, the foundation's director. "For ballet, there's never enough awards for this. The artists need this recognition."

The nonprofit foundation, dedicated to preserving the legacy of Marius Petipa, who lived from 1818-1910, will showcase one of his forgotten works that night.

"He was one of the most influential choreographers of all time," Fečo said. "The purpose is to preserve his legacy and support the development of ballet."

Attendees can expect to see the U.S. premiere of "Grand Pas Électrique" from Petipa's ballet "Bluebeard," reconstructed by one of the Petipa Heritage Foundation's founders, Vasily Medvedev.

"He is one of five famous choreographers who knows how to do Petipa's ballets," Fečo said. "He's able to create the ballets so they look like his style. He's a master of this."

Petipa, who has been called the father of classical ballet, choreographed over 50 ballets, including "Swan Lake" and "The Sleeping Beauty" and was the royal choreographer for the Russian Imperial Ballet during its golden age.

"Petipa was an innovator," Fečo said. "To us he seems old, but in his time, he was very innovative. He lived in his time. Even in his old age, he put modern choreography in his ballets. Petipa was nearly 80 years old when he choreographed 'Bluebeard.'"

"Bluebeard" was not put down on paper and, in the chaos surrounding the Russian Revolution, much of the ballet was lost to time. After the revolution, survivors gathered in Paris to preserve what they knew from memory.

"This ballet didn't survive," Fečo said. "It certainly didn't deserve to be forgotten, but it happened. No one imagined that this would happen."

Weaving past and present

The awards gala audience will be able to view a fragment of the forgotten ballet, a combination of the talents of Petipa and Medvedev.

"In that period, electricity was new," Fečo said. "Petipa wanted to incorporate some of those elements into his ballet. Vasily is a master of recreating the steps, based on the few remaining historical sketches. Although Vasily created it, it is in Petipa's style."

The "Grand Pas Électrique" performance will weave classical with contemporary.

"Interpreting this choreography, it looks like it's from some museum or something," Fečo said. "The costumes and set, the backdrop: It reminds you of an old book but without the dust. It looks fresh and contemporary but also gives you the feeling of the past, of how it could have possibly looked before."

The costumes also combine time periods, designed based on old sketches but created for the more athletic bodies ballet dancers have today — dancers who are gathering from several countries.

"Not only are we bringing the best ballet dancers from around the world to one place, but they will all be together on the same stage," Fečo said. "You don't have to travel to Paris, Milan, Berlin or Amsterdam to see these dancers. Instead you can see them all here."

The Petipa Awards Gala will be held at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco on Sept. 23. Four levels of tickets are available to buy online.

The Petipa Heritage Foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, established to honor Marius Petipa, the father of classical ballet, and preserve and further develop his choreographic legacy. The organization also recognizes individuals within the ballet community for outstanding contributions to the arts and supports aspiring ballet dancers.