Bolshoi Babylon

March 22, 2017

Ever wish you could
go behind the scenes of the often-cloistered Bolshoi Ballet? This month, HBO is airing a new documentary that does just that.

(Courtesy HBO)

Bolshoi Babylon
began filming in 2013, during the aftermath of the acid attack on the company’s (then) artistic director Sergei Filin. The gruesome act of violence had caught the attention of news teams around the globe—including Bolshoi Babylon’s director Nick Read and producer Mark Franchetti. But ballet fans will be glad to find out that Bolshoi Babylon isn’t a flashy whodunit. Instead, the cameras delve a little deeper into the company’s inner workings: We see board meetings, company classes and even some of the dancers’ homes. “Our goal was to show the Bolshoi—the institution and its people—in three dimensions,” Read says. “And it was a privilege to be right in its heart, backstage and in the wings for about 20 performances.”

The result doesn’t skimp on the reality of life as a Bolshoi ballerina. Principals Maria Alexandrova and Maria Allash, along with soloist Anastasia Meskova, tell all—and we get snippets of them performing in Bolshoi classics, including
Swan Lake
and La Bayadère