Biography


Prior to becoming a choreographer, Yuri Possokhov was a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, and Bolshoi Ballet.

(© Chris Hardy)

(© Chris Hardy)

Biography

Yuri Possokhov received his training under Pyotr Pestov at the Choreographic Ballet Academy in Moscow. Upon graduating in 1982, he joined the Bolshoi Ballet. During his ten years with the company, he worked primarily with Ballet Master Yuri Grigorovich and was quickly promoted to become one of the premier dancers in the company, partnering Natalia Bessmertnova, Ludmila Semenyaka, Nadezhda Pavlova, and Galina Stepanenko. During his time with The Bolshoi, Possokhov performed the leading roles in almost all of the classical and contemporary ballets in the repertoire at that time. He danced the lead role in the Bolshoi’s premiere of The Prodigal Son, the company’s first performance of a work by George Balanchine.

While performing, Possokhov studied choreography and the teaching of ballet at the State College of Theatrical Arts, completing the five-year course under Evgeny Valukin in 1990. In addition to participating in the Bolshoi’s frequent international tours, Possokhov was often invited to perform as a guest artist in Europe, Asia and Latin America. He also performed with Bolshoi ballerina Nina Ananiashvili’s own company, Ananiashvili and Friends, in numerous performances and galas worldwide.

In 1992, at the invitation of Ballet Master Frank Andersen, Possokhov joined the Royal Danish Ballet as a principal dancer. Performing many leading roles on the stage of The Royal Danish Theater, Possokhov’s repertory diversified with works by John Neumeier, Anna Laerkesen, George Balanchine, and John Cranko. Possokhov was also cast in the role of Prince Desiré in the Royal Danish Ballet premiere of Helgi Tomasson’s The Sleeping Beauty. The following year, he was invited to dance a guest performance at San Francisco Ballet’s opening night gala, after which Helgi Tomasson invited him to join the company as a principal dancer.

Possokhov spent the following 12 years dancing with San Francisco Ballet, performing leading roles with the company both in San Francisco and abroad, and partnering many of the company’s ballerinas, including Yuan Yuan Tan, Joanna Berman and Lucia Lacarra. During this period, he began choreographing. In 1997, he completed three separate works – Songs of Spain and A Duet for Two set on fellow San Francisco Ballet Principal Dancers Muriel Maffre and Joanna Berman; and Impromptu Scriabin for San Francisco Ballet Soloist Felipe Diaz. He also organized a program titled Ballet Beyond Borders, with sixteen dancers from San Francisco Ballet, which performed in five cities in Russia. The success of the tour led to additional performances with San Francisco Ballet dancers in Japan, China and Denmark in the following years.

In 1998, Possokhov premiered in the title role of Lar Lubovitch’s Othello — a co-production of the San Francisco Ballet and American Ballet Theatre (ABT) — and reprised the role as a guest artist with ABT in New York City the same year.

In 2000, Yuri Possokhov created Magrittomania, a work commissioned for San Francisco Ballet’s Discovery Program and inspired by the paintings of René Magritte. The ballet won an Isadora Duncan Dance Award for outstanding choreography the following year. In 2002, Possokhov premiered Damned, a work based on Euripides’ play Medea. The piece was performed during the season and was taken on tour to New York City with the company that fall. Damned was subsequently re-staged and performed under the name Medea at The Perm Opera and Ballet Theater (Russia) in 2009. In 2003, he co-choreographed a full-length production of Don Quixote with San Francisco Ballet Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson, which the company subsequently performed in Los Angeles and Paris. Study in Motion, set to the music of Alexander Scriabin, was Possokhov’s piece for San Francisco Ballet in 2004, which was performed in London the same year and reprised in San Francisco the following season. The same year, he was invited by Oregon Ballet Theater (OBT) to create a new production of Firebird, which was so successful that he was invited back the following year to create La Valse.

For San Francisco Ballet’s 2005 Repertory Season, Possokhov created Reflections, a piece set to the music of Felix Mendelssohn. In early 2006, he was invited by the Bolshoi Ballet to create a full-length Cinderella, which premiered to critical acclaim and was performed by the company in Moscow, at the Royal Opera House in London, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. As part of San Francisco’s earthquake centennial in 2006, Possokhov created Ballet Mori, which was performed by SFB principal dancer Muriel Maffre. After the 2006 Repertory Season, Yuri Possokhov retired from the stage as a principal dancer; his last performance was during the company’s tour to New York’s Lincoln Center that summer.  

Following his retirement, he joined the Artistic Staff at San Francisco Ballet as a Choreographer in Residence, where he continually choreographs new works for the company and dances principal character roles. In 2006, he created Once More, a ballet performed at the New Century Chamber Orchestra Gala by Joanna Berman and principal dancer Damian Smith. The following year, he premiered his Firebird with San Francisco Ballet, adapted from his previous work for Oregon Ballet Theater. In 2007, The Georgia State Ballet commissioned Sagalobeli, a one-act work that the company presented on its first-ever American tour in 2008.

