Category: irina sitnikova

tsiskaridze:

This might be a strange question, but I wonder if there are any restrictions as to where a child is from that will prevent them from being accepted into Vaganova? So, would a child from areas around Chernobyl for example be allowed to audition or would they be immediately turned away?

It’s interesting that you use Chernobyl as an example. I suppose you are interested in health issues that may prevent a child from auditioning for Vaganova? VBA have a document on their website with a very long list of health issues which would prevent a child from studying at the academy, and medical examination is a big part of the audition process (many of the children fail it).

Chernobyl is located in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. The area has been abandoned since 1986, which means that any infant or child who was there during the Chernobyl disaster would be in their 30s now. The aftermath of the disaster is too complicated to get into. Suffice to say that it is devastating and far-reaching. I knew a woman who was evacuated from Chernobyl after the explosion and gave birth to a child with severe developmental issues many years later. It’s tragic. I suppose a child of a parent (or even a grand-parent) from Chernobyl is likely to suffer serious health issues, which would prevent them from auditioning. 

Hello i have i question that i don’t know if it’s relevant. I saw an old movie about vaganova academy ( the name of the video :the best ballet school in the world strict russian ballet) And I can’t recognize the girl who dancing masha in nutcracker she look very good and I want to know what she is doing today do you know something about that? Thanks anyways for all the information you are posting in this blog.

That’s Maria Chugay. She won 2nd place in the 2006 Vaganova Prix, graduated with honours around that time, and danced with the Mariinsky for a while, before joining Dutch National Ballet in 2009. She’s been there ever since. You can find her on YouTube.


In Kovaleva’s recent interview, she mentions that sometimes, once a dancer matures, she turns out to be too short/doesn’t grow. I know this was a concern for Olga Morgulets in the Dance of the Little Swans documentary, so I’m wondering if you know what the academy considers too short to be an employable dancer?

I don’t know for sure, but I suppose anything below 160cm would be considered problematic, as would anything over 175cm. This is just guesswork on my part, though. If anyone knows otherwise, do let me know.

hi! do they take academic classes into account for the red diploma? or just ballet?

Yes, they do. Which is why Eleonora Sevenard didn’t graduate with honours – she didn’t do too well academically (I’m only using her as an example because Tsiskaridze kept bringing it up during her final year).

I’m a bit confused about VBA’s structure with teachers. Do students have one classical teacher throughout their time at the academy, or is the class they graduate from only for their final year? (ie would Khoreva and Ionova have had Kovaleva from day 1 or just for the 8th year?) Why do only a couple of classical teachers graduate students in a given year?

Typically, a student will have studied under several teachers by the time they graduate. For example, Maria Khoreva studied under Alkanova, Zabalkanskaya and Kovaleva. This has to do with the fact that different teachers specialise in training students at different levels. Diana Vishneva claims to had studied under Kovaleva from day one, but that has been disputed

As for the graduating classes, most of the graduates complete Grade 8 / Level III at Vaganova, though some students may choose to graduate early (Grade 7 / Level II), though they receive a different (slightly lesser) qualification. Grades are broken into four groups – 8a Girls, 8a Boys, 8b Girls, 8b Boys – two girl classes and two boy classes, with each class having a dedicated teacher. This keeps class sizes small and allows teachers to really focus on each individual student. 

Class of 2018 were taught by the following teachers:

  • Kovaleva (8A Girls)
  • Ilyin (8A Boys)
  • Miozzi (8B Girls)
  • Kasenkova (8B Girls)

The year below (graduating next year) is taught by:

  • Tsiskaridze (7A Boys)
  • Sitnikova (7A Girls)
  • Vasilieva (7B Girls)
  • Ermolenkov (7B Boys)

I hope that makes sense.

Recently I found 3 girls who were in the “corps de ballet” of Suite en Blanc who attracted my attention on instagram because they are particularly young: Sofia Dinershtein, Kaitlyn Zylka, and Maria Cherynyavskaya. They are in grade school (5/9 I believe), and I was quite impressed that they were dancing in such a mature ballet at such a young age. Do you have any opinions on them?

All I can say about “Suite en Blanc” and everyone involved in the performances is that I was completely blown away by what I saw. All the students did an amazing job and, like yourself, I was surprised to see so many younger students involved in the production and impressed by their performance.

d i s c l a i m e r

tsiskaridze:

Today, June 28, is the birthday of Vaganova Ballet Academy teacher, Irina Sitnikova.

Here are some excerpts from my interviews with Vaganova Ballet Academy students, where they speak about Ms Sitnikova.

