Category: vaganova ballet academy

Ask responses: Vaganova


Hi Melmoth! I love your blog. Would you be able to tell me who is the girl dancer in the second frame of your post “Part III. Vaganova Ballet Academy 2017 graduation performance rehearsal”? Thank you!


I’m not sure which photo you’re referring to exactly, but the students in these photos are Vlada Borodulina, Oscar Frame and Alexandra Korshunova. Hope that helps.

Hi, I apologise in advance for the large number of questions which are mainly about vaganova exams. You do such a good job at informing us. 1) does missing a step at barre, say a battement have an effect on the dancer’s grade? 2) how is it determined which group in the exam does which side at centre (they don’t always do both sides….)? 3)sometimes in grades ¾ they don’t wear skirts in the exam, how is that determined? 4)what happens if you’re injured lightly? Will you still take it? Thank u!

Some of these questions are so specific that only a Vaganova insider (which I’m not) would know the exact answer. I’ll do my best to make an educated guess.

  1. I think that even though mistakes, large or small, can affect the final grade, students are judged on the overall performance and there are a lot of elements at play.
  2. My understanding is that the arrangement is up to the teacher and depends on what they are trying to achieve with the examination material they’ve prepared.
  3. This could be entirely arbitrary, but it’s also possible that, depending on the nature of the combinations in question, the examination panel may want to see more of the students’ legs / hips.
  4. It depends on the injury. Some students take their exams with light injuries.

I’d love to know whether I’m actually getting any of this right  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What do students do with their time after exams? What happens if a final year student doesn’t pass their exams? Do classes ever switch teachers or are they decided for the whole time?

They prepare for the graduation performance and whatever other performances they may have. 

It really depends on the situation and the people involved. Some students may still be allowed to graduate though it’s unlikely that they would get a job. Others may fail out of school. I’ve heard of this happen to students in their final year and it’s obviously very traumatic.

Sometimes they switch and sometimes they don’t. Junior, middle-school and senior students are taught by different groups of teachers. Normally a class is taught by the same teacher for several years (especially at the end), but it’s not uncommon for the teacher to change. I think it depends on how many students pass from one grade to the next; classes may need to be re-shuffled based on the changing numbers. 

Hi Melmouth, In photos/videos of exams, I sometimes catch a glimpse of the examiners seated in a long line along the mirror. Who are they – Teachers from the school? Retired dancers? Teachers from other schools?

The graduation exams are attended by a lot of people. The examination committee sits at the front, the rest are guests: mostly industry professionals, teachers and VBA insiders. I think the committee itself varies from exam to exam, but generally consists of a mix of high-ranking Vaganova professors and industry professionals (Mariinsky coaches, retired dancers, etc)

Hi Melmoth! I wanted to ask you, based on the “exam2018” video you posted, I wonder if you attended this year’s state graduation exam in person? I noticed it is on the same youtube account where a while back you posted that hilarious video of Tsiskardize’s… hmmm… gag reel? If you actually did, how you were invited and what was attending in person like? Many thanks for your work, especially those translations (serious pains in the butt, I know. I be happy to do a Spanish/Chinese one for you!)

No, sadly I didn’t attend the exam, though I’d love to, as I’m sure many people would. The video I uploaded is a compilation of exam footage collected online. I felt it would be easier to have the whole thing collated into a single file. I have an unlisted YouTube channel for this very purpose: to be able to make my own edits and upload videos if I need to.

Hi! First of all, thank you for uploading the exams – (I still can’t believe Khoreva and Ivanova will be graduating this year, time goes so fast) I wanted to ask you if there’s any reason for the placement of the students during an exam? I thought about it when you talked about how Tsiskaridze arranges his students. In connection to that, is there a reason fewer male students perform in an exam at the same time? Do they just need more space to perform or is it a teachers/schools preference?

The order, arrangement and spacing of the students during an exam is entirely up to the teacher who prepares the examination material. It depends on the type of combinations, the teacher’s priorities are and what they want to achieve. Also, the boys’ classes are sometimes smaller than the girls’ classes – hence the discrepancy in numbers.

d i s c l a i m e r



Vaganova Ballet Academy classical dance exam. April 2018. Grade 6 / Level II. 

tsiskaridze: Nikolai Tsiskaridze has been awar…


Nikolai Tsiskaridze has been awarded a Ministry of Culture of Russian Federation badge for contribution to Russian culture. This is the first government award Tsiskaridze has received since taking over the management of Vaganova Ballet Academy in 2013.

