Category: Nikolai Tsiskaridze

Ask Responses: Vaganova


Kristina Spiridinova says on her instagram that she is vegan. Are there many other students at the school who are vegetarian/vegan?

There probably are, but I don’t know of any. I didn’t even know Spiridinova was vegan.

@themarwhal: are there videos from the performance at the hermitage theater from 9/28?

Is there a video of the Hermitage performance? And do you know who danced the Nutcracker Pas de Trois?

Who are the older students that performed at the Hermitage museum most recently?

Aviva Gelfer-Mundl (“La Bayadere”), Elizaveta Avsadzhanishvili, Ivan Poddubnyak and Dmitry Sobolev (”The Fairy Doll”), Anastasia Smirnova (“Le Corsaire”), Valeria Bespalova (“The Awakening of Flora”), Alexandra Khiteeva, Mikhail BarkidjijaMarko Juusela, Evgeni Bolotskikh, Ivan Poddubnyak and Alexander Polupanov (”the Nutcracker”), Aaron Osawa-Horowitz (“Actaeon”)

Sorry, I couldn’t find any videos. Only little snippets

Did anything come from the discussions about building a swimming pool for Vaganova students? Sounds such a good idea..

It’s a great idea but I haven’t heard anything about it in a while. I’m not surprised though; things like this take absolute ages to get done. I’m surprised it only took Nikolai two years to get the Petipa memorial plaque approved. That’s basically the speed of light in terms of Russian bureaucracy.

Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe that Daria Neupokoeva (@dashaballet) is no longer at VBA. She was in the same class as Sartakova and Chernyavskaya from the first grade. It’s a shame if so, I remember in earlier years she really stood out, doing a lot of solo parts etc. But I guess that’s the brutality of it all, isn’t it.

I believe Dasha is now training in Novosibirsk. It appears that she fell victim to the carnage that are VBA exams… That just goes to show that no one, no matter how talented or successful (Neupokoeva danced the part of little Masha) they are, is guaranteed to survive at VBA.

I think one reason that not much has been heard about the Vladivostock students is that the first group are still in the lower grades.

Yes, that too.

Hi Melmoth – Are there 3 female final year Vaganova classes? (Savelieva’s, Khiteeva’s, and Smirnova’s). I’m confused by the ‘Kovaleva class’ posts on Instagram!

It looks like there are, actually. Which is rare. There are three graduating female classes (Grade 8 / Level III): Zhelonkina’s, Sitnikova’s and Vasilieva’s. Tsiskaridze is teaching all the graduating boys. 

Professor Kovaleva is training Grade 7 / Level II. Elizaveta Avsadzhanishvili and Anastasia Smirnova are in that class; they are graduating in 2020.

on kuzmicheva’s instagram there is a photo of her at the enrollment ceremony holding a red book and microphone? do you know what she might have been doing there/what her role in the proceedings was?

She was one of the MCs.

d i s c l a i m e r 

The relationship between the theatre and the p…

The relationship between the theatre and the public has, unfortunately, changed pretty drastically. In the past, the auditorium was filled with true lovers of the arts, but that’s no longer the case because these people can’t afford the astronomic ticket prices. Now you get some people who come [to the Bolshoi] to take a photo in front of the famous chandelier and leave.

We are currently sorting out our museum, and I…

We are currently sorting out our museum, and I have an opportunity to go through the academy’s archives. The sheer number of “open letters” – all filled with devastating revelations, accusations of the managements’ incompetence, and so on – penned by the great dancers of the second half of the XX century and released to the press, far exceeds anything I’ve seen at the Bolshoi. You can’t rewrite history… But the scandals never crossed the city limits. On the other hand, if anyone sneezes at the Bolshoi, it makes the news all over the world. The Bolshoi was built in 1856, and remains the world’s largest historical theatre. It’s the country’s main stage and it will always remain the focus of attention. Anything that happens there, good or bad, will always be construed with a heightened degree of intensity.

Sorry if it sounds strange – but what do you t…

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 

tsiskaridze: Nikolai Tsiskaridze with Sunhee K…


Nikolai Tsiskaridze with Sunhee Kim, Dean of the School of Dance, Korea National University of Arts, at Vaganova Ballet Academy, and Nikolai with a fan at the opening of archival ballet documents exhibition in St Petersburg.

I’m so here for his outfits. 10/10. Style icon.



Welcome to the 2018/2019 academic year at Vaganova Ballet Academy! Photos (presumably) by Andrew Lush.

tsiskaridze: “As long as you remain discontent…


“As long as you remain discontent, as long as you have the desire to do more, to go places, to seek and to learn, you are alive.” –  Nikolai Tsiskaridze. “Tavrida” national youth forum. August 2018.

“No one has said it better than Lord Tennyson in Ulysses: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield". You see, these are very important words because of their incredible meaning. Whatever our goal, we’d have to strive for it, to seek it out. And if we are determined enough to find it, we must then manage not to yield. And that is very, very important. 

As long as you remain discontent, as long as you have the desire to do more, to go places, to seek and to learn, you are alive. As soon as you think that you know it all, that is it, you are done.” 

When [Filin] was dancing, he was my main partn…

When [Filin] was dancing, he was my main partner for eight years.  [Nikolai] Tsiskaridze and Filin were my main two partners.  You don’t necessarily have to love or hate someone; you just get on with it.  There was no conflict.  In Russian ballet, there are no easy people.  We’re all difficult characters.  Some are more intelligent and some are less intelligent, but you don’t have any people in Russian ballet who are angelic with easy characters.  We live in a difficult country; we work in a difficult theater; we depend only on ourselves or you find whichever other way you want.

Anna Antonicheva as Shireen, and Nikolai Tsisk…

Anna Antonicheva as Shireen, and Nikolai Tsiskaridze as Ferkhad, in The Legend of Love (Bolshoi Ballet)



This is a reminder that Kathryn Bradney (Prix de Lausanne’s Artistic & Executive Director) will be part of the jury at the Vaganova Prix this year, and will potentially select two candidates from the Russian competition to invite them to register and participate in the next Prix de Lausanne, with a full scholarship (all expenses paid).