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Composing pictures

THE BOLSHOI, AT THE BOLSHOI SCHOOL. CD-Rom for Research Machines and IBM and compatible multimedia PCs, Pounds 49.99. Cd Vision, Bedford Chambers, The Piazza, Covent Garden, London WC2E 8HA. Tel: 0171 240 7764. Wilf Rees clicks his way around the Bolshoi stage.

This multimedia product has a touch of class, and stands apart from the usual run-of-the-mill format so characteristic of many current releases. What Bolshoi does is combine a history of the Bolshoi company, together with information about the gifted performers and choreographers, architectural features of the theatre, and a description of six major ballets. All are interrelated in a very tasteful, and beautifully-presented format. The quality of the photographs is stunning, and the supporting literature gives a deep insight into the techniques, practices and dedication of this distinguished company.

There are five options from the main menu screen, and these are presented as loose freehand drawings. The Bolshoi Company looks closely at the history of the Bolshoi school and, through an alphabetical sequence of delightful photographs, describes a brief history of many of the key dancers. The famous choreographers are also detailed, describing their characteristic styles and traits.

Architecture is a guided tour around the current Bolshoi Theatre, with photographs of the elaborate decorations and antiques throughout the building, as well as a history of the occasional destruction by fire and subsequent rebuilding.

The Ballets, which is my favourite section, takes six major ballets and, with a combination of photographs, texts and video clips, gives a layman's guide to the story behind these major works. It is superbly informative, and as a bonus we can hear or print out the score of 12 of Tchaikovsky's most famous pieces of music.

Additional support material is provided on the contribution made to the Bolshoi by Khachaturyan. In Motifs this process is taken further. Common themes from the six ballets are singled out, and the scenes are categorised for viewing and studying. The Motifs icon appears at predetermined points throughout the Ballets section, and leads the student back into the Motifs menu. The recurring themes which are threaded throughout the six ballets are then categorised into 12 further themes, providing alternative perspectives on interpretation. Finally, Timeline pulls the whole lot together, giving chronological access to the entire Bolshoi experience, and has key reference words highlighted.

This is a moody, tasteful presentation, that will demystify much of this art form, as well as delight those who seek to use it.

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