On June 26, the Vaganova Ballet Academy students presented their graduation performance at the State Kremlin Palace in Moscow to celebrate Agrippina Vaganova's birthday. The programme previously shown at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg was now repeated in Moscow.
The programme consisted of three parts. The first act of the Sleeping Beauty (revised version by Konstantin Sergeev) was performed to celebrate the 90th graduation anniversary of Agrippina Vaganova's first class and specially honour her famous pupil Maria Semionova who performed the part of Princess Aurora not only on the Mariinsky and the Bolshoi stages but also in Opera de Paris. This time the principal part was performed by graceful Anastasia Lukina. She was partnered by Adrian Mitchell (USA), Nikita Vronskikh, Artem Kellerman and Roman Malyshev. The role of Carabosse was brilliantly played by Nikita Ksenofontov.
In the second act the Vaganova Ballet Academy students presented George Balanchine's Raymonda Variations. This 30-minute beautiful ballet has never been shown in Russia since the time of the NYCB tour of the country in 1962. Neither has it been staged by any European company. The ballet featured Nika Tkhvitaria and Yevgeny Kouznetsov as well as a few more talented young dancers who skilfully performed Balanchine's tricky variations.
The Laurencia Suite (choreographed by Vakhtang Chabukiani) shown in the third act of the Gala was staged by the famous Irina Gensler – a character dancer who had been shining on the stage of the Kirov Theatre for almost three decades. The music programme of the suite was drafted by the Vaganova Ballet Academy Principal Nikolai Tsiskaridze who used to work on the second act of Laurencia with Vakhtang Chabukiani as he was a student of the TbilisiBalletSchool. The Vaganova Ballet Academy students struck the audience with their grace and expressiveness and the Gala was a tremendous success. Renata Shakirova, German Borsai, Elena Solomyanko and Anna Skvortsova deserved big round of applause. The audience also warmly welcomed the Vaganova Ballet Academy foreign students – Adrian Mitchell (USA) and Nathalie Valev de Barès (Sweden).
The Vaganova Ballet Academy would like to thank the Mariinsky Theatre, the Mikhailovsky Theatre, the Maris Liepa Foundation, Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Olga Golodets and the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation for the overall support that made this unique performance possible. The event was attended by a great number of celebrities and the representatives of the diplomatic corps.
Photo by Svetlana Avvakoum and Elena Pushkina
Three months ago the name Nikolay Tsiskaridze only made this writer recall a shape and human form in motion, that ethos of ballet that the audience memorize automatically, the athletic appeal of the dance. Then were introduced, in a very roundabout way I might add, to the Vaganova Ballet Academy. The interview you are about to read has provoked in everyone here at Our Russia, a rejuvenated and genuine admiration for the art, and for the magnificent artists thereof. Our own co-founder Olga Malik’s interview with this amazing Artist of Russia, is a look inside a world where perfection is the ultimate, yet uncertain and hard won reward.
We hope you will enjoy learning about what the successful pursuit of perfection is all about.
It is said that stars are born, not formed, but this is only a half truth. Tsiskaridze was born in Georgia, and nurtured as a shining pupil at the Tbilisi Ballet School there. Hand selected by the Bolshoi’s artistic director Yury Grigorovich, his star shined at the early age of 20. Seemingly moments later professionally, the subject of our story became the youngest person ever to be named an “Artist of Russia.” Of his early career and meteoric rise to fame, not even Hollywood epics outshine this reality.
However mercuric Tsiskaridze’s artistic rise may seem though, his journey has not been without pitfalls. A first major one came in rehearsals in 2003 when he suffered a catastrophic knee injury. Nine surgeries later, after a life threatening infection, and having to re-learn how to walk, the star was back on stage. An injury that would have ended the career of most NFL football stars scarcely daunted this uncompromising artist. As it turned out though, Nikolai was to have a far more challenging roadblock to navigate past later in his career: the politics and machinations that ultimately try and control or steer artistic endeavors.kr)
Well-known for his idealism and uncompromising honesty, the star of the Bolshoi was embroiled in a conflict over the proprieties there. To make a very long story short, once again the artist’s patience, passion, and temperament won out, as he is now the rector at the world’s most prestigious ballet school, the 277 year old Vaganova Academy. It is ideally fitting that our re-discovery of ballet, as a pursuit of perfection, should be about this prince of the art and dance Russia is home to.
Here, in the interlude of Vaganova Academy graduation festivities, “Our Russia” magazine co-founder Olga Malik caught up with Nikolay Tsiskaridze, on the eve of perhaps, his greatest achievement to date, celebrating the presentation of his future shining ballet stars, and his first graduating class. Here is a portion of Mrs. Malik’s talk with Tsiskaridze in his offices at Nevsky prospect in St. Petersburg
Our Russia: Why was Russian ballet your chosen artistic course? Have you ever imagined yourself as a ballet star outside of Russia?
