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Aleksandr Shiryayev

Shiryaev Aleksandr
Ширяев Александр Викторович

1867 - 1941


Shiryayev was a ballet dancer, ballet master and choreographer who served at the Mariinsky Theatre. He also, from 1906-1909, created the earliest known animated films made in Russia, using puppet animation, drawn animation, and mixed techniques.

In 2003, Russian documentarist and ballet historian Viktor Bocharov released a one-hour movie titled A Belated Premiere which included fragments of different films by Shiryaev (this can currently be seen on Youtube, in 4 parts). Prior to this, the earliest Russian animated films had been widely thought to have been made by Ladislas Starevich, from 1910-1913.

Around 2008, Bocharov managed to get funding from the Pordenone Silent Film Festival to restore the negatives, as the facilities for restoration of 17.5mm film did not exist in Russia. Aardman Animations also became involved. It is not clear what happened next, as the films have not been released to the public in any way, except for the footage from the 2003 documentary (in low resolution). Although, there has been a 70-minute compilation of all of Shiryayev's known films that was screened at least twice, in 2010 and 2018.

Here is the list of films:

Puppet animation (filmed with a 35mm camera)

- Children's dance from the ballet "Fairy of the Dolls" (01:20) / Детский танец из балета “Фея кукол”
- Hindu dance from La Bayadere (03:00) / Танец хинду из “Баядерка”
- Two Pierrots play ball (01:20) / Два Пьерро играют в мяч
- Dancing Mulatto (00:30) / Танцующий мулат
- Pierrot-actors, Version 1 (03:00) / Актёры-Пьерро, Версия 1 (03:00)
- Pierrot-actors, Version 2 (OR Pierrot-artists?) (05:35), the only film actually named by Shiryayev, “Comedy film with dolls, created by the artist A.V. Shiryaev” / Актёры-Пьерро, Версия 2 (Пьеро художники)
- “The Joke of the Harlequin”, 5 scenes, (10:00), based on the ballet “Harlequinada” (“Les millions d'Arlequin”) by Ricardo Drigo, first staged by Marius Petipa in 1900. / “Шутка Арлекина”

Animation on paper

All of Shiryaev's paper films were digitally recreated by David Sproxton.

- “Birds in Flight” (20:00) / Птицы в полете, a film about a bird's flight, drawn in a continuous line.
- “Snake” (15:00) / Змея, shot with a 17.5 mm camera, the film depicts the movement of a snake.
- “Cakewalk” (02:00) / Кейквок, an ancient dance of slaves, gained wide popularity in America at the beginning of the 20th century. Shiryayev tried to capture the characteristic folk dance.
- Dance of the clown ("The Nutcracker") (01:30) / Танец паяца (“Щелкунчик”), Shiryaev performed this dance in 1892 on the stage of the Mariinsky Theater.

Trick films

The third block combines several trick films (mixing animation and live action) recorded with a 17.5mm camera (with perforation in the middle of the frame). Some of them have been restored at Prestech Laboratories in London in 2008, with support from the Silent Film Festival in Pordenone and Aardman Animation.

- “Apartment spider” (01:52) / Квартирный паук, a new tenant settled in his bedroom, went to bed and got ready for sleep...
- “Delightful tea table” (00:45) / Восхитительный чайный столик, a boy (Andrey Shiryayev) sits at a table, and objects begin to move on the tabletop at will. The film demonstrates the use of thread and wire to animate objects - the same technique Shiryaev later uses to animate dolls.
- “Magic dressing” (00:30) / Магическое одевание, Shiryayev catches clothes appearing in the air. To create the trick, he works with the reversing technique.
- “Pierrot and the Girl” (three versions with variations) (06:00) / Пьеро и девушка, Pierrot disappears and appears in the film several times, transforming from a doll into a person and vice versa.
- “Circus performers” (00:35) / Цирковые артисты, juggler, dancer and strongman take turns lifting heavy weights. Then it is the turn of the little boy, who easily lifts the weights and carries them away.

Dance films

A number of dance films in Shiryaev's archive are dedicated to the filming of a characteristic dance. All dance block films were shot with a 17.5mm camera. The dances are performed by Aleksandr Shiryayev and his wife in the open air.

- Ukrainian folk dance (01:30) / Украинский народный танец
- Cossack dance (01:20) / Казацкий танец
- Dance of the Jester from the ballet "Mlada" (Marius Petipa) (01:02) / Танец Шута из балета “Млада” (Мариус Петипа)
- Dance of the little corsairs from the ballet "Corsair" (01:00) / Танец маленьких корсаров из балета “Корсар”
- Hungarian dance (02:00) / Венгерский танец
- Japanese Fan Dance (02:00) / Японский танец с веером
- Characteristic dance with a tambourine: Esmeralda (Saracen dance) (01:00) / Характерный танец с тамбурином: Эсмеральда (Сарацинский танец)
- Characteristic dance with a tambourine: Matelot (02:00) / Характерный танец с тамбурином: Мателот


A list of films by this director, ordered by year. For more search and sort options, please go here.

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