Category: bolshoi ballet academy


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)

d i s c l a i m e r 


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…

d i s c l a i m e r 


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.‘

Raisa Struchkova [left] and ballet master Asaf Messerer (Bolshoi Ballet Academy, 1961)

Sorry if it sounds strange – but what do you think makes a ballerina successful? Why do some technically gifted, expressive and artistic dancers never rise out of obscurity?

It’s a great question! I often think about it, because I have been trying to apply what I have learned from ballet dancers to my own life and work. I have been reading and listening to famous dancers talk about what makes a successful career, and I think it comes down to a combination of three elements:

  • Grit
  • Personality
  • Luck

This TED talk about the power of GRIT is very interesting and applicable to both ballet and our everyday lives:

The reason I’m stating my answer by sharing this video is that I believe that when it comes to success grit, ultimately, trumps talent. This is something I’ve learned from listening to Nikolai Tsiskaridze and Diana Vishneva. 

Both Diana and Professor Lyudmila Kovaleva have said multiple times that Vaganova Ballet Academy did not expect much from Diana when she was admitted into the first grade (having failed the audition once already). Diana didn’t meet the VBA requirements and was accepted merely because Professor Kovaleva had a hunch. Grit was what immediately distinguished Diana from her classmates and quickly propelled her to the top of the class. Grit is also one of her significant characteristics to this day.

On the other hand, we have Nikolai Tsiskaridze, who was tailor-made for ballet and achieved extraordinary success very early on. In fact, he was so successful, that by the time he arrived at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy at the ripe old age of 13, he was convinced of his own superiority (by his own account). Nikolai also admits that he was very lazy and did not see the point of hard work since he was already better than everyone else. This attitude would surely have ruined him, no matter how naturally gifted he was if it wasn’t for Petr Pestov. Pestov saw the boy’s extraordinary talent, but he also saw his vanity and laziness, and he proceeded to, quite literally, beat the latter two qualities out of Nikolai. Grit didn’t come naturally to Nikolai. It was instilled in (beaten into) him by Pestov.

So there you have it: grit was what made Diana, and lack of grit could have destroyed Nikolai.


Next, we have PERSONALITY. The photo above is of a very young Deborah Bull. Before I discovered Nikolai Tsiskaridze, Deborah Bull was the centre of my ballet universe. You may find this surprising, but Tsiskaridze and Bull share many qualities, most notably – their intelligence, knowledge and dedication to the arts sector as a whole. The significant difference between them is their personalities. Bull is reserved and plays by the rules, Nikolai approaches career and work with the subtlety of a runaway freight train.

I read most of Bull’s books and many of her interviews. What has stuck with me the most is her dismay when, towards the end of her career, she realised that playing by the rules and doing what she was told has seriously held her back. I remember reading that, looking back, she wished she had rocked the boat more and had fought for what she wanted.


Lastly, we have LUCK. Sadly, this is the one thing that no one can control. So much of the dancer’s success depends on the people around them and the timing. The priorities of the company’s artistic directors play a HUGE role…

Tsiskaridze is probably the best example of an extremely fortunate person. His career happened solely because several very powerful people had taken note of him and decided to help and protect him. 

It didn’t matter that Nikolai was the best student in his year at BBA, he never would’ve been hired by the Bolshoi if Grigorovich hadn’t unexpectedly appeared at the state graduation exams that day and overruled the Bolshoi committee, ordering them to hire Nikolai.

He never would’ve survived at the Bolshoi had Semyonova, Ulanova and Grigorovich not taken a very active interest in him and had spent years fighting his battles for him. It really, really didn’t matter that Nikolai was the best BBA graduate since Malakhov. Company life, especially during those times, is largely about politics.

[EDIT] I hope my answer is helpful. I didn’t include talent on my list because by the way the question was posed, I take it as a given. My aim was to look at why certain gifted dancers may not be succeeding in their careers. I have also left out PRIORITIES because I don’t think it applies to too many dancers. I was thinking of Olesya Novikova, and how she would’ve advanced further in her career had she not chosen to concentrate on her family. No judgement there, by the way. I admire Novikova and her commitment to staying true to herself and making choices that make her the happiest.

d i s c l a i m e r 

Julian MacKay (Bolshoi Ballet Academy, 2014)