On June 26 the thirty five graduate students of the Vaganova Ballet Academy received their diplomas at the Catherine Palace. This year five students, including Maria Bulanova, Anastasia Demidova, Daria Ionova, Anastasia Nuykina and Maria Khoreva graduated with honours.
Fifteen foreign students who have completed a course of practical training received appropriate certificates.
The official part was followed traditionally by a ball.
Photo by Andrew Lushpa.
Irina Gensler crossed her slender legs in light velvet pants and shoes of soft leather, placed a thick photo album on her knees and smiled: here it was, an archive of eight decades of life immersed in Russian ballet.
With delicate, youthful fingers, Gensler pointed at the photos of herself, a strong and unusually flexible dancer with sparkling eyes and curly dark hair.
During her 35-year-long career at Mariinsky Theater, also known as the Kirov, Gensler performed Spanish, Italian, Polish, Gipsy, Hungarian, and other character dances in dozens of classical ballets.
Today, at age 87 she gives lectures about character dance for teachers at Russia’s best-known ballet school, the 280-year-old Vaganova Academy.
The ballet professor believes that the secret of her longevity is her natural resilience and her commitment to preserving and passing on the traditions of classical character dance from generation to generation.
Most Russian ballerinas retire in their early forties. Gensler was different: She danced solo parts on the Mariinsky stage until she turned 51.
But even after that, she never really retired and continued to teach ballet in Egypt, Italy, Spain and at the Vaganova in St.Petersburg.
“Currently I am working on restoring the original Polish dance ‘Krakowiak,’” Gensler told The Daily Beast. “You see, I have to pass on the character parts, that I was destined to perform in classical ballets to the next generations of dancers—this is my life responsibility.”
Gensler was born in 1930 in Leningrad in a family of intellectuals. “My father came from a family of Germans, who Peter the Great brought from Europe, generations ago,” Gensler explained her last name.
Her uncle played clarinet in the city’s philharmonic orchestra—Gensler danced whenever she heard music. She is one of very few living ballerinas who studied in the class of Agrippina Vaganova, the originator of the eponymous ballet method based on the Imperial Russian Ballet.
During World War II, when thousands of people died of hunger in besieged Leningrad, the Vaganova school was evacuated to a village in the Ural mountains outside the city of Perm.
“It was a tiny provincial place, where we had no place to dance but at least we were not hungry,” the ballerina remembered.
Some of her colleagues at the Kirov theater—known as the Mariinsky today—dreamed of dancing and living abroad. Rudolf Nureyev was the first famous ballet star to defect to the West. In 1961 he refused to go back to Leningrad during the theater’s tour in Paris; the same year he performed at London’s Royal Ballet. “I couldn't think of escaping from my country where I had two children and my parents,” Gensler told The Daily Beast.
This year Russian ballet, which was inspired by 19th century Romanticism, marks the 200th anniversary of Marius Petipa, a groundbreaking French-born choreographer of the Mariinsky Theater.
“On the 29th of May, 1847 I arrived by ship in St.Petersburg… I served for 60 years at the same place, in the same theater, quite a rare phenomenon,” Petipa wrote about in his memoirs about the Mariinsky, where he created more than 70 ballets, including the famous Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. Petipa died in Russia, at age 92.
“It is so wonderful, that we have Petipa!” Gensler said as she recalled her own experience, learning character dances in Swan Lake, as well as La Bayadère, from her old ballet masters—just the way her own students learn from her today.
Gensler’s strong posture, emotional gestures and girlish voice make you forget about her real age. “My repertoire included 25 ballets. It was not difficult for me, as from an early age I adored ballet. Whenever I heard music, I could dance endlessly,” she remembers. “You see, it is not only your grace, flexible limbs, or your ability to lift your leg to 180 degrees that makes you a good ballet dancer,” Gensler told The Daily Beast, punching the air with a firm fist. “It is very much your stoicism, your resilience.”
Such qualities have served Russian ballerinas well during their country’s wars, repression and economic struggles of the last three centuries. “Ballet theaters do not pay much, many graduates of our academy move to work on the West,” Gensler said with regret. “In 1989 my entire course of graduates immigrated, it was a remarkable change.”
Political systems collapsed and grew strong again, scandals at the theaters filled dancers’ hearts with depression and panic, but choreography survived all the storms and turbulence.
