Category: svetlana savelieva


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.

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Vaganova Ballet Academy students, Svetlana Savelieva and Yulia Spiridonova, photographed by Alisa Tikston. 


Who was Keenan Kampa’s teacher at Vaganova?

Professor Tatiana Udalenkova.

Do you know what the purpose of the reserve troupe is for the theatres?

I believe it’s the lowest rank in the company. They get to dance a little but mostly they are seen as the reserves for the corps de ballet proper.

From recent posts by Maria Khoreva we can see that she is visiting/using the rooms at the VBA. Is she working on the performance that the graduates do or is that just something former students can do?

It’s not uncommon for graduates to return to Vaganova to train, especially early in the academic year, when they getting in shape for the upcoming season at their respective theatres. If the grads have ongoing relationships with their teacher, they can gain permission to ocassionally attend class and train at the academy.

Thank you for not including Svetlana Savelieva in your list of dancers to watch. I like her very much but I am aware she has quite a few haters too, many of whom are very vocal about it. If you had posted her name on your list, there would be so much drama I think. Svetlana is absolutely lovely and like you, I hope this will be her year too!

That’s a valid concern, but that wasn’t the reason I didn’t include her. I have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to bs both on here and on instagram. I come down on trolls and haters like a ton of bricks.

I actually adopted this very harsh personal policy because of Sveta. A few years ago I posted a group photo VBA students on instagram and woke up the following morning (due to the time difference a lot of the activity on my socials happens while I’m asleep) to find a string of comments calling Sveta fat. She saw the thread and was devastated by it. I later found out that she started starving herself around that time. Even though the comments on my instagram weren’t the main catalyst for her decision, they surely weren’t helpful either. It’s been like two years and I’m still angry about that situation. 

Ever since then, I now immediately block anyone who even mentions the girls bodies in a remotely negative light and I do not engage in any negotiation when people ask me to unblock them. People can be absolute assholes and not care about the very real damage they can cause.

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May I ask why you didn’t include Svetlana Savelieva in your students to watch? And why is it a gamble to invite Vera Shpakovskaya to the Academy?

I knew this question was coming, and I debated whether to put her on this list

Savelieva has actually been one of my favourite students at the academy for several years now, and I love watching her grow and improve. I think she is a solid performer, though she has been known to falter due to nerves. I hope that this will be her year, and that she will emerge as a bona fide dancer at the end of it. Sveta is, for lack of a batter word, stable. Barring any injuries or other twists of fate, I can, with some degree of accuracy, predict how she will progress. Same goes for many other students. I honestly think that we should be watching the entire graduating class and the level below, but I can’t very well list all of those students and call it a day.

My list represents the students who have surprised me or who, in my view, have the capacity to surprise us in the future.

I was a bit puzzled by your comment “Vera Shpakovskaya – this is one hell of an experiment on Vaganova’s part.” She’s an incredibly talented and technically accomplished girl with great artistry, and surely it’s quite natural that she was invited to audition at the academy along with the other pupils her age, and was accepted. I thought your preference (which I also value highly) is to refrain from commenting on the younger students..

I think that this is a massive experiment because, to my knowledge, the academy hasn’t had a first year student of Shpakovskaya’s background and level of accomplishment before. Vera has joined the first grade, but some would argue that she is already performing at a higher level. I am very curious to see how she progresses at the academy.

My stance on younger students is still as strong as ever, but Vera is such an interesting case, that I can’t help by point her out as someone to watch.


There are other students of note in the younger years: Victoria Pavlova, who’s in the same batch as Polina Konogray and Evgenia Savkina (both injured, the former no longer a VBA student); and, aside from the famous Anna Sharova, Olga Morgulets, and Sofia Valiulina, we also have Maria Koshkareva, Angelina Karamysheva and Aigul Nugaeeva.

Yes, there are some very talented younger students, but I prefer to not comment on these guys until they are a little older (with the exception of Shpakovskaya for reasons explained above).

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Vaganova Ballet Academy students Maria Khoreva, Svetlana Savelieva, Maria Bulanova and Alexandra Khiteeva in Petipa’s “Awakening of Flora” at the Festival of Russian Ballet Schools (in honour of Marius Petipa) at the Bolshoi.


Vaganova Ballet Academy student Svetlana Savelieva taking flight. Photo by Marianna Sorokina. 


I could be wrong, but I vaguely remember someone asking if you had any videos of Egor Gerashchenko while he was at BBA? If so, I found a YouTube channel that looks like it’s run by his dad/family that has videos of him in school before VBA and recently a video of his debut in Le Corsaire. The name of the user is “олег геращенко”.

You’re not wrong 🙂 Thanks for that. I follow Egor’s dad on social media but I didn’t realise he has a YouTube channel as well.

