Category: bolshoi ballet academy


The great Vladimir Vasiliev turns 80 today. Vladimir was born in Moscow on April 18, 1940.

He studied at the Moscow Ballet School, a student of Mikhail Gabovich, and graduated into the Bolshoi Ballet in 1958. He was quickly promoted to principal dancer and for the next twenty years was the Bolshoi’s leading male star. Heroic and dynamic, possessing a then unparalleled virtuoso technique, he came to embody the image of the post-war Bolshoi male dancer. His dramatic athleticism was showcased most famously in Spartacus, but was also acclaimed for the romantic intensity with which he interpreted Albrecht. He created leading roles in Radunsky’s new staging of The Humpbacked Horse (1960), Tarasova and Lapauri’s Song of the Forests (1961), Lavrovsky’s Pages of (from) a Life (1961), Goleizovsky’s Leili and Medzhnun (1964), Grigorovich’s Nutcracker (1966), Spartacus (1968), Sleeping Beauty (1973), and Angara (1976), and Béjart’s Petrushka (1977). He also created the leading roles in several of his own ballets including Icarus (Bolshoi 1971), Macbeth (Bolshoi 1980), and Anyuta (Naples, 1986). He often danced abroad as a guest artist, in concert tours with his wife, the ballerina Ekaterina Maximova, and also with Béjart’s Ballet of the 20th Century, the Ballet de Marseilles, and American Ballet Theatre. The couple performed more frequently in the West after their open criticicism of Grigorovich’s directorship of the Bolshoi and from the late 1980s they were effectively banished from the Bolshoi’s stage. During the 1980s Vasiliev additionally worked as a guest choreographer in Berlin, Budapest, Naples, and Riga. From 1990 he was a member of the board of directors of the Ballet Theatre of the Kremlin Palace of Congress, for whom he made several ballets, including Cinderella (1991). He was artistic director of the Rome Opera Ballet (1993–5). In 1995 he returned to the Bolshoi to assume direction of the theatre’s opera and ballet companies. During the following five years he opened up the ballet’s repertoire to outside choreographers, and encouraged young choreographers at home. He also staged new productions of the classics, including Giselle and a much-criticized Swan Lake, and choreographed Balda (mus. Shostakovich, 1999). In 2000 he was replaced, since when he has worked as a freelance choreographer, staging his ballets worldwide including Argentina, Brazil, Tokyo, Europe, and Russia, choreographing Zeffirelli’s production of Aida (Verona, 2002), a new Cinderella for the State Ballet Theatre of Russia (2006), and Lungo Viaggio della Notte di Natale (mus. Tchaikovsky, Rome Opera). A list of his other ballets includes Icarus (mus. S. Slonimsky, 1971), These Charming Sounds (mus. Rameau, Mozart, and others, 1978), Macbeth (mus. K. Molchanov, 1980), Juno and Avos (mus. Rybnikov, 1981), Anyuta (mus. Gavrillyn, 1986), and Romeo and Juliet (mus. Prokofiev, 1990). He has appeared in many films including The Humpbacked Horse (1961), Secret of Success (1967), Narcissus (1971), Duet (also directed, 1972), Spartacus (1976), Gigolo and Gigoletta (also directed, 1980), The World of Ulanova (also directed, 1981), These Charming Sounds (also directed, 1981), La traviata (dir. Zeffirelli, 1982), Anyuta (also directed, 1982), I Want to Dance: Fragments of a Biography (also directed, 1985), and Fouetté (also directed, 1986). He also directed… And there remains, as always, something else (1990). He lectures widely and has served on many competition juries. Gold medal Varna (1964); Nijinsky Prize (Paris, 1964); Lenin Prize (1970).



Nikolai Tsiskaridze and Yuri Grigorovich (who turns 90 today).


Nikolai Tsiskaridze and Yuri Grigorovich. In 1992, during the graduation exam at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, Yuri Grigorovich overruled the decision of the official committee from the Bolshoi and offered the young Nikolai Tsiskaridze a spot in the theatre’s corps de ballet (the job offers were pre-determined before the exam; the 90s in Russia was a time of exceeding corruption) with the now famous words: “The Georgian gets an A and the job”.

I was wondering about Diana Vishneva about Maya Dumchenko. They both graduated Vaganova in 1995, both were regarded as the best in their class, and both promoted to soloist in 1996. Yet, why is Vishneva valued so much more than Dumchenko? Why did Vaganova choose to send Vishneva to the Prix de Lausanne over Dumchenko? While I’m at it, isn’t it the same with Zakharova and Daria Pavlenko? They were in the same class, both primas, but why is one given so much preference over the other?

That’s an excellent questions! I think about this a lot, especially not that I’m more aware of how many talented dancers graduate from VBA and BBA every year.

I think that, as far as career choices go, ballet is defined by two things: sacrifice and tragedy. What I find tragic is even the most gifted dancers are at the mercy of circumstances. There are so many things outside of their control that impact their careers: chance, timing, the priorities of whoever is in charge, personal circumstances, etc. To say nothing of injuries. …Or a world-wide quarantine. 

