Music: New Line at the Bolshoi

"Physical training!" snorted one elderly Russian balletomane, stomping out of Moscow's cavernous Bolshoi Theater. "Pantomime!" jeered another. Inside, the spectators traded insults for a full 15 minutes after the final curtain. Source of their excitement: a new ballet entitled Spartacus, marking the first major departure from the classic choreographic style in which Russian ballet has been frozen on pointe for 30 years.

After famed reforming Choreographer Michel Fokine finally left Russia in 1918, the country's ballet degenerated for a time into choreographed political posters, continued to develop impressive technical skill. But it...

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