Obituary: Alexander Bogatyrev

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The Independent Culture
A PRINCIPAL dancer in the Bolshoi Ballet, Alexander Bogatyrev was a consummate prince on stage: tall, outstandingly good-looking, and with a style that was elegant and academically pure. He became the Bolshoi Ballet's interim director in 1995, following the removal of Vyacheslav Gordeyev, and re-mained until Alexei Fadeyechev's appointment in 1997.

Born in 1949 in Tallinn, Estonia (then a Soviet republic), he attended the local ballet academy before moving to Moscow, to the Bolshoi's school, for the final two years of his training. Aged 17 he appeared in London and Paris as part of a group put together by the Bolshoi School. In their programme he danced an extract from Paquita, which gained him an enthusiastic review from the British critic John Percival. "Dark and handsome, he has the bearing and manner of a real danseur noble. Sometimes his dancing showed too much care, but always it was strong, light and supple, and at times exceptionally smooth and mellow."

He won the Nijinsky prize in Paris in 1967; the third prize in the Moscow International Ballet Competition in 1969 (the year Mikhail Baryshnikov won the first); and first prize in the 1976 Tokyo Competition. He graduated into the Bolshoi in 1968 and gradually acquired major roles in the classical and modern repertory.

His first big part was Vaslav in The Fountain of Bakhchisarai; he went on to Siegfried in Swan Lake, Prince Desire in The Sleeping Beauty, Albert (or Albrecht) in Giselle, and the poet in Chopiniana (or Les Sylphides). He danced the titular role in Vladimir Vassiliev's Icare and the male hero, Ferhad, in Yuri Grigorovich's Legend of Love. When Grigorovich premiered his production of Romeo and Juliet during the Bolshoi's 1978 Paris season, Bogatyrev danced Romeo opposite Natalia Bessmertnova's Juliet. The same couple danced the Russian premiere in Moscow in 1979.

Partly because of his height Bogatyrev was a popular stage partner with ballerinas from Bessmertnova to Nadezhda Pavlova. He was not a dramatic dancer and some observers felt that his movements' elongated perfection could edge into vapid shape-making without much contrast between different roles. But there was always a quality of sincerity and the celebrated Bolshoi ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, writing about the 1980 premiere of her ballet of Chekhov's The Seagull, refers warmly to his portrayal of the young man Treplyov. "His appearance reminded me of Alexander Blok - nobility, breeding, spirituality. It made the drama all the more raw, all the more tense."

She also admired his bravery in requesting the part, at a time when she was in conflict with the company's formidable director Grigorovich. It was a politically dangerous act and prompted one onlooker to call him a Moscow Kamikaze.

His friends in London remember his open and easy-going personality, his sheer niceness. He was married to Galina Kravchenko, a character dancer, with whom he adopted a boy.

Alexander Yurievich Bogatyrev, dancer: born Tallinn, Soviet Union 4 May 1949; acting artistic director, Bolshoi Ballet 1995-97; married Galina Kravchenko (one adopted son); died Moscow 11 October 1998.