Do you know if Khoreva is as tall as Kovaleva? The height talk has made me nervous that Khoreva might be considered too tall for the Mariinsky and that’s where I really want her to go (even though I want her to be where she is happiest). 

She’s tall, but she’s not that tall. I hope Masha goes to Mariinsky as well.

Recently I chanced upon a few clips of Renata Shakirova on YouTube dating back to the summer of 2013, all of which was before her graduation year of 2015. They appear to be soloist roles at Mariinsky’s performances (including Princess Florine), I didn’t know that was possible for students! Renata must be really talented if the AD started taking her on to dance soloist roles when she was just a 6th year.

Renata was a trainee at the Mariinsky during her final year at Vaganova. This isn’t an uncommon practice, thought the company tends to only offer traineeships to students they consider to have star potential (like Vishneva or Kim).

The short clip of Ivan Poddubnyak in rehearsal is very impressive. His coupé jetés en tournant appear effortless, which as we all know is no small feat. Is he top of his class in the graduating year, or are there other stars of the class? Thanks!

I’m not very familiar with that class yet. By the way, that class is graduating next year. We’ve now seen what Tsiskaridze is capable of doing to a class in one year. It will be interesting to see what he will do in two. Poddubnyak has been on my radar for a few years now. I think VBA and Tsiskaridze are expecting a lot from him.

Do you think Savelieva is a little bit penalized because of her inclination to be very nervous during a performance? I was wondering this because J. Spiridonova and Khiteeva,both from the same year,got/are getting prominent roles such as the solos in Paquita or the lead in Classical Symphony while Sveta didn’t,although she’s an amazing dancer. She dances important roles as well,but I think she could take even Julia and Aleksandra “kind of roles”. Can her problem with nerves be a possible reason?

I’d hesitate to make an assessment without any insider information. I doubt she’s “penalised”, though. She may not be getting principal roles, but she’s involved in all major VBA productions in soloist and coryphee capacity. It also looks like she may be an understudy for Princess Masha this year. I’m hoping we will see more of her in her senior year ( 2018 / 2019 ).

You just posted a video of Alexandra Khiteeva rehearsing the role of big Masha which is usually danced by 8th years. Isn’t she a 7th year?

I think Khiteeva is in her second to last year. While the role of Princess Masha is usually performed by senior students, it’s not unheard of of younger dancers taking it on. Eleonora Sevenard started dancing the part in her second to last year as well.

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@mariaspir​: At VBA, do teachers and pianists take classes together? In other words, if a teacher likes a pianist because of the way/the pieces/the style they play, can they have him/her in every class they teach or is it random and whoever can come will accompany the class?

I don’t know for sure but I doubt that the choice of the pianist is completely random. Especially in the final two years. Some teachers (Tsiskaridze) chose a very specific styles and pieces, so the accompanists are selected according to their ability to perform these.

Hi Melmoth, do you know if it is common for the students to practice in the studios after classes? I see a lot of insta snaps that seem to be at night and they’re practicing themselves/with friends.

I think a lot of those after-hours studio visits are made specifically with the purpose of taking some insta snaps. 

Is Olga Morgulets in third year? Does this mean if she passes her exams, she progresses to fourth year in September next year? Sorry, I’m Australian and our school year doesn’t start in September 🙂

The exams are in May and June and the academic year starts in September. If the students fail the exams in Spring / early Summer, they don’t come back to the academy after the summer break. I think Olya is in third year, but I’m not sure…

At VBA, do you know if it is all the younger students who are a suitable height can participate in productions, or do you have to be at a certain level in skill?

It really depends on who you ask. There is a lot of contention (especially among the parents) when it comes to which students get selected and which ones don’t. The “official” stance is that the very young students must be of a certain height and possess a certain degree of skill, though skill trumps height when it comes to solo parts like Princess Masha.

Do you know who the top students of each year are e.g. third year?

No. Every year level / class is different and there isn’t always an obvious “star”. Plus, there are too many year levels / students for me to keep track of.

How old are students when they enter VBA?

10 – 11 years old.

What grade/level/year is Svetlana Savalieva in and when will she graduate as well? I am quite at loss with their grade levels. I love her along with Asya and I love their friendship.

She’s in her second to last year. She’s set to graduate in 2019.

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I saw Svetlana Savelieva rehearsing in her recent Instagram post and I dropped her a message asking what performance was it and she replied!!!! Anyway, she said it was a rehearsal for “The Awakening of Flora” and her role was that of Diana, the Moon Goddess. The ballet will be performed 2 or 3 Oct. I wanted to ask her more questions but I didn’t want to be intrusive so I stopped. Would you happen to know where this ballet will be performed and is it going to be performed for a special occasion??