I couldn’t tell you why some dancers go on to become stars and others, equally as talented, don’t. Call it luck. Call it fate. Call it God’s will. Diana Vishneva’s potential was recognised early on, and she was given support and guided to stardom. However, it wasn’t as smooth and easy as it can appear from the outside. She was put under enormous pressure at the Academy, and this sort of pressure broke (both physically and mentally) many other students. One promising ballerina even ended up dead in the 60s because of this (I’ll be writing about her story at a different time). If I remember correctly, VBA didn’t want to send Diana to Lausanne either. It was a struggle to get her there.

Lopatkina wasn’t ever expected to make it big. Certainly no one could’ve predicted that she’d become the symbol of Russian ballet.

And if you know Tsiskaridze’s backstory, you know that it’s a miracle that he became what he is today. He wasn’t supposed to end up at the Bolshoi. He certainly wasn’t meant to survive it.

There isn’t a formula to success. From everything I’ve read and heard it appears to be down to a combination of timing, having the right teacher, making the right career moves. being strategic, having powerful backers and being extremely lucky. And that’s assuming that the dancers is uniquely talented to begin with.

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To answer the questions and messages I’ve received, here’s the full list of the comp winners:

Grand Prix 

  • Dmitry Smilevski (BBA)

I Prize 

  • Elizaveta Kokoreva (BBA)
  • Mikhail Barkidjidja (VBA)

II Prize

  • Alexandra Khiteeva (VBA)
  • Marko Juusela (VBA) 

III Prize

  • Anastasia Plotnikova (BBA)
  • Alexei Khamzin (Perm)

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I know I posted this video a few days ago but can we please take a moment to appreciate Nikolai’s go hard or go home approach to dance?

A very young Nikolai Tsiskaridze and Olga Eliseeva perform a “Brazilian Dance” in the Bolshoi Ballet Academy’s character dance exam. 1992. The video is from Nikolai’s personal archive.


Nikolai Tsiskaridze celebrates his 45th birthday today. Happy birthday!


I know in Russia state ballet schools like VBA, BBA, Perm etc. are free to attend for Russian citizens, but what about citizens of other former Soviet states? I’ve heard of Ukrainian students attending these schools and its very hard to imagine that their families have the money to pay such high foreign student fees…

I highly doubt that a Ukranian students, or any other student who doesn’t hold a Russian citizenship, would get a Government-subsidized spot at VBA. I’m pretty sure citizens of the former Soviet block pay a lot less (about half) of what international students pay.

Do you know what (if anything) is happening in the Vladivostok branch of the Academy? I heard something about a whole class being transferred to Vaganova in SP…

They’re chugging along. Business as usual. I’m not aware of any major transfers. You can follow them on instagram.

has there always been transfers between bba and vba, or is this becoming more prevalent in recent years due to tsiskaridze? was wondering because of yulia bondareva, valeria bespalova and egor. not sure if there are others

I’d like to know that too. Unfortunately, since I only started following VBA after Tsiskaridze took over, I have no idea what the transfer rate was like before. If I had to make an educated guess, I’d say that while there may have been a spike after Tsiskaridze came along, transfers have always been a fairly regular and normal occurrence.

Does VBA have social media accounts? (The ones they posted the announcement on)

Here are their official Facebook, VK and Twitter.

I find it interesting that Lyudmila Kovaleva is teaching 7th year instead of 8th. Is it because she feels they have more potential than the graduation seniors? Whatever anyone’s opinions, I think we can agree not all graduating classes are created equal, and that she always seems to be teaching the most talented students. Is it rare for her to not be teaching a graduating class?

It’s standard practice. Ideally, a teacher should spend 2-3 years working with a class. Once that class graduates, their teacher takes up another, junior class, and spends the next couple of years moulding them. And then the process is repeated again. You’re not wrong; Professor Kovaleva always seems to have the most impressive students I her class…

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Today, November 22, is the birthday of Ilze Leipa. 

Ilze Liepa, daughter of the famous ballet dancer Maris Liepa, was born in Moscow on November 22, 1963. In 1981 she graduated from the Moscow Academic School of Choreography under N.V. Zolotova, and in 1991 received a teaching diploma at the State Institute of Dramatic Art. Liepa’s dance style goes far beyond the limits of canonical tradition whilst retaining a formal purity. Working as the artistic director of the ‘Golden Age’ association since 1994, Ilze is also on the board of the Liepa Charity Foundation. In 1996 she was awarded the title of ‘Meritorious Artist of Russia’ with further promotion to the rank of ‘People’s Artist of Russia’ in the year 2002. – From


Graduate of Bolshoi Ballet Academy, Bolshoi dancer, Tatiana Osipova. Photos by Alisa Aslanova.

Maria Alexandrova graduated in 1996 but was advised to stay at the Academy for another year to prepare for international ballet competitions.  At the prestigious Moscow competition in 1997 she won a gold medal, an achievement she is however quick to put into perspective:  ‘The main thing is not to be the first, but to be the best.  A dance competition is closer to sports, and many random circumstances can have their impact on the outcome.  It’s not always good to be the first.  I became the first that time, but not everything was that good and there were surely some mistakes.  You need to try to become better.‘