Albert Hall to offer arena dance for arrival of Bolshoi

THE ALBERT Hall in London is to be turned into the largest dance stage in Europe for a five week visit by the Bolshoi Ballet, from Moscow, next January.

Derek Block, a rock promoter, who is staging the pounds 3m run and hopes to sell 140,00 tickets, is confident that arena dance can capture the public imagination in the same way as opera.

He says that opera lovers, dissatisfied with some of the amenities at 'sheds' like Earls Court, Wembley and the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, will be far happier in the opulent surroundings of the 19th-century Royal Albert Hall. Many of the arena's stall seats are being taken out so that the stage can be extended. The new Albert Hall stage will be 21 metres (69ft) deep by 20 metres (66ft) wide.

The Bolshoi designer, Valeri Leventhal, who was in London yesterday for the final planning arrangements, is making a 70ft (21m) high backdrop which will feature a painting of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow with the Tsar's royal box prominent. There will also be a 30ft (9m) proscenium arch and an orchestra pit in front of the stage.

The idea of using the Royal Albert Hall came when Mr Block took the artistic director of the Bolshoi, Yuri Grigorovich, there last year, and he declared: 'This is an Emperor's Palace.' The Bolshoi are bringing their entire company of 160 artists, including all the star principal dancers, thus forestalling criticisms made in the past that some Bolshoi tours have not featured their best known personnel.

They will perform a programme featuring suites from 12 ballets, all re-choreographed for the Royal Albert Hall. Ticket prices will range from pounds 15 to pounds 65. Mr Grigorovich has been keen to come to Britain in the winter months so that he could play 'in the season' to dance audiences. He has felt that the summer tours have played often to American and Japanese tourists.

Mr Leventhal said yesterday: 'The Royal Albert Hall has the same spirit, architecture and feel that you find in Moscow and St Petersburg.'

Mr Block added: 'This is certainly the first big arena dance event. We realised that the mistake of the arena operas was that the venues were just sheds. There was no doubt that people were unhappy with the amenities.'

(Photograph omitted)

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