Category: Nikolai Tsiskaridze


Wholesome post is wholesome.

Elizaveta Budanova, a young ballet lover from a Murmansk children’s shelter, had her dream of attending a ballet master-class granted by the Russian version of “Make-a Wish” foundation.

Elizaveta toured Vaganova Ballet Academy, with Nikolai Tsiskaridze as her guide, and was taught a ballet master-class by the rector.

Photos by Andrew Lush.


Your workload at the Academy is intense. Do you have time for anything other than classes and rehearsals?

Alexandra Khiteeva: “All of the academic staff are very understanding of our situation and try not to pressure us, though I enjoy English and the History of Dance classes. To be honest, on weekends I just want to lay around, do nothing, and read books like “Tell me about the sea” by Elchin Safarli and “Brooklyn” by Colm Tóibín. I have to say, though, that Nikolai Maximovich (Tsiskaridze) is very involved in our after-school activities, especially when it comes to the kids who board at the academy. We visit the Russian Museum, the Hermitage and, sometimes, we even manage a quick outing to the movies.”

Read the full interview here.

Wow in the video you posted of Juusela at IV “Russian Ballet” Competition, I *love* that at 1:23 the camera catches Tsiszaridze positively beaming at Juusela, then Tsiszaridze immediately goes back to glowering. If the camera had panned to him three seconds later, it would have looked like he was very displeased with Marko's performance. He's my spirit animal.

He is the most entertaining person to watch.

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Nikolai Tsiskaridze in class with his students at Vaganova Ballet Academy. 


Nikolai Tsiskaridze teaching a class at Vaganova Ballet Academy. February 2019.


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 teaching a class at Vaganova Ballet Academy. February 2019.


Did Vaganova have a year with two graduation classes? Also where did Skorik train? I thought Perm

Skorik studied in Perm State Choreographic College. Each Vaganova grade is divided into several streams, each headed by a different teacher. This way, class sizes are kept to a minimum. The final year (Grade 8 / Level III) is divided into four streams: two boys’ and two girls’ classes. The teachers are: Kovaleva, Kasenkova, Ilyin and Miozzi.

Hi! I’ve just discovered your blog and I’ve been reading your posts non stop 🙂 I read one of your answers about body modification on the VBA students; specifically about tattos being out of the question… what if a student gets a tattoo? I think Khiteeva has an arrow on the side of her wrist…

I don’t know if Khiteeva is over 18. That might play a role. However, I don’t think many students would risk the teachers’ wrath by getting a tattoo before they graduate. Seems like a silly thing to do. 

Do you have an estimate of how many students fail their exams each year? Like is it common to fail?

It varies form year to year. I think there VBA “thin the herd” a little in 3rd and 5th grade, and most of expulsions happen around that time.

Hi! I was wondering if you could tell which five girls were dancing on the centre/back barre in Kate Panda’s most recent Instagram video?

Katya answers that question in the comments.

A post shared by Kate Panda (@katepanda007) on

How does the duet exam work with so many more girls than boys at Vaganova? The poor guys do it more than once?

They arrange the combinations in a way that works with the number students.

Hello! Would you know why they stopped allowing filming of the exams? I love watching them and following their progress … seems sad that they wouldn’t allow filming anymore, especially of the graduating year …

VBA exams are filmed professionally on regular basis, but the footage is for internal use and examination only. VBA main argument against releasing the footage is that exams are part of the teaching process and the public don’t need to see it. That hasn’t stopped students from filming and posting videos of the exams on instagram though.

The footage of Tsiskaridze’s classes taking their classical exam get released, but I think that that is due to the fact that Nikolai has to keep proving himself and constantly show the results of his work.

Has Marko Juusela transfered to Vaganova all together? Or is he still a foreign student? What year is he in? He seems to be one of the best in his class.

Marko is an international trainee. There’s no way for a trainee to become a “local” student. They receive a traineeship diploma at the end of their time at VBA. The only notable exception to this was Keenan Kampa, who received a full diploma upon graduating from the academy.

Hi Melmoth! Hope you had a good start to the week 🙂 I wanted to ask if you know the reason why the VBA teachers often wear similar shoes that seem to have high arches? Tsiskaridze sometimes wears them and I can’t stop wondering about it.

I think you’re referring to the Grishko sneakers which the teachers often wear. It’s comfortable professional dance footwear – I suppose that’s why they wear them.

Do you think body type will effect a student’s place on the barre? I notice sometimes, there’s a girl on the front of the side barre who seems to be a stronger dancer than a girl on the edge of the center barre, but the side barre girl has a very different body type so she wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the center barre girls. I’ve also noticed it seems like the tall/thinner girls are usually on one side barre and the shorter/a bit less thin girls on another side barre.

No, I don’t think body type is very likely to affect a student’s position at the barre. 

For the students who take part in performances at the Mariinsky: when do they rehearse these? Is it structured into their daily schedules? If so what do the students not performing do?

Rehearsal time is generally in the evening and the afternoon, after the classes finish. Given how many performances VBA students have been giving / been a part of in the last five years, I doubt students are ever idle. There’s always something going on.

Hi Melmoth! It seems like the grads this year will get a chance to perform their Graduation at Mariinsky and Bolshoi!(i noticed it in one of the grad’s IG). I’m not surprise with the Performance at Mariinsky but on the Bolshoi’s stage is a big surprise don’t you think?Especially when BBA&VBA are rivals and the Bolshoi doesn’t like Tsiskaridze since then. Maybe now it’s not that strained anymore but i just wanna know your thinking,how do you think the school might have done to perform at Bolshoi?

The information about one of the graduation shows taking place at the Bolshoi has been out for some time now (and the tickets have been on sale for ages). It’s not that strange, given that the academy is celebrating their 280th jubilee this year. Many of the former graduates (Zakharova, Smirnova, Obraztsova, etc) will be taking part in the graduation gala.  

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Vaganova Ballet Academy classical dance exam. Grade 7 / Level II. Class of Nikolai Tsiskaridze.

Ilya Kuznetsov (former BBA teacher) was present at the exam and shared some of his thoughts on social media afterwards. Here are some noteworthy remarks / things to look out for:

  • The exam isn’t just a compilation of exercises – all combinations have an element of dance;
  • All combinations are choreographically interesting. The exam material is put together with striking virtuosity;
  • The entire lesson is built on the contrast between rapid tempos and adagio-esque tones;
  • Tsiskaridze’s unique language and vision is evident throughout – not a single element copies other great masters.

The students are capable of displaying the following qualities (during high-speed combinations no less):

  • Immobility (stability) of the supporting side – a rarity among modern-day students;
  • Complete, clear lines of the dancers’ legs – a sophistication of style and Peter Pestov’s hallmark;
  • Precise musical plasticity.

(April 2018)


When PR reigns over reason: an excerpt from Nikolai Tsiskaridze’s interview. English dubbed.

(April 2018)