MARIS LIEPA 1936 -1989 


"Portrait of Maris Liepa"

Aythor pf Rinat Kuramshin

Maris Liepa was a Soviet Latvian ballet dancer. He graduated from Riga Choreography School. He performed in Moscow for the first time in 1950. At the height of career, Liepa was considered one of the finest male dancers in the world and one of the most versatile, at home in a wide range of roles. 
After graduation from Moscow Choreography School in 1955 he returned to Riga and the Latvian Opera and Ballet Theatre. His dream however was to return and dance in Moscow. He received an invitation to dance in Budapest as part of a festival of Russian-Hungarian Culture and on 9 March 1956 danced his first Siegfried in Swan Lake partnering the distinguished ballerina, Maya Plisetskaya. He also had a great success dancing Vaslav in The Fountain of Bakhchisarai. 
From 1956 to 1960 he was soloist of the Ballet of Lyric Theatre Stanislavsky and Nemchirovich-Danchenko Moscow. His roles at the Stanislavsky included Siegfried in Swan Lake, Lionel in Joan of Arc, Feb in Esmeralda, and Conrad in Le Corsaire. The last role was an immense success.

Finally, the dream of a talented dancer came true, and he began performing on the stage of the Bolshoi Theater in 1960. Very soon he was already busy in almost all the most famous and famous productions, starting with Don Quixote and ending with Spartak. Four years have passed and personnel changes have taken place at the Bolshoi Theater.

Yuri Grigorovich became the main choreographer of the famous team. He is trying to bring his vision to the performances. Began a very fruitful partnership, which resulted in two particularly important roles for Liepa. The first was Ferkhad in Legend of Love in 1965 and his superb Crassus in Spartacus in 1968. In “Spartacus” Maris always played the main role, but Grigorovich offered him the role of another character - Crassus. In fact he started rehearsing the title role.

Maris Liepa as Crassus in the ballet "Spartacus"

Maris Liepa

in the role of Hamlet

M.Liepa and M.Kondratieva in the ballet "Giselle"

A scene from the ballet "Spartacus"

A scene from the ballet "The Vision of the Rose" M.Liepa and N.Bessmertnova

The original intention had been to create a more dramatic character role from Crassus but together with Grigorovich an entirely different stage role was created. This was the absolute pinnacle of Liepa's stage career drawing rave notices all over the world, The immense emotional storm created by his partnership with Nina Timofeyeva in Spartacus will probably not be equalled. The troupe was awarded the Lenin Prize. On foreign tours artists expected a warm welcome and rave reviews.

Maris Liepa  had a solid technique and clarity in execution of classical steps. This made him a very successful Desiré in Sleeping Beauty and also a fine Siegfried in Swan Lake and Jean de Brienne in Raymonda, as well as a lively Basil in Don Quixote. However the fusion of acting and dance within the classical vocabulary found its best in Liepa as Albrecht in Giselle. He partnered most of his ballerina contemporaries in Moscow in this role, particularly Ekaterina Maximova, Nina Timofeyeva and Natalia Bessmertnova. However, the most renowned partnership in his home theatre was with Marina Kondratieva. They performed many ballets together and had a special rapport on stage.

Maris Liepa and British choreographer Marie Rambert

Book by Maris Liepa "I want to dance for

a hundred years"

Maris Liepa

Maris Liepa and Margot Fontaine - Prima ballerina of the Royal Ballet of London

He was always seeking new creative challenges.  Liepa  also produced a number of ballets within Russia and staged Spectre de la Rose at the Bolshoi Theatre in 1967 dancing with Bessmertnova. In Maya Plisetskaya's Anna Karenina he played Vronsky and Karenin.He retired from the Bolshoi in 1984 and led the Sofia Ballet in Bulgaria in 1984-85.
He was very drawn to acting and made several films of dramatic roles, which made him well known across the Russian-speaking world. A ballet film Galatea based on My Fair Lady in which he starred with Ekaterina Maximova proved extremely popular.

As a dancer Maris Liepa was a great individualist, fusing drama and dance with complete success. A highly intellectual performer, he went to great pains to achieve depth in his interpretations. He had spontaneity and each of his roles very much "lived" on the stage.
There is little documentary evidence of his dancing apart from the complete filmed version of Spartacus. But this is a wholly satisfying record encapsulating all his qualities as a dance actor.

Maris Liepa was honoured with a Lenin Prize for his portrayal of Crassus. Moreover, he was awarded the title of People's Artist of the USSR. From the Paris Academy of Dance he received the Nijinsky Prize  and the Marius Petipa Prize.

In 1996, the Charitable Foundation for the Promotion of Choreographic Art named after Maris Liepa was founded. The foundation is run by the children of Marisa Liepa, the successors of the traditions of the Liepa ballet dynasty - People's Artist of Russia Andris Liepa and People's Artist of Russia Ilse Liepa.