Ever since I was fourteen and read Tamara Karsavina's Theatre Street, I had wanted to visit the school that she described so endearingly in her autobiography. Finally, in 1973,1 was in Leningrad and had a chance to see what is now known as the Vaganova Choreographic Institute. After several engrossing hours of watching classes, I was called into the office where I was invited to ask questions but was first asked to listen to an explanation. “We know,” said the young man appointed as spokesman, “that you have visited the very modern new school that is now used by the Bolshoi Ballet. We want you to know that we, too, were offered a new building by the Soviet government, but we did not accept it. We told the government that, unlike Moscow, we have a great tradition that was created and nurtured within these walls. We are proud of this tradition and we want to remain here.”
If I had not already loved the Leningrad school because of Karsavina, I would have loved it then.
The film The Children of Theatre Street tries to capture some of this feeling of inheritance, and at times it succeeds. We see the rapt faces of the young students as they stand beneath portrait's of past masters who walked these same halls, beneath views of dancers who preceded them, perhaps at that same space at the barre. The face of tradition, like that of a parent, is both loving and demanding. The children are intensely aware of their responsibility; we respond to their consuming dedication as the film concentrates on the daily lives of two young students, Angelina Armeiskaya and Alec Timoushin. But watching moments of their classes, we long to see more of their dancing. Of course, it is interesting to see the school cafeteria and a dormitory bedroom, but a glimpse would have sufficed.