The award was established by the Minister of Culture in 2012 and serves to honour the people who have made a significant contribution to the development of Russian culture, art, cinematography, historical and cultural heritage and archives. In order to qualify for the award, one must have worked in the relevant cultural sphere for at least 15 years and had previously been marked by departmental awards of the Ministry.

sovushka-seraya: Agrippina Vaganova in class w…


Agrippina Vaganova in class with her students: (left to right) Feya Balabina, Alla Shelest, Nina Zheleznova, Olga Moiseyeva, Ninel Petrova, Nonna Yastrebova, Natalia Dudinskaya,  Lubov Voyshnis, Inna Zubkovskaya, Galina Kirillova and Tatiana Vecheslova, 1940s


Ask Responses: Vaganova


I know you mentioned VBA overexposed Elya, but it seems that an absurd amount of people are angry at her? She was superior both technically and artistically at the time of graduation, but do people not realize that or what? Judging from some of those asks on your page, people make it seem like she didn’t deserve to be the star people and stole the limelight from her peers.

The backlash against Elya was predictable and, honestly, VBA and Tsiskaridze (especially Tsiskaridze) should’ve seen it coming from a mile away. I’m sure they meant well, but their actions ended up causing a lot of damage. Ballet is an aggressively competitive field and, unfortunately, jealousy, bitterness and anger come with the territory. Any extraordinarily gifted dancer is bound to attract all sorts of attention, not all of it positive, and there are ways to manage their transition to stardom with as little drama as possible. Ekaterina Maximova gained a lot of attention in her final year at BBA, and her teacher dealt with it by telling the press, in no uncertain terms, to piss off. Her aim was to graduate and deliver her star student to the Bolshoi peacefully and quietly. 

In Elya’s case, it no longer matters how gifted she is because the PR campaign (for lack of a better word) has overshadowed that for a lot of people. VBA and Tsiskaridze had the best of intentions. I do not doubt that for a second. But they didn’t just poke the proverbial bear (the already jealous and unhappy masses) with a stick, they shoved a firecracker up its ass. God bless Nikolai, but subtlety has never been his strongest suit.

On that note, I wonder whether Professor Kovaleva made a conscious decision to hold Khoreva back a bit. Remember how we barely saw her until maybe six months ago and were all wondering why that was? I think the answer is not only that the class of 2018 had a lot of talented students they could and did show off, but that Professor Kovaleva (who gave us Diana Vishneva and Olga Smirnova) knows how to launch a career with as little drama as possible.

Hi Melmoth, who was the student with the amazing fouettes on the last video you uploaded?

I’m pretty sure that’s Maria Bulanova.

When exams happen at the Vaganova, does like one person evaluate each dancer? If not, how are they suppose to look at everyone dancing at once?

The exams are graded by a special committee of (I think) 4 to 6 people. I believe it’s a mix of VBA professors and industry professionals. These people spend their entire professional lives watching and evaluating groups of dancers. They can follow many things at once. 

It seems like exams are awfully early. Is that typical? When do the theaters make their offers to students?

The exams are a little early this year; I’d say one or two weeks earlier than last year. The offers are usually made around the time of the exams.

Do VBA professors have to have graduated from the school itself?

I imagine that any coach / teacher who wishes to work at VBA must, at the very least, complete a training course at the academy, since they must become familiar with the Vaganova method before they can teach it. Most teachers I can think of had not only graduated from VBA as dancers, they had also danced with the Mariinsky, before returning to their alma mater to requalify as ballet teachers.

The only notable exception to this rule is Tsiskaridze, who doesn’t have any formal Vaganova training. He does, however, have an encyclopedic knowledge of Russian ballet (including the Vaganova method) and was trained as a ballet coach by Marina Semyonova – Vaganova’s favourite students.

Hi Melmont, i wonder if you have the link of the complete video of the gift that you upload where he is correcting a student of his posture, sorry for my english, greetings from 🇨🇱 chile ! 😊

You can see the whole video here.

Not really an ask but I just wanted to say the pictures of the graduating class doing their character exam makes me so emotional. Especially the ones where they are wearing the long sleeved black leotards because it just makes them look so mature and it’s such a throwback. I feel like khoreva was super tiny just a few days ago.

I know. It’s kind of scary how quickly time flies…

d i s c l a i m e r



Part V. Vaganova Ballet Academy 2017 graduation performance rehearsal at the Mariinsky Theatre. 



Part VI. Vaganova Ballet Academy 2017 graduation performance rehearsal at the Mariinsky Theatre. June 3. Photos by Alexander Ku.



Part IV. Vaganova Ballet Academy 2017 graduation performance rehearsal at the Mariinsky Theatre. June 3. Photos by Alexander Ku.



Part III. Vaganova Ballet Academy 2017 graduation performance rehearsal at the Mariinsky Theatre. June 3. Photos by Alexander Ku.



Part II. Vaganova Ballet Academy 2017 graduation performance rehearsal at the Mariinsky Theatre. June 3. Photos by Alexander Ku.