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Mariinsky under Fateyev


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#91 Tiara

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 12:08 PM

Question: This string bean look (which I like on some dancers)......is this a look that the company wants simply b/c the company prefers that look and wants to be known for dancers with this look, or is it because they think the public expects that look? If they think the public wants that look I know people who prefer a more womanly look. I think Stepanova is beautiful. I think many people would. If they think the public wants that look in dancers, I am not sure they are correct.

I too like the string bean look on some dancers, but generally prefer a more womanly look. I agree that Stepanova is beautiful and her physique is perfect for her. Certainly most of my friends do not like the skinny look and often argue with me about Shirinkina, who I like very much, and criticize her skinny look. The Mariinsky Theatre requirements are obviously very influential on physical type of children recruited to the Vaganova Academy and the result is that the public is forced to see an endless stream of string beans (the preferred height for a Vaganova graduate is 165-170 cm, so this is already above the average height for a woman.) It is a shame when there may be many talented dancers who are denied roles because they do not fit the ballet type favoured by Mariinsky management.

#92 Helene

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 12:24 PM

From Catherine Pawlick's book, "Vaganova Today":

Terekhova, pp.107-8

A ballerina with short legs, a large, tank of a girl, that kind of dancer does not exist here. A ballerina must have long legs at least, long arms, and be slender. In America, there is a struggle with this aesthetic. I mean a full barrel cannot go out on stage and wear a white tutu and dance Odette. But for them in America, it's normal. There is the automatic, "Put on the tutu and go out there," they are completely fine with it. It's a different level of aesthetic. But they don't allow that here. Here everyone must always be in shape, and the shape, the body, is a very specific type. They choose the children for the school according to certain parameters, there is an index against which they measure the children. The standards are different.


Terekhova speaks as if this always was the aesthetic and body type at the Mariinsky Theatre. Perhaps Terekhova's memory doesn't extend farther back than the '60's or '70's, but this aesthetic was in place well before Fateev.

Christiakova, p.140

Vinogradov liked tall girls, and so he first looked at those with long, thin legs. But I'm medium height, with a feminine build, and I was not favored in terms of external appearance.


Assymuratova, p.176

Now we have stricter requirements about physical appearance. Because if you look at the 1940's and 1950's, you can go to the [Vaganova Academy] museum and look at photographs, and there were fantastic dancers then, but it is unlikely that they would become leading dancers today, because they were short and plump. Now the demands are completely different; everyone has to be thin and long. The traits are completely different today. However, it wouldn't be correct to say, I cannot say that they danced worse, for example. No. There were some elements that were more emotional then; the requirements were different. There were lots of ballets with stories, and we know that some of the artists fulfilling this or that role, they were truly artists of ballet, not just executors of movement, not just performers of subject-less technical movement. Then it was full, rich, spiritual dancing, which is what Russian ballet has always been distinguished by--its emotionality and soul and soulful richness...



#93 canbelto

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 12:43 PM

I also think that by going so much for the "skinny and long" look the Mariinsky is losing out on certain dancing abilities. For instance, I notice that the best jumpers in the world, male or female, anywhere, in any company, usually aren't "skinny and long." They are usually on the short side, with powerful thighs. I call them the "dark haired dancing dynamos" because they usually have dark hair, are tiny (short), aren't necessarily the prettiest in terms of body shape, but they are fantastic jumpers.

So what the Mariinsky is getting in terms of beautiful-looking O/O's, they're also losing in terms of dynamite Kitris or Giselles.

#94 Natalia

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 12:51 PM

Everything changed around 1982/83. Margarita Kullik -- one of the favored students of Dudinskaya -- was being primed for super-stardom, then had the awful luck of joining the company at exactly the time when the craze for the Guillem Mold began to take shape. I've always felt a little sorry for Kullik because she is the balletic equivalent of the person in whose face the Metro door slams. Ayupova, who graduated a couple of years after Kullik, was a bit luckier, making Principal eventually but had nowhere close to the career of the taller and ultra-thin Makhalinas and Lopatkinas.

We can forgive Terekhova -- a Gamzatti and Myrtha for the ages! -- having forgotten that the 1970s Soviet Union still saw many wonderful stars with either more womanly figures, such as Nadezhda Pavlova (at Bolshoi) and Galina Panova (Kirov), or shorter and a bit 'fuller' than today's Mold, such as Gabriella Komleva and Alla Sizova. Speaking of Terekhova, didn't she live and coach in Boston for a while? I would have loved to have been a fly-on-the-wall during casting discussions...with champions of the two aesthetics (US 'inclusive' vs Russian 'exclusive/ultra-thin') arguing their respective cases.

p.s. - Just saw canbelto's post, which is spot-on.

#95 canbelto

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 01:11 PM

Just adding that it's not just Kitri and Giselle that suffers in terms of this kind of figure selection. Juliet, Aurora, Rubies, third movement of Symphony in C, are all traditionally roles that belonged to the short dynamic dancers. Raymonda and Nikya can really go either way in terms of casting.

Also, selection for taller and skinnier females means selection for tall, cavalier-type male dancers, so there's even less room for the demi-character males.

#96 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 01:25 PM

I also think that by going so much for the "skinny and long" look the Mariinsky is losing out on certain dancing abilities.


