Russia’s Mythical Isolation And International Culture Festivals

Even the most sophisticated art, dance and music connoisseur would be overwhelmed with Moscow’s cultural events as the city has truly transformed itself into one of the major international world capitals for international festivals. While mainstream Western media often talk about Russia’s sanctions and isolation on the world scene, musicians, ballet dancers and just plain music lovers and spectators from all over the world flock to Moscow to take advantage of the city’s abundant cultural life, in spite of what their politicians and media proclaim about Russia.

Such festivals as the International Grand piano competition for young pianists, Valery Gergiev’s “Easter Festival,” the international ballet festival “Benois de la Dance,” international documentary film festival “Doker,” and the “Cherry Forest” international open culture festival are just a few of the many international cultural events taking place in Russia these days, particularly in Moscow.

International Grand Piano Competition. On April 30th, 2016, the first International piano competition for young musicians (under the age of 16) took place at the Grand hall of Moscow ‘s P. I. Tchaikovsky Conservatory. The “founding father” and the artistic director of this pioneer musical event for young talents, Denis Matzuev, a world-renowned pianist, opened the competition along with a famous conductor from the Mariinsky Theater, Valery Gergiev. The distinguished guests included professors from the world’s leading music schools and conservatories who came to Moscow from Israel, the UK, Sweden, Switzerland and other countries.

The Grand Piano Competition featured true virtuosos from all over the world (107 participants from 18 countries) and often it was hard to believe these musicians were all under the age of 16 as the complexity of the pieces they played and their mastery of the piano were astounding! For example, how could a fragile girl of 11 (a Japanese pianist Shio Okui) perform with such vigor and brilliance Grieg’s concerto for piano and orchestra in A minor? Thanks to the internet platform for classical music videos,, the main events of the completion were live-streamed with the competition being watched by more than 240 000 viewers.


Valery Gergiev, who performed at the opening of the competition, had a very busy schedule. At almost the same time as the Grand Piano Competition, Maestro Gergiev also organized the Easter Festival. While performing in Moscow (at the Conservatory, Tchaikovsky Hall and the music hall of the Christ the Savior Cathedral) as well as other venues all over Russia, Mr. Gergiev still managed to fit in a concert in Palmyra, Syria, where he flew in between performances and gave a brilliant concert among the ruins. This notable event was reported on front pages all over the world, receiving significant international exposure, as Western culture returned to an historic site that ISIS terrorists had so badly damaged during their occupation.

Benois de la Dance. Another notable event in the cultural life of Russia and Moscow was the festival of world ballet, “Benois de la Danse.” On May 17, in Russia’s historical Bolshoi Theater, the laureates of the Benois de la Danse 2016 Prize were announced, followed by the traditional gala concert of the laureates. The dancers and the jury came from the US, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia, China, Sweden and other countries. The international ballet prize, Benois de la Danse, known throughout the world as the “Oscar of Dance,” is awarded each year to the best in the world of dance from the previous 12 months. The project was established in 1991 by the Moscow International Dance Association (now the International Dance Union) and in 23 years of its existence the award ceremonies have taken place in Moscow, Paris, Warsaw, Berlin and other cities. The two-day “feast for the eyes“ showcased ballet and modern dance talents from all over the world, all on the on the historical stage of the Bolshoi Theater.

Esmeralda 8657 photo by M.Logvinov 17.5.16

Cherry Forest Arts Festival. Exhibitions of the ballet and theatrical costumes, world famous musicians, theater performances, dance, and music are all part of the notable “Cherry Tree Forest Arts Festival,” which takes place in Moscow every year. This year, the festival’s culmination will be the performances of the legendary Teatro alla Scala in Moscow. The press conference for the upcoming cooperation between the Bolshoi and Teatro all Scala took place on May 23, 2016, with the director of the world famous Italian theater, Alexander Pereiro; the Italian Ambassador to Russia, Cesare Regaglini; and Boslhoi theater director, Vladimir Urin. Speaking in Italian, Mr. Pereiro noted that this is a “stupid moment,” referring to the EU/US sanctions imposed on Russia, which he said negatively affect everybody, even those in the West.

While attending these remarkable events, it is very easy to forget about politics. Even if world peace may seem to be at its most fragile state since the Cold War, humanity is still one big family united by art. If only political leaders could also lead the way through politics, just as our artists and musicians and dancers do through culture.


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