In 2013 an acid attack on the Bolshoi Theatre director Sergei Filin shocked even the most indifferent Russia observers.
In one of his first interviews after the violence, Filin told me that “the attack was the culmination of a long-running battle at the Bolshoi Theatre over roles, money and onstage glory.”
A few years later, Anastasia Volochkova, former prima ballerina of the Bolshoi, said on Russian television that the theater’s management forced its ballerinas to act as escorts for business and political elites in Moscow and Paris.
No violence, provocative battles or intrigues could spoil Russian ballet’s reputation for excellence, however.
Ballet schools continue to empower their graceful students, and dancers are still willing to accept long and demanding hours and low pay to pursue their dream of a life on stage.
To make it on time for her classes, Gensler wakes up early in her one-room apartment on the outskirts of St. Petersburg.
She walks to the station to catch a local train to downtown St. Petersburg, the city where Anna Pavlova, George Balanchine, Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov and many other great dancers learned the basics of classical choreography.
This month, football players and fans visiting St. Petersburg for the World Cup might be interested to see the Vaganova Academy on Rossi Avenue, the former Imperial Ballet School that was established in 1788 during the era of Empress Anna. They may even catch a glimpse of a flock of ballet dancers hurrying into the school.
Even after so many years, Gensler is still deeply committed to her role as a keeper and restorer of original choreography created by Petipa and other great ballet masters.
Gensler’s students know only too well that, unlike music, the moves, looks and passion of character dance cannot be put into a series of notes. “Irina Gensler, my dear teacher, likes to say that ballet masters pass choreography ‘from foot to foot’; I learned from her at Vaganova school,” one of her former students, St. Petersburg choreographer and dancer Andrei Bogdanov told The Daily Beast.
“It is her strong character, the passion of dance that she passed to us, the unique knowledge of character dance, that cannot be written on paper.”
Bogdanov thanked Gensler for giving him and other students what he called a “theatrical vaccination” against the frequent drudgery and hardship of daily life.
“It protects us from, and helps us rise above, the hunchbacked, grey reality that we often see in the streets outside the theater.”
Text by Anna Nemtsova, The Daily Beast, June 16, 2018
Vaganova Ballet Academy informs of opening registration and accepting applications for "Vaganova -PRIX" International Competition-2018.
We welcome senior students from Russian and International choreographic schools, colleges and academies to participate in the " Vaganova-PRIX"
Ballet Competition that will take place in St. Petersburg from October 14 till October 21, 2018.
We are pleased to announce that based on the Agreement with the "Prix de Lausanne" Organizing Committee,
Vaganova Ballet Academy will host in the same dates the Pre-selection of the "Prix de Lausanne"-2019 International Competition.
"Vaganova-Prix" International competition is for students of professional choreographic ballet institutions aged 15-19.
To register, fill in the Application form for the Competition and to learn of the Competition regulations please follow the link: http://www.vaganovaprix.ru
Davide Loricchio, student of Vaganova Ballet Academy (pedagog - Fethon Miozzi) has received a scholarship of International Prix de Lausanne - 2018 competition.
The scholarship will give Davide a chance to start his ballet career in one of the partner theatres of the Prix de Lausanne.
Photo by Gregory Batardon
On March 11, 2018 a very meaningful event took place at Vaganova Ballet Academy – the unveiling of Memorial board commemorating Marius Petipa.
The great ballet master, a Frenchman to whom Russia became his second home, served to the glory of Russian ballet for over 60 years and created such ballet masterpieces as "The Sleeping Beauty", "La Bayadere", "Raymonda", "The Pharaoh's Daughter" and others. Most of these ballets were rehearsed in the building of the formerly Imperial Theatrical School, nowadays –The Vaganova Ballet Academy. It was in this building that Marius taught ballet classes. That is why it is so important that in the Year of Ballet in Russia we perpetuate the memory of the master whose contribution to the Rusian and world ballet art is priceless.
The Memorial board which is now located at the entrance to the Academy was unveiled by the Principal of Vaganova Ballet Academy Nikolai Tsiskaridze and the Governor of St. Petersburg Georgy Poltavchenko. The event was greeted by Consul General of France in St. Petersburg Mr. Hughes de Chavagnac and Natalia Pilus, State Council Deputy.
