Vainonen, Vasily Ivanovich (1901–1964) By Scholl, Tim
Dancer and choreographer Vasily Vainonen created several signature choreographic works of the Soviet ballet repertoire of the 1930s, including composer Boris Afasiev’s The Flames of Paris (1932) and Partisan Days (1937). Vainonen made his debut as a choreographer at the cusp of a shift from the experimental works he danced in the 1920s to the drambalet (dramatized ballet) of the 1930s. His best-known works were pivotal in this transition, foreshadowing the emphasis on psychological realism and folk dance material to highlight the participation of politicized masses. Vainonen’s most celebrated works featured bravura dances, especially for men, and folklore adaptations, which highlighted the corps de ballet as a dancing collective.
Vainonen graduated from the Petrograd Dance Academy (now the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet) in 1919. He remained with the former Maryinsky Ballet (later, the Kirov Ballet) until 1938, working increasingly as a choreographer during the 1930s. As a dancer, Vainonen distinguished himself in character roles, including the Moor in Leonid Leontiev’s version of Petrushka (1920), the cat in Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty (1890), and folk dance divertissements in a number of nineteenth-century ballets.