In the following years, Yuri Possokhov has continued to create new works for each of San Francisco Ballet’s repertory seasons, including Fusion, Diving Into the Lilacs, Classical Symphony, RAkU, and Francesca da Rimini. Both Classical Symphony, originally premiered in 2010, and RAkU in 2011, have been presented on the company’s national and international tours, including an engagement at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theater. Yuri Possokhov is a frequent guest at Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet, having staged both Bells and a new full-length Don Quixote for the company in 2011. In 2012, Possokhov returned to Copenhagen and created Narcisum, commissioned by the Royal Danish Ballet. His latest work for San Francisco Ballet was Rite of Spring, choreographed in 2013 to mark the centennial year of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps.

Roles

San Francisco Ballet

Full Length

  • Albrecht, Giselle (Tomasson)
  • Title Role in Othello (Lubovitch)
  • Title Role in Romeo & Juliet (Tomasson)
  • Prince Desiré, The Sleeping Beauty (Tomasson)
  • Prince Siegfried, Swan Lake (Tomasson)

Balanchine

  • Principal in Emeralds
  • Phlegmatic in The Four Temperaments
  • Liebeslieder Walzer
  • Rubies Pas de Deux
  • Aria I in Stravinsky Violin Concerto
  • Principal in Symphony in C
  • Principal in Symphony in Three Movements

Tomasson

  • Created Principal Role in 7 for Eight
  • Created Role in Chaconne for Piano and Two Dancers
  • Created Role of Dragon in Chi-Lin
  • Created Principal Role in Criss-Cross
  • Principal in Handel – a Celebration
  • Nanna's Lied
  • Created Principal Role in Sonata
  • Created Principal Role in Tuning Game
  • Created Role in Twilight, Pas de Deux
  • Valses Poeticos

Robbins

  • A Suite of Dances
  • Dances at a Gathering
  • Glass Pieces, 2nd Movement Pas de Deux 
  • In the Night, 3rd Movement Pas de Deux

MacMillan

  • Elite Syncopations
  • The Husband in The Invitation

Welch

  • La Cathédrale Engloutie
  • Created Principal Role in Maninyas

Morris

  • Created Role in Sandpaper Ballet
  • Created Role of Orion in Sylvia

Bintley

  • Death in The Dance

Flindt

  • The Professor in The Lesson

Caniparoli

  • Created solo Aria
  • Created Role of Marcello in Ciao, Marcello
  • Principal in Death of a Moth
  • Principal in Lambarena
  • Principal in Slow

Bruce

  • Sergeant Early’s Dream

Duato

  • Without Words

Wheeldon

  • Continuum
  • Polyphonia
  • Created Role in Quaternary
  • Created Principal Role in Sea Pictures

Christensen

  • Juggler in Jinx

Lubovitch

  • “… smile with my heart”

Kudelka

  • Terra Firma, Pas de Deux

Hirayama

  • Revelation

Royal Danish Ballet

  • Divertimento No. 15 (Balanchine)
  • The Prince in Etudes (Lander)
  • Created Role in Kinder Toten Lieder (Laerkesen)
  • Knaben Wunderhorn (Neumeier)
  • Mahler’s Fifth Symphony (Neumeier)
  • The Prince in Nutcracker (Flint)
  • Lensky in Onegin (Cranko)
  • Polacca (Laerkesen)
  • Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet (Neumeier)
  • Prince Desiré in The Sleeping Beauty (Tomasson)
  • The Poet in The Sleepwalker (Balanchine)
  • Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux (Balanchine)
  • Tzigane (Balanchine)
  • Whisper and Gliding (Laerkesen)

Bolshoi Ballet

  • La Bayadère (Grigorovich after Petipa)
  • Le Corsaire, Pas de Deux (Petipa) 
  • Cyrano and Christian in Cyrano de Bergerac (Petit)
  • Kurbsky in Ivan the Terrible (Grigorovich)
  • Nayada & The Fisherman (Petipa)
  • The Prince in Nutcracker (Grigorovich)
  • The Prisoner (Petit)
  • Prodigal Son (Balanchine)
  • Raymonda, Act III (Grigorovich after Petipa)
  • Title Role in Romeo & Juliet (Grigorovich)
  • Prince Desiré in The Sleeping Beauty (Grigorovich)
  • Swan Lake (Grigorovich after Petipa)
  • La Sylphide, Pas de Deux (Bournonville)
  • Les Sylphides (Fokine)
  • Talisman (Petipa/Gousev)
  • Three Moods (Galeizovsky)

Roles in Other Companies 

  • Anaïs, Pas de Deux (Haigen)
  • Don Quixote, Pas de Deux
  • Giselle, Georgia State Ballet
  • Giselle, Lisbon Opera and Ballet Theater (Saint-Léon/Petipa)
  • Manon, Pas de Deux (MacMillan)
  • Title Role in Othello, American Ballet Theater (Lubovitch)
  • Title Role in Romeo & Juliet, Kirov Ballet (Lavrovsky)
  • Swan Lake, Georgia State Ballet
  • Swan Lake, Malmö Ballet (Kåge)
  • La Sylphide, Georgia State Ballet
  • Pas de Deux (Caniparoli)