Anastas Petrov – patriarch of Bulgarian ballet

Photo: archive

On September 1, 115 years ago Bulgarian ballet patriarch Anastas Petrov was born. He devoted almost all his life to the development of this beautiful art in Bulgaria. His ballet training started when he was already 23 years old – an unprecedented fact in the history of ballet. Under the directions of Eugenia Eduardova in Berlin he quickly progressed and was admitted to the Staatsoper. A little later he returned to Bulgaria in 1927 and became ballet soloist at the Sofia Opera. He later decided to present to the native audience one of the masterpieces in his ballet repertoire. In an interview given at an old age, Anastas Petrov recalls:

“The first ballet performance in Bulgaria was "Coppelia" by Leo Delibes. I presented it a year after I started working in Sofia. Due to the lack of ballet dancers, some of the roles were played by opera singers and actors. I performed the role of Franz. Responses were very interesting. This was something completely new for the Bulgarian audience and they did not know how to embrace this art in which nobody sings or speaks. Most of the first Bulgarian ballet dancers were amateurs, but everyone danced with inspiration. My major goal was to create a ballet school. I established my own school and I was simultaneously choreographer, soloist, tutor etc. There was a period when the number of students in the school reached 120 people. All my success is due to my hard work and endless love for ballet. I also put on stage the first Bulgarian ballet - "Zmei and Yana" by Hristo Manolov.”

СнимкаDespite his advanced age and bad health, Anastas Petrov continued to work with the students from the ballet school almost to the end of his life. Among his students were Lili Beron, Asen Manolov, Luba Kolchakova and many others. In an interview, preserved in the Golden Fund of the Bulgarian National Radio, Krasimira Koldamova shares her memories about the founder of Bulgarian ballet:

"I always wanted to be the best. My dream was supported by the founder of the Bulgarian ballet Anastas Petrov. He was the director, and we were five girls who graduated from the ballet school in the theater. Not a single day passed without him asking me: "Do you like any role? If so, start rehearsing immediately as you may perform it one day! "He always urged us to develop and I had my first role in "Giselle" thanks to him. But he used to help not only the prima ballerinas but all the young ballerinas in order for them to have the opportunity to express themselves."

In memory of Anastas Petrov a ballet contest for young dancers in Petrov’s home town of Dobrich has been organized since 1982. This summer the 16th edition of the festival took place.

English: Alexander Markov

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