Russian ballet company founded in 1776 and based at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. With their mixed repertory of classics and new works, the Bolshoi is noted for its grand scale productions and the dancers' dramatic and eloquent technique. The choreographer Yuri Grigorovich was the Bolshoi's artistic director 1964–94.
The Bolshoi was formed by English entrepreneur Michael Maddox and Prince Urusov, a patron of the arts. Its dancers were recruited from the Moscow Orphanage where the first classes were conducted 1773. It provided dancers for the Petrovsky Theatre, established 1780, on the site of the present Bolshoi Theatre, which was opened 1825. In contrast to the Kirov Ballet where the dancing was more purist, the Bolshoi tended to be earthier and more contemporary in style and theme. Initially overshadowed by the Kirov, the Bolshoi came into its own in the late 19th century with the first staging of Petipa's Don Quixote 1877 and Swan Lake 1877. Under Alexander Gorsky (died 1942), the Bolshoi's style of highly dramatic action woven into the dance, innovative stage designs, and symphonic music, was developed. It was not until Leonid Lavrovsky (1905–1967) transferred as artistic director from the Kirov to the Bolshoi 1944, along with prima ballerinas Galina Ulanova and Maya Plisetskaya that the creative emphasis shifted to Moscow. Since the 1960s the Bolshoi has concentrated on highly spectacular and heroic productions of the classics and modern works, such as Spartacus 1968 and The Golden Age 1982.