The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

Just another site about the love of ballet

Weird just got weirder October 30, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — theworstat @ 6:49 am

Finally back from a lengthy hiatus; apologies to anyone who missed this blog (I know it wasn’t a certain dancer’s “sister,” lol).

Actually I went through a period of boredom.  This happens nearly every summer.  I spend the summer outdoors and cannot conceive of spending it inside taking class (if I were doing that), or even watching a ballet.

So what shook me out of my boredom?  This bombshell:

Obviously there’s a lot that happened here that is unknown to anyone save the participants, but I share the author’s apparent dismay at the hiring of Mr. Short-Fuse-On-a-Stick-of-Dynamite, Nicolai Tsiskaridze.

I would like to know what befell Altynai Asylmuratova.  I was not aware that she was doing anything so terribly wrong that she had to be dismissed and replaced by a ballerina who is still dancing (Lopatkina), and obviously doesn’t have time to do the job properly.

Yes, Vaganova was falling under criticism for weak pointe work, beautiful but flimsy technique, and turning out basketball-height female dancers who weigh as much as starving 12-year-olds; however, this is what their principal customer, the Maryinsky, seems to want.  The stated charge that Vaganova is turning out dancers who lack star quality is ridiculous on a number of levels, and doesn’t deserve to be addressed.  As for the technique problems, these seem to be epidemic around the world.  It seems that most schools are turning out unprepared students these days (possible exception is the POB’s school).  It could be that the variety of techniques demanded by major companies has become too varied to master while a youngster is trying to gain a grasp of the deep impossibilities of classical ballet, but that’s just a thought.

The only thing I can work out that makes sense (in the case of Tsiskaridze) is Vaganova’s recent neglect of male students.  The past several years have seen a succession of graduations of skinny, pallid boys who have proven to be very weak partners and unremarkable soloists.  The Maryinsky has increasingly looked abroad for male dancers, although this is also true at the Bolshoi.

The only other move I question is the addition of a year to the curriculum.  There is much about dancing that cannot be learned in a ballet school, after all, and the sooner kids start learning in the real world, the better their careers will be.

But this is the point: what good has Tsiskaridze done anywhere he’s been, for anyone but himself?  It could be that something was arranged to get him far away from Moscow, and keep him there.  But this?

Only time will tell us what has actually happened here.  But it sure is weird.


13 Responses to “Weird just got weirder”

  1. Gabi Says:

    Is Tsiskaridze being hired for the school or for the company?
    And why is it that the vaganova school seems to be failing? I’ve seen plenty of great dancers being produced. I know there is a lot of critcism (reading youtube comments and such) I always really liked that school but I’m just wondering why people are saying it is falling apart?
    I don’t hear much news since I live very far away from new York and russia.

  2. theworstat Says:

    Tsiskaridze has been appointed rector of the Vaganova Academy; however, there are concerns that this appointment will lead to the wish (of someone heading up the Maryinsky) coming true that Vaganova may become the official school of the Maryinsky, and under the same management eventually. This is viewed as a potential disaster.

    I saw nothing wrong with Vaganova as it was being run. Every class seemed to turn out at least a potential female star or two. I’m thinking that perhaps this power grab is due to the fact that in the last few classes, the major (potential) stars have fled to companies other than the Maryinsky. This would be less likely to happen if the school were under the same management as the company.

    There was no disaster ongoing at Vaganova as it was — unless, of course, you count the dearth of male stars coming out of the school. Tsiskardze’s appointment is what’s being viewed as a disaster.

  3. Jennifer S Says:

    Actually I see a lot wrong with recent Vaganova grads. It seems more interested in producing instant stars than teaching good foundation to young dancers, unlike other professional schools in the world.

    Just go watch pictures and recent yt videos of Ksenia Zhiganshina. She can turns like a dervish but the way she cheats turnout, as she has very poor natural turnout it seems, by using her feet to the point of winging them, is indicative of how poor the training at Vaganova has become. The fact that Zhiganshina is being talked about as a star already, proves it. She also has the hallmark weak pointes and feet that most Vaganova grads now have.

    So yes, when a school’s star graduate has major flaws like Zhiganshina, then it is the director’s fault.

    Tsiskaridze however is the wrong person to run the school. He has no background in management, pedagogy, and above all a committment to anything higher than his own self-promotion or self-intersts. Not to mention his public disdain for Vaganova style of old.

  4. Jennifer S Says:

    I would also encourage those who are interested to follow how deviously the whole thing was handled, on Ismene Brown’s blog.

    • theworstat Says:

      I have a sneaking suspicion that Zhiganshina was forced on the Vaganova school, but I don’t know how or why. Her U.S. equivalent would be a comp kid, schooled in all the tricks but understanding nothing she is doing, pushing her way into the upper levels of SAB.