Nikolay Tsiskaridze: I believe that the Russian ballet school is one of the few (if not the only) school that keeps the traditions of the classical ballet art. It is the authentic source of all the ballet schools I'd dare say. And no ballet dancer trained outside of Russia can experience the same atmosphere and the spirit of the ballet art, as Russian ballet dancers do. That is why the Russian ballet dancers are the most famous, and the best, in the world. Honestly I feel pity when our ballet dancers leave the country.
Our Russia: What is your best advice for your students or followers, for those intent on achieving the same level of excellence on the stage that you have?
Nikolay Tsiskaridze: For those who try and become the best of the best in this sphere, the art simply must become their priority. It is very important to create an artistic image too. Each artist must create something interesting, something attractive. Unfortunately many ballet artists focus only on the athleticism and count the steps and pirouettes while they dance.
Our Russia: It is no secret that teachers play one of the most important roles in one's professional growth. What are your motives when you, as a teacher, explain ballet to small children?
Nikolay Tsiskaridze: First of all I explain the difference between art and athleticism. Any ballet artist must put meaning into his or her movements, otherwise the ballet becomes absurd. Another essential aspect of ballet is to understand the music. I try to foster an appreciation of music in my students from the very beginning, when they enter our academy at the age of 9. I must say however, that without a strict discipline ballet ceases to be art. This is why, like the teachers who taught me, I train my students to be self-disciplined. I train them as if they are in the army, and I am a very strict teacher, I must admit.
Our Russia: What is the source of your personal inspiration and happiness?
Nikolay Tsiskaridze: The greatest thing that can happen to a ballet dancer is to experience the pinnacle of being a top performer on stage. I am very lucky to be remembered for the moments at the crescendo of my ballet career. Nobody has ever seen me fall down. Nobody will ever see this, for I quit the stage at the right time. I feel sorry for those ballet dancers who have to dance at the age of 40 and older.
Our Russia: Now that you are the Rector of the Academy what should be done to preserve Russian ballet? Or, in your opinion, does the art needs reforms?
Nikolay Tsiskaridze: I do not think that anything has to be changed at all. The VaganovaAcademy is very unique and distinctive. Unlike other higher education institutions, the VaganovaAcademy diplomas are the most coveted in this sphere of arts both in Russia, and around the world. I am not only talking about the ballet, but music and the other aspects we teach. We are one of the oldest and most recognized academies worldwide. I would dare to say that we are considered the “lawmakers” in the sphere of arts. Our academy is a veritable “Alma Mater” of Russian ballet, and it is an honor for me to be a rector of it. Consequently, I will do everything to keep the traditions of classical Russian ballet preserved and in place.
By way of a conclusion here, it seems important to let the reader know the significance of Tsiskaridze, and this particular graduating class. This first group of graduates since his installation as rector by the Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky back in 2013, their passage signals an even greater magnitude of stardom for Tsiskaridze. The beloved dancer who once graced stages worldwide has taken center stage now as the conservator of the near sacred nature of the essence of Russian ballet. Quizzing my colleague on her meeting with him, I found a breadcrumb as to why Medinsky and Russia chose him for this starring role. I’ll share her insight owing to my disappointment at not being able to conduct the interview myself. Of Nikolay Tsiskaridze she said:
“I have a very good impression of him, indeed. He is very polite, yet he knows his value and shows it. This is totally normal and reasonable. I was especially impressed at how a person caught up in filthy political scandals and unfair media hype managed to emerge without losing one speck of his dignity. He is quite a remarkable person.”
In leaving off, I am reminded of something from one of Tsiskaridze’s many profiles, a sentiment expressed by his mother when first he insisted on attending the ballet school in Georgia. Nikolay's mother was against his professed dream of ballet stardom. However, both his parents finally relented; “But you have to be the best,” his mother told him. “Otherwise, I will pull you out.” How appropriate it is that such stars are born and then so shaped.
So, who better left as guardian of the world’s greatest dance heritage, than the Vaganova’s strictest teacher, someone the world will never see fall down?
Phil Butler for Our Russia, July 4, 2015
On June 23 the graduate students of the Vaganova Ballet Academy received their diplomas at the Catherine Palace. Foreign students who studied at the Academy also got the appropriate certificates.
The 273d graduation ceremony began with traditional canon-shot at the Peter and Paul Fortress. This year the Vaganova Ballet Academy Principal Nikolai Tsiskaridze decided to assign the right to make a canon-shot to one of the best graduate students – Yevgeny Kuznetsov.
After that all the graduate students accompanied by their teachers and parents left for the Catherine Palace at Tsarskoe Selo (Pushkin) to become the only guests to be admitted to its premises on that gala day.
