The Pittsfield-based Bossov Ballet Theatre is undergoing changes with artistic director Andrei Bossov’s return to Russia in August and the retirement of executive director Michael Wyly.
But the nonprofit ballet company and school at Maine Central Institute will continue to offer world-class instruction and performances, according to Bossov officials.
Until August, Bossov Ballet was a separate entity from MCI; but now it is a program of the school and continues to work closely with the Waterville Opera House, where many of its performances are held.
“It’s an exciting new chapter in the extraordinary, pre-professional ballet program,” MCI Headmaster Christopher Hopkins said.
Key to continuing the high quality of Bossov’s work is the appointment of Natalya Nikolaevna Getman as the ballet’s new director, according to Hopkins. Getman was Bossov’s assistant artistic director for 12 years.
“She is a perfect mix of honoring the tradition of classical Russian ballet — in particular, the Vaganova technique — blended with an understanding of what today’s ballet dancers need to be successful in professional companies,” Hopkins said.
Getman, an accomplished dancer, performed with the Moscow Ballet in more than 40 cities around the world before joining Bossov in 2001.
She also has produced and choreographed many shows at Waterville Opera House.
“I love what I’m doing,” she said.
Bossov includes children ages 6-13, some of whom live in the school district towns of Pittsfield, Burnham and Detroit, according to Hopkins. High school students also are enrolled in the ballet, including those from MCI, which is a private academy that accepts boarding students from around the world and also is contracted by the three-town district as its high school.
The program is based in Founders Hall on the MCI campus. With the recent changes, the six-week summer program will consist of two one-week sessions and one four-week session instead of the former one-week session and five-week session, according to Hopkins.
Bossov is rehearsing for its annual performance of “The Nutcracker” at Waterville Opera House. Getman said audiences will see a full-length ballet Dec. 13 to 15 with many changes from previous years aimed at enhancing the magical spirit of Christmas.
Opera House Executive Director Diane Bryan said Getman’s moving into the artistic director’s role was a natural progression.
“From my point of view, we’re continuing our collaboration with Bossov Ballet Theatre as usual, but it’s kind of added a nice piece to it. We’re working with MCI as well.”
With the recent Bossov changes, the Opera House this season is producing “The Nutcracker,” which will start dress rehearsals in Waterville this week. Hopkins is excited about MCI’s new role, working in an arena that includes a newly-renovated Opera House, expanded Colby College Museum of Art and other cultural activities in and around Waterville.
Founding a legacy
Andrei Bossov, 60, moved back to St. Petersburg, Russia, in August after 20 years in the U.S.
“The time came that I cannot continue living away from my family,” Bossov said this week in an email.
Bossov, who started the ballet with founder Wyly 18 years ago, said he plans to come back to Maine regularly to visit and be an integral part of the ballet program.
He hopes the MCI-Bossov merger will help it grow and gain more financial stability. His wishes for Bossov are that the studios are improved and more teachers are hired to help to attract more students, he said.
“I hope that MCI will fulfill these needs,” he said.
He described Bossov as a very good school of classical ballet, producing dancers ready for professional work in top ballet companies around the world.
“Three of our students were accepted in Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg,” he said. “One (Gabrielle Perkins) is a student there now.”
Wyly, now 73, hopes the ballet program will continue to send students to St. Petersburg every other year, as it has in the past, he said. Because of his status, Bossov got students into places most people could not access in the city, he said.
“It’s such an experience. The dancers come back literally transformed,” he said.
Wyly spoke affectionately about the ballet and Bossov, whom he counts as a close friend.
Their partnership started when he persuaded Bossov to return to the U.S. from Russia in 1996. Bossov had been in the U.S. earlier and had worked with dancers at what was then the Waterville Performing Arts Center.
“I called Andre, transatlantic, and said, ‘We need to get you back,’” Wyly recalled. “I met him at Boston’s Logan Airport in 1996. It was the 23rd of February, 1996, that I put my money down at the Augusta State House and founded Bossov Ballet Theatre as a nonprofit.”
Wyly’s wife, Linda, sewed costumes for the company; and their daughter, Summer, studied under Bossov. Wyly said he wanted the best teacher for her and knew they had found it in Bossov.
Over the years, both Bossov and Getman, who auditioned to work with Bossov in 2001, got their U.S. citizenship. Wyly, a retired 30-year U.S. Marine colonel with a master’s degree in Russian history, taught Russian history to the ballet students. In addition to ballet, Bossov also taught freestyle dancing and acting, according to Wyly.
“He’s very proud of what he did here and of course was very affectionate toward his dancers, and they with him,” he said.
Wyly said he imagined from the ballet’s inception that it eventually would be turned over to MCI.
Getman is thrilled to be working with MCI and the Opera House in directing “The Nutcracker,” her first full-length ballet.
“It is very special to me, very near and dear to my heart,” she said.
“The Nutcracker” is the story of Clara, a little girl whose parents host a big party on Christmas Eve. The children receive toys as gifts; Clara’s is a nutcracker. She eventually falls asleep, dreaming the toys and tree come to life and her nutcracker turns into a prince. She rides on a sleigh with the prince through a snowy forest before waking up to find it has all been a dream.
The ballet is choreographed to music composed by Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky.
“To me, choreography is not just the movement,” Getman says. “It’s enhancing the music — because the music came first. The inspiration for me is the music.”
Getman’s cast includes about four dozen children, teenagers and adults.
“The professional level of their execution is very high,” she said. “It makes me very pleased.”
Like Wyly, Getman said one does not have to be educated in ballet to enjoy and appreciate it. If a ballet is well done, certain moments will be etched in the viewer’s mind, according to Getman.
“I hope we succeed in this production to leave good memories,” she said.
Performances are scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 13 and 14 and 2 p.m. Dec. 14 and 15.