      I didn’t read everything on that blog yet, but thanks for the link. “What a tangled web we weave” comes to mind, although I don’t know (confused as I am) why I didn’t realize that Lopatkina is intended as a sort of figurehead, which is all an active ballerina can hope to be in the role of artistic director of Vaganova.

      On another subject from that blog, I also don’t know that Filin’s alleged affair with Smirnova has to do with the price of tea in China. At least, that sort of silly smear on a victim would likely not be allowed in a courtroom in the U.S., but maybe things are different in Russia. It will be interesting to find out why it was brought up (and why Smirnova is a witness at this trial).

      Anyway, everything I read sounded downright loopy. Unfortunately, this means business as usual in Russian ballet.
      Vaganova may turn into a Maryinsky satellite yet.

  5. atlantic Says:

    The method at Vaganova has not changed. Any weakness in dancers may be related to the fact that the physical ideal has changed. Weighing 90 pounds when you are 5’8 doesn’t sound like a recipe for strong pointe work.

    I think there is more to Zhiganshina. Interesting to see how she does. I think she is on the shorter side, and the MT tends to promote taller girls.

  6. Jennifer S Says:

    This is an interview Joy Womack did very recently. It seems to be that Bolshoi is very messed up right now as well like the situation at Marinsky and Vaganova. Now the sudden marriage of another young, much publicized ballerina there at the Bolshoi, makes sense if what Joy alledges is true. I am inclined to believe her. This is her interview:

    Joy Womack, just 19 years old, is the first American female dancer on contract with the Bolshoi Ballet. Recruited at a New York summer intensive, she completed three years at the Bolshoi Academy’s rigorous training program before being offered a position in the Ballet a year ago. But there was a catch.
    “They told me I wouldn’t get in if I wasn’t married.”
    Joy tells me this by phone from her parents’ home in Austin. As luck would have it, she is returning to Moscow just as I am leaving. I haven’t managed to speak to a single Russian Bolshoi ballerina during my trip; I have consoled myself with the knowledge that they would have been guarded, unrevealing conversations at best.
    But now this American girl is telling me that after a year in a sham marriage, she is filing for divorce.
    “There are a lot of girls who look up to me,” she says, her voice fuzzy on the international line. “I would be ashamed if I didn’t show that you don’t have to compromise to be what you want to be. I just want to be a ballerina. ”
    Joy has not yet informed the Bolshoi of her intent. She knows that it will disrupt her application for Russian citizenship, and maybe even her work visa. She wants very much to stay with the Bolshoi, which she says has been her dream for as long as she can remember. But if they insist that, to prove intent of citizenship, she cannot be single, “that’s a deal-breaker.”
    Having shared this predicament (“I’m still nervous about talking about it”), Joy tells me she wants to be a good spokesperson for the ballet. For a long time, Joy sings the praises of this revered institution, its dedication to high culture and close mentorship from generation to generation. She tells me how much she loves her teachers, and in particular Boris Akimov, who led the ballet briefly before the string of disastrous appointments ending with Filin’s. Akimov is maybe that “man full of light,” she says.
    But I am only half listening. I’m thinking of all the dancers who whose departures from the Bolshoi have already echoed (or will soon) more loudly than this young foreign soloist’s. I’m thinking of Marina, and her “sober” assessment of the horrors of the Bolshoi. Marina was Joy’s age when she graduated from the Bolshoi Academy only to find her progress blocked because she lacked the connections, money, or influence known collectively as “blat.” In such cases, she had told, me girls have to find other resources: “Your only hope, in the ballet today, is to make a good marriage.”
    Two days later, I call Joy again. Now she is in Moscow and I am in America but her voice is clearer, more certain than it was before. “I’m the first one back from vacation,” she laughs. “It’s cold and rainy and there’s not a soul back in town yet.” She tells me she has a meeting with the head of the Theatre in a few days time, which will decide her future.
    I ask if all Russian ballets have such stringent conditions for foreigners. She’s invested so much in Russia, learned the language, made friends, begun the citizenship process. Maybe she could go to the Mariinsky? The Mikhailovsky? If the Bolshoi turns her down?
    But Joy says that’s not the point. “I’m Bolshoi through and through.”
    I wish Joy well and ask her to keep me posted. It’s hard to say where she will be dancing in a year’s time, but while it may not the Bolshoi, it almost certainly will not be the Moscow Classical Ballet. For better or worse, there really is no comparison.

    • theworstat Says:

      I didn’t see this until after I posted the news that came out today (11/14), that Womack is leaving the Bolshoi due to the intensely corrupt culture behind the scenes. One wonders about this marriage thing…it’s all very tangled.

    • thedancer Says:

      she sort of hid her marriage from her fans on facebook although the boy and his mother kept posting photos of them. it appeared that they did like each other and the family’s were very happy about the marriage.
      is she still filing for divorce from him?
      i’m glad that she is trying to be an example and show girls they don’t have to compromise to become what they want to be. that is good morals

  7. thedancer Says:

    Actually she is a principal with the kremlin ballet now.

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