There were some truly great pedagogues at Vaganova, but I think my favourite two would be Nikolai Tsiskaridze and Irina Sitnikova. Both of them shared quite a similar ethos, and sometimes Tsiskaridze would hand us over to her when he was absent. She would treat us like we were her own students. Her signature was to make us do grand battements with every combination at the barre. The thing that makes such a difference with them is the work ethic they inspire – when they can just keep on going no matter how late it is or how tired they must be. You simply have to do the same. – Oscar Frame

[My favourite teacher at the academy was] my classical teacher, Irina Sitnikova. She was very strict and tough. Outside of the class, however, she was the most caring and lovely person. She is very helpful and likes to care for her students. She also used to invite us to her dacha, and we had a lot of fun with her. – Laura Fernandez-Gromova

tsiskaridze:

On November 17, as part of the VI St Petersburg International Cultural Forum, Vaganova Ballet Academy teachers received awards for their hard work. The awards ceremony took place at the Hermitage Theatre.

The following Vaganova Ballet Academy teachers received the award this year:

  • Irina Babaeva
  • Maria Gribanova
  • Yulia Zaitseva
  • Lyudmila Kamolova
  • Irina Sitnikova
  • Yulia Rozental (music)
  • Irina Tsaregradskaya (music)
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During the same ceremony, Vaganova Ballet Academy Artistic Director, Zhanna Ayupova, was formally presented with a book about her, which the academy prepared (in secret) for her 50th birthday.

Photos by Viktor Vasiliev and Pavel Markin.

s o u r s e  ( r u )

tsiskaridze:

Nikolai Tsiskaridze was appointed Acting Rector of Vaganova Ballet Academy on the 28th of October 2013 (a move which was not at all controversial and caused no drama whatsoever). He was eventually formally elected as the Rector by the academy’s staff on the 29th of November 2014.

Ever since that fateful day, the academy has held a celebration on the anniversary of Nikolai’s appointment. In 2016, the staff produced a book which looked back on Tsiskaridze’s past three years at the academy. A single copy was printed and presented to Nikolai as a gift, while digital copies became available online.

The book included messages from Vaganova Ballet Academy teachers. I translated some of them.


“Most people are conservative by nature. They are afraid of change and turmoil. Nikolai Maximovich’s sudden arrival at the academy proved to be a dramatic surprise for all of us. However, we soon saw the love and passion with which he threw himself into his role, staying at the academy from morning till late at night.

I consider him a professional of the highest caliber. While working together, I discovered that we have a lot in comment when it comes to our understanding of ballet. Despite our many arguments over the methodology of performing a certain movement or the stylistic nuances of different variations, in the end we always reach an understanding of how to move forward and help the students become high-class performers. And that is our main goal at the academy.

Despite the strict discipline and high demands, the students love Nikolai Maximovich. They try to emulate his neatness and clarity.” – Irina Sitnikova.

tsiskaridze:



“There were some truly great pedagogues at Vaganova, but I think my favourite two would be Nikolai Tsiskaridze and Irina Sitnikova. Both of them shared quite a similar ethos, and sometimes Tsiskaridze would hand us over to her when he was absent. She would treat us like we were her own students. Her signature was to make us do grand battements with every combination at the barre. The thing that makes such a difference with them is the work ethic they inspire – when they can just keep on going no matter how late it is or how tired they must be. You simply have to do the same.”

Read the full interview with Oscar

Irina Sitnikova, Laura Fernande-Gromova and Nikolai Tsiskaridze at the 2016 Prix de Lausanne.


Irina Sitnikova was also Laura Fernandez-Gromova’s favourite teacher:

Did you have a favourite teacher at Vaganova Ballet Academy? Could you say a few words about them please?

“Definitely my classical teacher, Irina Sitnikova. She was very strict and tough. Outside of the class, however, she was the most caring and lovely person. She is very helpful and likes to care for her students. She also used to invite us to her dacha, and we had a lot of fun with her.”

tsiskaridze:

P A R T   I I I

Upon graduating from Vaganova Ballet Academy in July, Oscar Frame found himself in a difficult, albeit enviable, position. The young Brit received job offers from both the Mariinsky and the Bolshoi – a happy predicament very few Vaganova graduates, let alone foreign trainees, ever find themselves facing. After some deliberation, Frame settled on the Bolshoi, becoming one of the few foreigners to ever join the company. His position is singular for one other reason: Frame was part of the first Vaganova class to train and graduate under Nikolai Tsiskaridze.

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Did you have a favourite teacher at VBA? Could you say a few words about them?