The flowers to the Memorial board were laid by students of Vaganova Ballet Academy, participants to the International Conference "Hommage à Petipa" and ballet lovers of St. Petersburg.
Vaganova Ballet Academy expresses gratitude to private persons and institutions who contributed to the creation of the Memorial board to Marius Petipa:
- Mr. Timur Kravtsov, Russian Federation;
- Ms. Sasaky san, "Ars Tokyo", Japan;
- Ms. Francesca Bernabini, "Association of Ballet Teachers", Italy;
- Mr. Cheng, Cheng Ballet Academy, Singapore;
- Ms. Flora Rupf, Switzerland;
- Mr. Kosaka san, "Sofia Art", Japan;
- Ms. Sudzuki san, Ballet Workshop in Nara, Japan;
- Mr. Riccardo Riccardi, "Dansemble", Italy.
The Principal of Vaganova Ballet Academy Nikolai Tsiskaridze and the Governor of St. Petersburg Georgy Poltavchenko.
Vaganova Ballet Academy and Principal Nikolai Tsiskaridze received the acknowledgment from the Prix de Lausanne addressed to Vaganova-Prix Ballet Competition directed by Nikolai Tsiskaridze.
The letter of accreditation signed by Mr. Stephane Lagonico, President of the Prix de Lausanne and Ms. Kathryn Bradney, Artistic Director of the Prix de Lausanne confirms, that Vaganova-Prix Ballet Competition is the official representative of the Prix de Lausanne pre-selection in Russia from October 14th to October 21st, 2018.
Kathryn Bradney and Nikolai Tsiskaridze.
Vaganova Ballet Academy is pleased to announce the start of registration for official and authorized Master classes that have been scheduled to take place during the summer break – 2018 in Italy, in Spain and in Japan.
ITALY, July 3 – 13, 2018
Vaganova Academy International Summer Course 2018 in La Spezia, Italy
Organizer: Accademia La Maison de la Danse (LMD)
Via Fontevivo 21/N - 19125 La Spezia – ITALY
Registrations close on May 31, 2018
SPAIN, July 2 – 22, 2018
Russian Masters Ballet Camp
Organizer: Asociación Nacional de Ballet Profesional
C/Santa Gema, 18, 30840 Alhama de Murcia, Murcia, Spain
Tokyo, July 12 – August 13, 2018
Organizer: Ars Tokyo
Osaka, August 8 – 13, 2018
Nara, August 17 – 24, 2018
More information upon request: firstname.lastname@example.org
February 2018 will be sated not only with lessons, but also foreign tours for students of Vaganova Ballet Academy.
On February 6 and 7 students of the Academy will dance in Gala concerts in Switzerland – at first in Zurich (6), and then in Lausanne (7). From Switzerland a part of children will take off for Japan where they will dance in Tokyo on February 11.
The second part of the month will be devoted to Italy and the "Russian Seasons" passing there this year.
There will be a performance at Teatro Goldoni in Venice on February 12, and then the performance will be given on February 15 – in Asiago. Here, in Venice and Asiago, Masterclasses of Vaganova Ballet Academy will take place also.
On February 24 five students of the Academy will take part in a concert in Florence. Here, in Florence, on February 23 Vaganova Ballet Academy will give a ballet audition to offer direct access to students in the school year 2018/2019. Also, Masterclass for professional training in ballet Vaganova Technique will take place in Florence on February 24.
Finally, the big Gala concert will be given in Naples on February 26.
From the 11th till 15th of December, 2017 the Vaganova Ballet Academy hosted master-class for students of the Cheng Ballet Academy (Singapore). Classes of classical, character and historical dances were organized for them. Also, young Singaporeans were able to watch classes of Vaganova Ballet Academy students.
Two representatives of Vaganova Ballet Academy will participate in ballet contest Prix de Lausanne, which will take place from January 28 till February 04, 2018 a 46th time.
Ervin Zagidullin, a student of level 8 (teacher - Fethon Miozzi) and Davide Loricchio, an international trainee from Italy (teacher - Fethon Miozzi) passed the first tour of the contest and has joined the list of 78 participants of the next tour. Three hundred eighty dancers from 38 countries of the world participated in the first audition tour.
Ervin Zagidullin and Davide Loricchio.