The Latvian National Ballet is the only professional ballet company in Latvia. The more than ninety-year history of Latvian ballet has close ties with the finest traditions of the Russian school of classical ballet. In this way, the classical Russian ballet traditions were passed down from generation to generation, and eventually gave the world such ballet stars as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Māris Liepa, and Alexandr Godunov, each of whom trained right here in Riga.
The Latvian ballet was born on December 1, 1922 (though the company had begun to form much earlier - it was founded in 1918 as a part of Latvian Opera company under the leadership of ballet master Voldemārs Komisārs). That night, the curtain opened on the company’s first full-length production, Peter Ludwig Hertel’s La Fille mal Gardée, which was based on Marius Petipa’s 1885 St. Petersburg production of the work and was staged by Nikolai Sergeyev. In 1920s, ex-prima ballerina of Mariinsky Theatre Alexandra Fyodorova, a member of the renowned Fokin family, began to work as a ballet dancer and choreographer staging many ballet performances on the basis of Marius Petipa, Lev Ivanov, and Mikhail Fokin choreography. Under her direction, the company gained considerable artistic respectability and technical progress. In 1932, Anatole Viltzak, former ballet soloist of Mariinsky Theatre, Serge Diaghilev Russian Ballet Company and other famous European ballet companies, became the head of the LNO Ballet. The talanted dancer and choreographer Osvalds Lēmanis was the chief ballet master of the LNO Ballet in 1934-1944. After the Second World War the ballet was entrusted to Helēna Tangijeva-Birzniece; she had studied in St. Petersburg with the legendary ballet teacher Agrippina Vaganova. Helēna Tangijeva-Birzniece was predecessor of Yevgeny Čanga, Irēna Strode, Aleksandrs Lembergs, Janīna Pankrate, Modris Cers, Lita Beiris in later years, and Aivars Leimanis who is the LNO Ballet Artistic Director since 1993.
Today, the Latvian National Ballet’s repertoire is founded on the “pearls” of classical ballet – like Giselle, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Don Quixote, Le Corsaire, La Bayadère – as well as classic productions by contemporary choreographers that have become audience favourites, such as Coppélia, The Fountain of Bakhchisaray, and The Bright Stream. The legendary choreographer Boris Eifman complex and refined ballet Anna Karenina, the Argentinean choreographer Mauricio Wainrot’s Messiah, and the outstanding Russian choreographer Alla Sigalova’s Othello enrich the repertoire with elements of modern dance and show our dancers’ adeptness in contemporary ballet.
Aivars Leimanis has been the Latvian National Ballet’s artistic director since 1993. Leimanis has focused his attention on both revivals of classical ballets and collaborative projects with renowned choreographers, including Boris Eifman (Russia), Krzyzstof Pastor (Poland), Vladimir Vasilyev (Russia), Alla Sigalova (Russia), Radu Poklitaru (Moldova/Belarus), Thierry Malandain (France), Christian Spuck (Germany), and Petr Zuska (Czech Republic). The Latvian National Ballet has presented guest performances at the Theater du Chatelet, in Paris; the Bolshoi Theater, in Moscow; the Teatro La Fenice, in Venice; the Rome Opera House; Edinburgh’s Festival Theater; the Maison de la Danse, in Lyon; the Stanislavsky Nemirovich-Danchenko Theater, in Moscow; and on many other stages all over the world.
The Ballet Administrator is Elita Bukovska, and the Ballet Supervisor is Dace Lapiņa. The ballet coaches Inese Dumpe, Regīna Kaupuža, Aiša Sila, Genādijs Gorbaņovs, and rehearsal pianists Jeļena Berdņikova, Natālija Dirvuka, Tatjana Vinogradova, and Oļegs Žukovs are working with the ballet artists.