There were some truly great pedagogues at Vaganova, but I think my favourite two would be Nikolai Tsiskaridze and Irina Sitnikova. Both of them shared quite a similar ethos, and sometimes Tsiskaridze would hand us over to her when he was absent. She would treat us like we were her own students. Her signature was to make us do grand battements with every combination at the barre. The thing that makes such a difference with them is the work ethic they inspire – when they can just keep on going no matter how late it is or how tired they must be. You simply have to do the same.

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During your time at VBA you amassed a stellar repertoire. Is there any role or performance that you are particularly proud of?

Well, the repertoire was tough, and the academy was performing a lot of character pieces for the graduating performances. I think I ended up dancing some less important roles a lot better than the important ones, so I can say that although I’m proud of having danced the Nutcracker Prince, I reckon I probably danced either Pierrot (The Fairy Doll) or Le Conservatoire better.

One of the roles that was the most fun was the soloist with the red cape in the academy’s production of Nijinska’s Bolero. What I really liked about Vaganova Ballet Academy, which is different to other schools, is simply how much performing you do. After January, we were performing The Fairy Doll once or twice a month until the end of the year. Once, I had to step in for a fellow student who was sick, and I had to dance the part of Pierrot, so myself and Pasha (Pavel Mikheev) had a month of performing every weekend with no days off at all. This was alongside exam prep and all the usual classes. Although it was hard, I feel that it was amazing preparation for company life.

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In a way, you have already made ballet history, as you were part of the first ever class to train and graduate under Nikolai Tsiskaridze. What was it like to work with him?

It was explosive. In every way. There are so many different aspects to his pedagogy. I read an interview where he described how it was with his teacher, Pestov, and I immediately understood what it was Tsiskaridze was trying to teach us, and why he used some of the same methods as Pestov.

His first key lesson was discipline, not only to your teacher, but to yourself also. He would make us do ridiculous combinations just for fun sometimes, and I distinctly remember a period of time when I was rehearsing the Nutcracker Prince the week before I was due to perform it; I had a couple of days where after the day’s classes and before general rehearsals, I rehearsed my variation about twenty or twenty-five times. He pushed me to the point of total exhaustion and beyond. But this taught me that I had reserves of energy I would never have believed. Sometimes he did this simply by being so terrifying that I didn’t dare to say I couldn’t do it. Other times I just wanted to impress him and my classmates. Either way, I improved faster at Vaganova under Nikolai than at any time since my first years with Kabaniaev. He also made me discover the most important things about the arts, taking us to museums and art exhibitions to explain the history behind the stories, costumes, and even poses involved in ballet. All this whilst rigorously training us in the studio day in and day out. It was explosive.

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Your class was very mixed, with almost every young man coming from a different school, city and – in some cases – country. Very few students were Vaganova “natives”. What was it like to train with such a diverse group?

My class with Tsiskaridze certainly was mixed at the beginning of the year. There were three more students than the four that I studied with the semester before with Ilin, and two of them were international students from America and France, both really friendly guys. At the beginning of the year, the tensions were a little high because we were all trying to get used to the new regime of Tsiskaridze, but come December I had the sense that a sort of brotherhood had formed between all of us. There was an independence as the graduating class that we shared, and at the end of the year even more so. We had a wonderful camaraderie that held us together and gave us the strength to do the (frankly terrifying) exam.

The exam on YouTube looks so slick, but when we went out of the doors into the back room we were all lying on the floor gasping and trying to summon up the willpower to stand up and go out again. We had to cheer each other on. I think you can see this towards the end when the worst was over and we started to relax and almost enjoy ourselves (perhaps just from relief, or at least manage to find the energy to raise a bit of a smile). I am really lucky to be going to the Bolshoi with Egor (Gerashchenko), although it’s sad to be leaving the rest of the boys (though I’m very happy for them that they are at the Mariinsky).

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Your graduation exam looked, to put it lightly, intense. What was it like preparing for it? Especially that insane frappe combination to Tsfasman’s “Snowflakes”?

The frappe combination, I think, for us really wasn’t one of the worst, but I feel that it represented Tsiskaridze’s way of teaching very well. The day he told us that we had to do the barre without stopping was probably the worst day at the academy. I still remember feeling sick just thinking about it. We had been preparing for the exam since October, give or take, and it really is what our whole class was building up to for the year. It felt a bit like the Odyssey, only the same story every day, and almost every combination had a different correction every time. But then Tsiskaridze would punish us for making the same mistakes in every combination, even if not everybody made the mistakes. We worked as hard as I think we’d worked in our lives, it’s fair to say. Despite having this hard class to rehearse for, we had performance roles to perfect, and other exams to rehearse for. Even sleep was hard to find at times. It was intense, but it was brilliant.


Photos by Alexander Ku and Vladimir Vasiliev.