Teatr Wielki (Grand Theater) in Warsaw, home of the Polish National Ballet.
The Polish National Ballet (PNB) is the largest and most influential ballet company in Poland. It continues a ballet heritage, dating to the 17th century.
Prior to 2008 it was known as the ballet of the Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera. In that year the ballet company received artistic autonomy reflected in the theatre's by-laws; it was elevated to the rank of Polish National Ballet. The director since has been Polish choreographer Krzysztof Pastor.
Ballet events in Polish history
In 1628 a traveling Italian opera troupe created the first ballet performance in Poland. Ballet scenes were then often incorporated into operas held at the court theater. For many years it was primarily foreign dancers who performed. They served as exemplars for their Polish counterparts.
Eventually in 1765 the first permanent ballet company was formed, on the initiative of the king Stanisław II August. The company functioned with some interruptions in the Saxon’s Opernhaus (opera house), the first Polish public theater. A 1766 book on ballet by the famous ballet master of France Jean-Georges Noverre was dedicated to the Polish king.
Maciej Pręczyński (Prenczyński) was the first well-known Polish dancer. He worked with Gasparo Angiolini in Venice and Vienna in the 1770s.
In 1785 Stanisław II August established a company of young dancers, trained in a ballet school at a Lithuanian estate. This first professional ballet company of predominantly Polish dancers was known as His Majesty’s National Dancers (1785-1794). Performances were held on stage at the National Theatre building in Krasiński Square, Warsaw. Its heritage was continued by subsequent Polish companies.
During the Romantic era the National Ballet School flourished in Warsaw. After 1818 it was guided by French ballet masters Louis Thierry and Maurice Pion. Under construction 1825-1833, the Teatr Wielki (Grand Theater) then became the artistic center for both opera and ballet in Poland. The choreographer and teacher Roman Turczynowicz became a Polish ballet-master at mid-century. Several outstanding foreign masters, e.g., Filippo Taglioni, Carlo Blasis, Virgilio Calori, Pasquale Borri, José Mendez, Raffaele Grassi, and Enrico Cecchetti, worked developing Polish dancers.
Leading dancers of Polish romantic ballet: Aleksander Tarnowski & Konstancja Turczynowicz in cachucha, 1847, Teatr Wielki, Theatre Museum in Warsaw
Mathilde Kschessinska (Matylda Krzesińska), a dancer of Polish extraction, from the 1890s was one of the leading lights of the Imperial Theater in St. Petersburg.
Siblings Bronislava Nijinska and Vaslav Nijinsky were of Polish heritage, though Vatsa and Broni trained under the patronage of the Tsar at the Imperial Academy in St. Petersburg. They danced with Ballets Russes, Nijinsky being celebrated internationally as he reached the pinnacle of the art. Both were choreographers for Diaghilev, the older Nijinsky before the war, Nijinska during the 1920s.
During the Second Polish Republic, Nijinska headed the Balet Polski, aka Les Ballets Polonais, aka The Polish Ballets newly formed in Warsaw in 1937. This company was the brainchild of poet Jan Lechoń, and created with the assistance of M. Waclaw Jedrzejewicz, Minister of Public Education and President of the Organization Committee of the Polish Section to the Art and Technical Exhibition in Paris. The company's general director was Arnold Szyfman.
For the first season, 1937-1938, Nijinska created five new ballets including Baśń krakowska (La Légende de Cracovie), to music by Michal Kondracki; Pieśń o ziemi naszej (Le Chant de la Terre), to music by Roman Palester; Koncert E-moll Chopina (Concerto de Chopin), to Frédéric Chopin's B-minor piano concerto; Apollo i dziewczyna (Apollon et la Belle), to music by Ludomir Rozycki; and Wezwanie (Le Rappel), set to a score by Boleslaw Woytowicz. This repertoire featured scenery and costumes designed by Teresa Roszkowska, Waclaw Borowski, Wladyslaw Daszewski, and Irena Lorentowicz-Karwowska. The souvenir program for this company's Covent Garden appearances states: "Every gesture and every colour, the ebb and flow of the groups, each step of the soloists, the spirit and harmony of the Polish Ballets are imbued with the artistic ideals of Bronislava Nijinska and her ardent desire that the world should see the dances of her country in their noblest and most beautiful form." At the Paris Exposition Internationale of that year, this Polish Ballet won the Grand Prix for performance, Nijinska the Gran Prix for choreography. In 1938 the Ballets Polonais was directed by Leon Wójcikowski. It appeared at the New York World's Fair in 1939, but World War II caused its closure.