I’m not sure what that’s about, to be honest. Could be an internal concert, as VBA have no performances scheduled at the Alexandrinsky, the Hermitage or the Mariinsky theatres around that time.

I’ve seen many complain about the new generation of students, saying they are egoistic and easily distracted by technology. But yet we see amazing dancers like Khovaleva, Sevenard and Khoreva. Do you think the earlier concern is necessary/true?

I have seen VBA kids use social media intelligently and I have seen them do horrible and stupid things. It depends on the person’s maturity and upbringing. There are exceptions to every rule, but by and large social media and the ever-advancing technology has done some serious damage. They’ve not only changed the way people perceive the world and process information, but has lead to a significant shift in values, and neither the law nor education has caught up yet.

Do you know anything about Ekaterina Zhukova? How long has she been at VBA?

Katya graduated this year. I’m not sure what she’s up to now. I think she may be continuing her education with VBA.

Was Alena kovaleva’s diamonds performance the one that got excellent reviews? Also, are there any videos of this performance?

Yes. Sadly, no.

Hi! I’m new to ballet and was wondering what the big differences are between Bolshoi Academy and Vaganova Academy

To put it simply, it’s the style. BBA have a distinctive personality, charisma and energy, while VBA are known for lyricism and elegance (and that amazing port de bras).

Hi Mel! I’ve been an avid follower of your blog and other Vaganova students, but I wanted to ask you if you knew what pointe shoes most students wear? Thanks!

Thank you!. I’ve written about the VBA pointe shoe situation here and here.

Do you know anything about the ballet management studies at Vaganova? Maybe you have heard about people who graduated and which positions they have received?

VBA offers a masters degree in management (one of the classes is taught by Sergei Danilian). The graduates become managers and producers. The subjects include languages, management, HR, event management, art and dance history, accounting and so on.

I feel as if all the girls (and guys) at the VBA are good-looking. Is this just my imagination or does the academy have rules about what the student looks like, facially?

I’m pretty sure that would be illegal. Russians (and the population of Eastern Europe in general) tend to be pretty attractive.

Any word as to whether Zolotykh has returned to the Academy to finish her final year now that she is recovered from her injury?

I’m not 100% sure, but I think she’s there.

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A compilation of questions submitted through Ask. Thank you for asking!

Fast forward 5 years… Which of the female students currently in the top three years of Vaganova do you see as making the fastest rise through the ranks of Bolshoi/Mariinsky (if they choose that route)?

These questions are super fun, but I’m also afraid of jinxing the students I name or omitting the students I should have though of… Here goes:

  • Maria Khoreva
  • Anastasia Smirnova
  • Maria Bulanova
  • Ksenia Sevenard
  • Svetlana Savelieva
  • Daria Ionova

I came across this video on youtube, it’s on Lontramarina’s channel of the 2016 7/II duet exam and thought Lana Khalimova was absolutely lovely and really stood out – the first time I’ve seen her dance actually. What a shame she’s injured! Do you know if there are any more videos of her?

Sorry, there aren’t that many videos of her online, and I can’t seem to find the ones I’ve seen before… Lana is lovely. And it is a bloody shame that she’s injured.

Do you know if Tsiskaridze will be teaching the top boys’ class next year?

That’s a million dollar question. I have no idea.

Do you think that next year Maria Khoreva will be the Vaganova prima like Elya Sevenard was?

Yes. Though I doubt that she will get as much publicity.

Is Elya and the grade officially graduated now?


I’ve noticed in some of the documentaries about VBA auditions, the committee refers to some children as “accepted” and some as “accepted conditionally.” What is the difference, given that every student is required to prove him/herself almost constantly anyway? Thanks!

I think that means that the students are on probation. If they don’t reach certain targets by a certain deadline they get expelled.

On this blog’s insta, you posted snippets of Maria Bulanova in the grad performance and I’m very much entranced by her! I love how smooth her movements are, how lyrical she can be and the tiny movements she does that sets her apart. I daresay I prefer her to Khoreva in the snippet you posted – she just draws my eye.

This isn’t a question, but I’m posting it to encourage discussion, as there have been a lot of positive comments about Bulanova recently. Also, it gives me an excuse to post the video and plug my insta :p

Whatever happened to Alise Polyakova? She didn’t seem to do the exam, nor is she in the graduation performances. She seems to have kinda left VBA this past few months.

Sorry, I don’t know. I tried to look into it but came up with nothing.

I noticed Maria Khoreva did a live stream on Instagram earlier but I missed it. Did you or anyone else see it? Was it something to do with the graduation performance in Moscow or was it nothing that important?

Sorry, I have no clue what that was about.

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