Leonid Yacobson Ballet Theatre made its very first appearance in Estonia, during the 10th anniversary Birgitta festival. The festival guests gathered together at a unique venue — an old convent on the Baltic shore — where they got a chance to see the famous Spartacus ballet, with choreography by Leonid Yacobson and music by Aram Khachaturian.
The dancers from the Saint-Petersburg Leonid Yacobson Ballet Theatre fascinated the Estonian press and mesmerized the local public by their beautiful and dynamic performance. On August 10, the day when Spartacus premièred in Estonia, the concert hall at the St. Birgitta Convent, which today has the seating capacity of about a thousand people (thanks to an unorthodox layout and technical renovations) was packed to the fullest. The great choreographer's famous production, brought to life by dancers from Saint-Petersburg, piqued the interest of diverse age and social groups, including families, elderly ballet-goers, young adults, and representatives of Tallinn's cultural, political, and business elite.
The festival's managers take special pride in one unique feature — the unusual and democratic distribution of space. During the festival, both the performers and the audience receive an equal share of 'ownership rights' to the convent's entire grounds. For instance, the dancers' dressing rooms and costume workshops — and a kind of temporary backstage — are all located inside large and small tents, which are all scattered across the lawns next to the convent's walls. This means that before and after the play, as well as during the intervals, the audience gets to see dancers darting around in full costume and make-up, mingling with the crowd like fantastic apparitions as they go about their business — and the entire lawn turns into an open-air theatre lobby. This type of space-sharing is usually adopted during rock festivals — but, as it turns out, it also fits classical art, and quite well, too, colouring the entire performance into a cornucopia of new shades and creating a one-of-a-kind, indescribable mood on both sides of the stage.
The festival's audience and participants gave the guests from Saint-Petersburg a warm, enthusiastic, and respectful greeting. The artists' astounding mastery of dance, flawlessly honed technique, and breathtaking talent for drama made the entire venue erupt into 'ooh's and 'aah's of awe and into thundering applause, and the proverbial Baltic composure seemed to have completely melted away. Some of the youngest members of the audience even jolted up from their seats and began to dance in the aisles, unable to resist the call of Aram Khachaturian's great music, with their widened eyes never leaving the stage. The adults, in turn, could not hold back tears during the play's grand finale, and were swept away by an outburst of emotion, calling the dancers to take a bow again and again and again. And even after the show was over and the festival's guests began to leave, they gave the dancers additional rounds of applause as they passed by the makeshift dressing rooms on their way out.