Category: maria ilyushkina



Vaganova Ballet Academy graduate (class of 2016), Maria Ilyushkina, debuted as the Lilac Fairy in the Mariinsky’s production of “Sleeping Beauty” last month.

Ask Responses: Vaganova


Do you know what happened to Svetlana Savilieva? Per her instagram photos it looks like she had surgery of some sort (on her knee?).

She had extra bones (Os Trigonum) removed from her ankle. Apparently, it’s a pretty common problem with dancers. Although, she did mention that the condition hadn’t actually been confirmed. So it looks like the operation may have been a bit of a gamble… Sveta seems in good spirits though, and has documented the whole thing in insta stories. I hope she makes a quick recovery, but I don’t think we’ll see her in “Nutcracker” this year. Which is disappointing.

You said in a recent post that only 5-10% of students who start in grade 1 complete their studies and that Katerina Kuzmicheva was especially impressive as she has. Is that different than any other student (Say, one of the girls showcased in the Little Swans documentary or Khoreva or Ionova) finishing their schooling or am I missing something and Kuzmicheva is extra special?

Sorry, I should have worded it better / clearer. What I was trying to say is that any student who makes it through all eight years at Vaganova deserves respect and admiration, because it is an incredibly hard training program to survive.  

1st of all, thank you for the Vishneva interview translation! 2nd, regarding your comment about Katya Kuzmicheva, I find it interesting that, along w/ her, actually most of her class has made it from first to grad year: Sevenard, Bogdashkina, Uzanskaya, Frolova (who never left VBA), K. Spiridonova, Y. Spiridonova, Ustyuzhanina, Legacheva… this MUST be more than in previous years, no? Really of those graduating, only Khiteeva, Savelieva & foreign students joined after 1st yr. Seems remarkable!

You’re very welcome! Yes, you’re right, there are quite a few girls in Kuzmicheva’s year who made it through the entire Vaganova training program. I’m not sure how it compares to the class of 2018 though. The number varies from year to year, but it is generally pretty small. 

Re the new paid option for students starting in 1st grade, it was anounced that selected candidates who passed the first and second part of the audition but not the third, would be eligible to pay. So I envisioned a class of paid students. But it appears that only a couple of first year students were accepted as paid students, and they are integrated into regular classes. Do you know if this is correct? Will there be a switch if these students perform better than the others in the annual exam?

As I am not affiliated with Vaganova Academy, I can’t give you the exact information about the paid program. If I had to venture an educated guess, I would say that the number of paid places would be strictly limited, meaning that there wouldn’t be enough paid students to make up an entire class. Also, it wouldn’t make sense to train the paying students separately or otherwise treat them differently. Logically, there should be a relatively small number of paying students who are integrated into the rest of the cohort. 

What did Svetlana S said about her weight in her insta?

She detailed her experience of achieving rapid and extreme weight loss, what triggered it, how she did it, what effect it had on her body, and how she recovered. I have read similar accounts by Vaganova students and grads before, and they’re not pretty. I briefly considered translating some of them, as they highlight the dangers such choices pose, but then I realised that I will potentially be giving some vulnerable people step-by-step instructions on how to starve themselves. Tumblrs is already filled with pro-ana crap and I don’t want to contribute to it.

This summer I discovered that YouTube was a hot bed for ballet videos and thanks to the RT documentaries there I found myself watching many Vaganova graduation performances. Questions: Do graduates like Khoreva, etc—dancers with great primal potential—happen every year? And how many have corporate sponsors? Khoreva has Bloch & Nike—even young Olya Morgulets is a Merlet ambassador!

No, students of Khoreva’s potential are pretty rare. Obviously, Vaganova generally produces graduates of a very high caliber, but I’d say that ones like Masha come along once or twice in a generation. And that’s if we’re lucky. 

None of the students have corporate sponsors, but some do develop working relationships with major brands (that’s a bit different from having a sponsor). 

I had also been wondering about Alena Lebedeva. She still has the Instagram account alionas_kate but it isn’t clear if she is still a Vaganova student.

It looks like she may now be a student of the Rudolph Nureyev Ballet Academy in Ufa.

In the past ten years, who do you think the top 5 VBA grads have been?

  • Olga Smirnova (2011)
  • Renata Shakirova (2015)
  • Anastasia Lukina (2015)
  • Alena Kovaleva / Maria Ilyushkina (I couldn’t decide between them) (2016)
  • Maria Khoreva (2018)

That’s just my personal view.

d i s c l a i m e r

It surprised me that you didn't include S…

It surprised me that you didn't include Sevenard in your top 5 grads. Why is she not as great to you personally as the other five?

I’ve received several questions about my choice of the Top 5 graduates since the original post went up yesterday. People are shook that I left Sevenard off that list. I was honestly expecting to get more of a backlash for not including Zhiganshina (or any men, but I think they deserve a separate list).

I can objectively pick the top 4 best female graduates of the last decade (Smirnova, Shakirova, Lukina, Khoreva – all students of Professor Kovaleva btw), but number five gets tricky. There are many graduates who deserve praise and attention, which is why I wanted to included the very underrated Ilyushkina. 

I chose Kovaleva over Sevenard, because, in my opinion, Alena has so far had a more challenging journey and had to overcome serious obstacles – her height being the most obvious one. Not only did her tall stature cost her a job with the Mariinsky and severely limited the number of partners she can work with, her long limbs also make her job more difficult from a technical standpoint. She was also thrown into the deep end by Vaziev the second she crossed the Bolshoi’s threshold. She had to tackle a ridiculously complex repertoire head-on, and did so with impressive confidence.

d i s c l a i m e r 

VBA Grad updates


More 2018 updates can be found here.


Oscar Frame will debut in the Emeralds Pas de Trois on May 9. He is also rehearsing the part of the Golden Idol.

Alena Kovaleva has debuted as Nikia in “La Bayadere”.


Maxim Zenin has debuted Puss In Boots in “Sleeping Beauty”.

Maria Ilyushkina has debuted Florine in “Sleeping Beauty” and in “Raymonda” (Act I, Raymonda’s Dream variation).

Vlada Borodulina has “officially” debuted as Gold Fairy (as her original debut was during the Petipa Festival).

tsiskaridze: Vaganova Ballet Academy graduate (2016), Mariinsky…


Vaganova Ballet Academy graduate (2016), Mariinsky Theatre dancer, Maria Ilyushkina. Photographed by Irina Yakovleva.

tsiskaridze: 2016 Vaganova Ballet Academy graduate, Mariinsky…


2016 Vaganova Ballet Academy graduate, Mariinsky ballerina, Maria Ilyushkina, photographed by Irina Yakovleva.