As everyone probably already knows, Yulia Stepanova has not only been promoted to prima at the Bolshoi, but in that achievement sailed over 2 promotions (she’ll never be a First Soloist or a Leading Soloist). She catapulted straight from Soloist (better known as Coryphee in many companies) to Principal.
I kind of suspected that she would be promoted at the start of this season, but I never expected anything like that. Instead I expected her to spend a brief time at First Soloist before languishing at the Leading Soloist level for a few years, kind of like Smirnova did.
Someone mentioned on another site that Stepanova’s promotion(s) is/are unprecedented. If anyone has gone up three levels to the very top in one year, it hasn’t happened recently.
Certainly she must be much more remarkable than just having expressive arms. It’s definitely not her feet, which like Smirova’s are rather uninteresting, (which should prove to some people that feet are not everything as there are now at least two Bolshoi primas with retro-feet — feet that would have been great in earlier decades but not now, in the banana-foot age). It’s how you use your feet, not so much what they look like, after all. However, so far I haven’t seen anything really special in her use of her feet, or anything else but her upper body and arms.
I would like to see a full-length video of her dancing Swan Lake, and another of her dancing a contemporary ballet. Then I’ll have a better idea.
Anyway, the judgement has been made by the powers-that-be at the Bolshoi, and once again this leaves the Mariinsky with egg on its face. It seems that company is fading further and further from the limelight and may disappear altogether once the current generation of stars retires. Fortunately a few of them are fairly young, and that could add another decade or so during which the Mariinsky has a chance to turn itself around.
If it doesn’t, it will serve as a harsh reminder of how fragile ballet is. One lost generation, and the entire art could be lost forever. The Bolshoi now seems to have realized this. The Mariinsky had better wake up.