Dance legend Moiseyev dead at 101

One of Russia’s most decorated cultural figures, choreographer Igor Moiseyev, has died of heart failure, aged 101. Just last year, he was described as a ‘genius and innovator’ by the New York Times.

The founder of what became known as the ‘Moiseyev Ensemble’, he was widely acclaimed as the greatest folk-dance choreographer of the 20th century.

“Moiseyev played an exceptional role in world dance,” former Bolshoi star Lyudmila Semenyaka told Interfax news agency on Friday. “He took folk dance to an incredible height, creating a new form of choreography,” she said.

Born in Kiev in 1906 to a family of a Russian lawyer and a French hat maker, he was educated in both countries and was spared Stalin’s purges of the 1930s.

In 1924 he joined the Bolshoi Theatre, but by 1936 Moiseyev had directed the First National Folk Dance Festival. It established him as one of the country's main choreographers and earned him patronage from top government. He was soon giving performances in the Kremlin.

During World War II, Moiseyev was able to preserve the unity of his ensemble and was touring all over the country bringing sparks of optimism in a time of hardship.

After the war, Moiseyev’s ensemble started touring the world. All in all, the company performed in more than 60 countries, earning an avalanche of praise.

“His greatest achievement was forming a genre in which he synthesised the classical choreography of the Bolshoi Theatre… with elements of folk dance,” Russia's minister for culture, Aleksandr Sokolov said Friday.

The company’s repertoire included around 300 dances of peoples from all over the world.

On the day of his centenary, he received the highest civilian decoration of Russia – Order for the Merit.

A memorial service will be held on Wednesday at Moscow's Tchaikovsky Concert Hall, an official at the Moiseyev Ballet told Interfax on Friday.