May 3 is the birthday of Askold Anatolievich Makarov: People's Artist of the USSR; an outstanding dancer, ballet master, and teacher; holder of the USSR State Award, the Order of Friendship, and the Order of Honour; president of the Saint-Petersburg Union of Concert Artists; and member of the World Club of Petersburgers.
Askold Makarov was a legendary ballet performer and one of the first dancers to bring Leonid Yacobson's choreography to life. Later on, he became Yacobson's successor and took up the reins of the theatre company that Yacobson had created.
From 1943 to 1970, Makarov performed the leading parts in over thirty classical and modern ballets, which were staged at the S.M. Kirov State Opera and Ballet Theatre in Leningrad (currently the Mariinsky Theatre).
In 1969, he received a Candidate of Sciences degree (higher than MA but lower than PhD) by presenting a thesis On Portraying Heroic Characters in Soviet Ballet. As a Candidate of Sciences and a professor, Askold Makarov took up teaching at the ballet master department of the Leningrad Conservatory in the 1970s and 1980s, and contributed a series of lectures titled The Classical and Soviet Ballet Heritage.
Alongside Marina Semyonova, Olga Lepeshinskaya, Natalya Dudinskaya, Konstantin Sergeev, Alla Osipenko, Natalya Makarova, and Mikhail Baryshnikov, Askold Makarov stunned the audiences with his brilliant renditions of Leonid Yacobson's innovative ballets and miniatures, such as Ali-Batyr/Shurale (1950), Spartacus (1956), and The Bedbug (1962). He became the first Spartacus of the Russian ballet world, and Aram Khachaturian himself pronounced him 'the best Spartacus ever'.
According to the Kommersant newspaper, Leonid Yacobson was the one who sensed the dancer's talent and moulded it into a series of colourful, memorable images, which made a resounding impact on Russian ballet:
'First, the audience watched a bulky, wide-eyed folklore warrior amble across the stage (the Shurale "fairy-tale ballet"). Then, he was followed by the stern, statue-like Spartacus (the Spartacus "mural ballet"). Makarov's tall, taciturn characters, with their clear gaze and fair hair, embodied the spirit of heroism, which received enthusiastic approval from the people responsible for the state's official ideology, but at the same time had absolutely nothing to do with the sugary Soviet pathos. And then, all of a sudden, Yacobson transformed Makarov into Vladimir Mayakovsky (The Bedbug "poster ballet"), and had him sculpt Prisypkin, his poem's protagonist, in a fit of bold, sweeping inspiration, right before the audience's eyes. The impression he made was absolutely shattering, close to a shock: even Lilya Brik herself recognized Makarov as the true Mayakovsky, the "heavy-stepping archangel", even though the dancer's appearance did not really match the character he was playing'.
(Yuliya Yakovleva, Kommersant — Saint-Petersburg, December 26, 2000)
In 1976, after Leonid Yacobson's death, Askold Makarov took over the Choreographic Miniatures Leningrad Ballet Company, which later became the Saint-Petersburg State Academic Leonid Yacobson Ballet Theatre.