The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

Just another site about the love of ballet

The Vaganova Issue December 25, 2012

Filed under: ballet,ballet class — theworstat @ 6:03 am

We’ve been having a long and fruitful discussion about the acid-tongued YouTube vlogger RussianBalletVideos.  One of the issues this person seems to have is a strong prejudice for Maryinsky dancers who spent their full 8 to 9 years of training in the Vaganova Academy — so much so that he finds any way he can to use less than a total Vaganova Academy education against his less-than-favorite dancers (right now, those are Oxana Skorik and Keenan Kampa, but he has other victims as well).

A quick search of the Maryinsky website reveals something interesting: roughly a quarter of the female (and maybe up to — or more than — half the male) soloists are not Vaganova Academy trained.  One of the female principals was also trained elsewhere.  Didn’t look at the bios of the male principals, though.

No comment this time.  Just thought it would be interesting to throw this out there.


3 Responses to “The Vaganova Issue”

  1. Jennifer S. Says:

    Vaganova schooling doesn’t guarantee you are going to be a fantastic dancer. Being principal ballerina should be about more than technique or having what in rbv’s mind constitute as great arms. Universally these qualities, Vaganova schooling or not, include fluidity and harmony in movement in addition to special or personal touches in phrasing. Then the extra special ones have their own distinct way of moving, be it extra touch of softness or luminous quality onstage.

    I may not be a fan of someone like, say, Sylvie Guillem. But I can see those qualities which make her stand out. So to me unlike rbv, it isn’t a matter of particular schooling because there are countless Vaganova trained ballerinas who are average at best. Many people today like Natalia Osipova but for wrong reasons. Mainly she is appreciated for her athleticism, which while charming in small doses and under right circumstances, becomes fake and detrimental to the art when overused. I think this example is where I may find some common ground with rbv, as Bolshoi trained dancers often lack refinement and softness. Would Osipova have become a totally different dancer had she trained at Vaganova? Probably not but she would most likely have better port de bras and placement. Would the soft yet lively Evgenia Obraztsova have Osipova’s turning skills had she trained at Bolshoi? Probably not because her natural style is so soft and fluid it is hard to imagine her as a strictly technical dancer sacrificing purity of line and placement for an extra turn here or there.

    So again the better argument for what makes a dancer special isn’t her schooling but her own, natural qualities which combined with schooling, determines what kind of dancer she would become. That and professional opportunities given to her of course.

  2. atlantic Says:

    I agree. I believe it was on RBV’s channel that I saw the academy had a ‘weak’ class in 2011 (except Smirovna and Sharpan, both of which did not join the Mariinsky). The method cannot be so fool proof since the school has produced many mediocre dancers as well. Is RBV suggesting that any other school is incapable of producing great dancers? What of the Paris Opera. La Scala and the Royal Ballet? Have they been producing crap dancers for all these years?

    I agree that in addition to strong technique, the dancer must posses the ‘x’ factor or ‘star quality’. There are just some dancers that are more enjoyable to watch, even if they may be inferior in technical ability.

    For example, I have seen videos of Maya Plisetskaya dancing ‘Carmen’ and more modern ballerinas such as Svetlana Zakharova. Svetlana’s technique is superior, but I enjoy Maya’s dancing much more. She has a special spark that probably cannot be taught.

    On a side note: what would Eric Conrad think of RVB’s criticisms? What I can glean from his videos is that Vaganova technique is standardized in Russia.

    • theworstat Says:

      The Conrad question is interesting, because from what I can gather (from this distance), there is quite a rivalry between the Vaganova school and the Bolshoi’s. I’m sure the Bolshoi academy’s teachers follow the Vaganova technique, but wow aren’t the results different? And even before RBV started ranting, I’d noticed that the Vaganova-trained Maryinsky dancers had a sort of contempt for their Bolshoi counterparts. I haven’t heard much about the reverse being true.

      Definitely I would, for a change, be interested to hear what Conrad’s take on this might be.

Comments are closed.