Ballet of Teatro Wielki
Following the traumas of war, the 'Ballet of Teatr Wielki' reemerged in Warsaw. Yet the original Teatr Wielki had been almost completely destroyed during the 1939 siege of Warsaw. Eventually it was rebuilt and enlarged, in a new facility (also called the Opera Narodowa [National Opera]). Continuing a heritage of several centuries, the new theater opened in 1965. It housed the companies and schools for both opera and ballet, its stage being shared. The dance company later became the Polish National Ballet, which continues to rehearse and perform in Teatr Wielki.
Under new name and status
Krzysztof Pastor, director of the Polish National Ballet, photo Łukasz Murgrabia
On 18 March 2009 Polish choreographer Krzysztof Pastor, already engaged with the Dutch National Ballet, became the director of the ballet of Teatr Wielki - Polish National Opera. He took over this position with Paweł Chynowski as his proxy only under the condition that the company receive artistic autonomy. Thanks to the efforts of Teatr Wielki’s general director Waldemar Dąbrowski on 29 April 2009 the Polish Minister of Culture and National Heritage Bogdan Zdrojewski took the decision to separately constitute the ballet in the theater’s by-laws, under the name Polish National Ballet. With the foundation of the Polish National Ballet, the company became autonomous and works as an equal partner to the Polish National Opera.
Polish National Ballet pursues a program of major classic dance formation. It performs an academic choreographic repertoire, but also reaches for 20th-century ballet masterpieces. Invitations are extended to outstanding contemporary choreographers; it also introduces works by young Polish choreographers. With nearly 90 dancers it includes both Polish and foreign dancers and affiliated specialities. The company performs regularly at the Teatr Wielki, when it is not on tour in Poland or performing abroad.
Ballets staged by the Polish National Ballet from its establishing (year, ballet, choreographer):
^Halina Goldberg, The Age of Chopin (Indiana University 2004), p. 110. Accessed 2-17-04-11.
^Cyril W. Beaumont, The Art of Stanislas Idzikowski (London: Beaumont Press, 1926), pp. 7-8. Idzikowski (1894-1977) was ten when he started at the ballet school in Teatr Wielki. After his debut, when sixteen he left for London. In a few years Diaghilev asked him to join.
^Haskell, Arnold, ed. (1940). Ballet to Poland. New York: The MacMillan Company. pp. 29–32.
^Chujoy, Anatole (1949). The Dance Encyclopedia. New York: A.S.Barnes and Company. p. 426.
^Koegler, Horst (1977). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Ballet. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 280.
^Chujoy, Anatole (1949). The Dance Encyclopedia. New York: A.S.Barnes and Company. p. 265.
^Chujoy, Anatole (1949). The Dance Encyclopedia. New York: A.S. Barnes and Company. pp. 280–281.
^Haskell, Arnold L., ed. (1940). Ballet--To Poland. New York: The MacMillan Company. p. 9.
^Koegler, Horst (1977). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Ballet. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 318.
^Chujoy, Anatole (1949). The Dance Encyclopedia. New York: A.S. Barnes and Company. p. 285.
^Koegler, Horst (1977). The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Ballet. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 390.
^Bronislava Nijinska, Early Memoirs (New York: Holt Rinehart Winston 1981), pp. 3-13. Both parents (1891-1972) were professional ballet dancers who'd been trained at Teatr Wielki.
^Lynn Garafola, Diaghilev's Ballets Russes (Oxford University 1989), 122-134 (Nijinska); ix, 376 (reference to her Théâtre de la Danse [Paris 1932-1934] that "carried on Diaghilev's experimental tradition").
^Agnes de Mille, The Book of the Dance (London: Paul Hamlyn 1963), pp. 152-153 (Bronislava Nijinska).
^Turska, Irena (1983). Krótki Zarys Historii Tańca i Baletu. Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne. pp. 268–270.
^Mamontowicz-Łojek, Bozena. Terpsychora i lekkie muzy: Taniec widowiskowy w Polsce w okresie międzywojennym (1918-1939). Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne. pp. 59–64.