Presentation of diplomas and certificates to graduates was held at the Catherine Palace grand hall. Renata Shakirova and Maxim Sevagin were the masters of the ceremony, while the graduation documents were presented by the Principal of the Vaganova Ballet Academy and the People’s Artist of Russia Nikolai Tsiskaridze, the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly deputy and the Honoured Artist of Russia Anastasia Melnikova, first deputy chairman of the St. Petersburg Committee for Culture Boris Illarionov and a famous Russian journalist Vladimir Pozner.
This year eight students, including Renata Shakirova, Anastasia Lukina, Maria Ilyushkina, Aliona Kovaleva, Aliona Ledyakh, Roman Malyshev, Maxim Sevagin and Anna Smirnova graduated with honours. Twelve foreign students who have completed a course of practical training received appropriate certificates.
The graduates thanked their teachers and all the Academy staff members who helped them to make their way through the years of studies. The official part was followed by a ball. The dances to be performed were selected by the graduates, while the music for cotillion was composed by one of them – Iskander Kuliev.
Photo by Yevgeniya Avramenko and Marina Radina.
From June 13 to June 20 the XXI International Conference «Preservation and Development of Vaganova Method» was held at the Vaganova Ballet Academy.
Among those who participated in the Conference work were the ballet teachers from Moscow, Murmansk, Volgograd, Stavropol region as well as the USA, South Korea, Lithuania and Brazil.
The Conference participants attended the Vaganova Ballet Academy graduation performances at the Mariinsky Theatre, demonstration lessons taught by the Academy teachers, master classes, lectures, roundtables, video training courses and excursions.
The Conference opened with a lecture by the Vaganova Ballet Academy principal Nikolai Tsiskaridze who spoke of the teaching career of Marina Semionova, the first pupil of Agrippina Vaganova. Marina Semiona, in turn, had been teaching Nikolai Tsiskaridze for 11 years while he danced at the Вolshoi Theatre. Tsiskaridze became the last dancer Semionova coached.
Photo by O.Abramova and V.Vasiliev.
Meeting with Vaganova Ballet Academy principal Nikolai Tsiskaridze.
A lecture by the Vaganova Ballet Academy principal Nikolai Tsiskaridze.
Demonstration lesson of the historicla dance.
Masterclass by the first soloist of the Mariinsky Theatre Sofya Gumerova.
On June 11, 13 and 18 the Vaganova Ballet Academy graduation performances will be given at the Mariinsky Theatre. One of the three works presented was George Balanchine's Raymonda variations. The ballet was staged by Darla Hoover, a répétiteur of the George Balanchine Trust who was specially invited to St. Petersburg for that purpose.
Ms. Hoover recollects dancing Raymonda Variations as her graduation performance too. George Balanchine watched her dancing that day and some time later invited Ms. Hoover to become a member of his New York City Ballet where she had been appearing as a featured soloist for 11 years. Ms. Hoover now focuses her attentions on teaching and staging ballets, including positions as the Artistic Director of Ballet Academy East’s Pre-Professional Division in New York City, and Associate Artistic Director of Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet.
Working as a répétiteur, Darla Hoover stages works for the George Balanchine Trust in many companies around the world making the dancers familiar with all the peculiarities of Balanchine's style. Ms. Hoover came to St. Petersburg in 2014 when the Vaganova Ballet Academy students first got acquainted with Balanchine's choreography to present Raymonda variations at the Mikhailovsky Theatre to celebrate Balanchine’s 110th birthday.
Having returned to the Vaganova Ballet Academy in the spring of 2015, Darla Hoover led five rehearsals including the dress-rehearsal at the Mariinsky Theatre and held two master classes for those dancing Raymonda variations.
Photo by Olga Abramova..
Nikolai Tsiskaridze, Darla Hoover and Yuri Fateev before the general rehearsal at the Mariinsky theatre.
‘Russia Beyond the Headlines’ told about Agrippina Vaganova and ballet school named after her.
Agrippina Vaganova — a ballerina and ballet teacher — was born in Saint Petersburg 135 years ago. Her career began immediately after graduation from Russia’s oldest ballet school. At that time, she didn’t even imagine that this school would bear her name only 50 years later.
The first professional Russian ballet school was founded in 1738 by order of Empress Anna of Russia (Anna Ioannovna) by the French-born Jean-Baptiste Landé who was a dance master at the Petersburg born in France and a dance master at the Petersburg Landed Gentry Corps. In pre-revolutionary times, most teachers at the school were foreigners.
A the turn of the century, the famous Russian school of ballet was still in its infancy and imbibed the techniques of the Italian school and the elegance of the French school. However, it had not yet found a set pedagogical practice. This task became the life’s work of Agrippina Vaganova.
‘Russia Beyond the Headlines’ is an international multimedia project about Russia launched byRossiyskaya Gazeta in 2007.