I've been noticing-(and reporting)-for a while an ongoing grow of ballerinas for which the posing, flexibility and lyricism in movements is more visible and obviously important than their actual dancing abilities. I'm definitely also under the impression that the ultra-thin and flexibility trend is taking its toll in their muscle strenght and ability to keep beautiful airy, controlled jumps-(a la Vasiliev)-or their "a terre" ones in turns and pointe work which require a maximum of strength in their ankles-(a la Valdes).

#97 Drew

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 04:47 PM

I had to laugh reading the quote from Terekhova..."I mean a full barrel cannot go out on stage and wear a white tutu and dance Odette. But for them in America, it's normal." Oh yes, those barrel shaped American ballerinas!

(Come to think of it, wasn't Balanchine accused -- not without some reason -- of creating an aesthetic that valued tall and thin over other qualities? He may have featured some more petite dancers, but on the whole that was not what was associated with the overall NYCB 'look' and long before Guillem.)

Mashinka's post remains rather enigmatic to me. That is, I agree that there is a difference between making the case for one's favorites to get more roles and making the larger case with what is wrong with Fateyev's directing -- and I certainly know of no company in which the casting satisfies all fans. But I'm guessing that spelling out the problem being alluded to would involve speculation/gossip...if not, though I wouldn't mind being enlightened!

#98 puppytreats

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 09:12 AM

Also, selection for taller and skinnier females means selection for tall, cavalier-type male dancers,


How successful are they in achieving this? I often read complaints about a lack of adequate partners. Therefore, one can question the benefits of selection.

#99 Tiara

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 03:31 PM

Weight certainly does seem to pose a problem at the Mariinsky at the moment for a number of ballerinas. Tiny Valeria Martinyuk was labelled fat by the St Petersburg ballet critics and recently lost a great deal of weight, to the extent that she now looks far too thin. This resulted in her promotion to 2nd soloist and a variety of new roles for her, but she actually looked perfect before and should have not felt it necessary to adopt this extreme measure. Svetlana Ivanova also has lost a lot of weight, and actually looked shockingly thin recently in her odalisque costume as opposed to healthy and radiant in her Florine with Batalov's Bluebird, that is uploaded on YouTube. It is a disgrace that these two beautiful ballerinas, who both had healthy feminine bodies, felt themselves obliged to lose weight in order to fit in with Fateyev's required physical type. Ivanova in particular is shockingly thin, although when she is wearing a tutu or her body is actually concealed by her costume, she can still look nice. Incidentally, how can Fateyev still be casting her as Amor, a role for a young ballerina? It is an insult to her. Most of the dancers at the Mariinsky know they have to be thin in order to get roles - and a very sad case in point of one who has not been able to do this is Tatiana Tkachenko, who was wonderful in many soloist roles (particularly Diamonds) but has always struggled with her weight. She has not danced a classical pas de deux or been cast in a major solo ever since she put on weight - not that she is fat now, just not skinny. It seems only the skinny will ever progress in Fateyev's Mariinsky.

Of course, there have aalways been thin ballerinas - Lopatkina for example was always skinny at Vaganova, unlike fellow students, so this was plainly something in her genes. Maya Dumchenko also, who I saw in Rubies, and as Aurora and Giselle, was always very thin and 168 cm tall, but she was another naturally thin girl. It is just that now, the very thin girls predominate, whereas once there were a variety of different body types to be found within the company.


I think the problem comes when dancers are forced to diet below their natural "set point" as this results in a look that is not natural for them. Personally I believe that every dancer has a weight and a look that is best for her, and dancers should not be forced to all be the same, like a row of paperchain ballerinas. Diversity is good, and different physical types bring different qualities to a role. It would be boring if every dancer looked the same! Some dancers, like Stepanova and Marchuk, are feminine in build and it suits them, but others are naturally skinny beanpoles and this look suits them. I believe there should be room for all physical types within the Mariinsky.

At the Royal Ballet, this is certainly the case, and we do not have a uniform required look, partly of course, because our ballerinas are of all different nationalities and come from different schools of dance. We do not have the problem either that only dancers of a required type may dance certain roles - tiny Roberta Marquez for example, is less than 5' tall yet can dance Nikiya and Odette-Odile, and Alina Cojocaru is only 5'3" (approx.) We do of course have taller principal dancers, but physical type is not a bar to becoming principal or to being given roles in the way that it seems to be at the Mariinsky. It seems that it is only at the Mariinsky that being tall and thin is more important than being talented. And for this state of affairs only Fateyev is to blame.

#100 Helene

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 04:05 PM

In "Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear," Carla Korbes described how when she was at NYCB, Peter Martins would tell her she needed to lose weight, she would, he would reward her with roles, and she would become weak and get injured, a vicious cycle that lasted until she moved to Seattle to join PNB. (Not that she's been injury-free since she's been here, but she looks gorgeous.)

At the end of Wiseman's "La Danse," Brigitte Lefebvre is giving a career review to a young corps member who looks like she'd snap from blowing out a birthday candle, and that dancer happily tells her boss how she's lost weight as she was told, much to Mme. Lefebvre's satisfaction. My stomach did a 360 at that one.

I rather watch "barrels" and "tanks" dance.

#101 puppytreats

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 04:26 PM

In "Where Snowflakes Dance and Swear," Carla Korbes described how when she was at NYCB, Peter Martins would tell her she needed to lose weight, she would, he would reward her with roles, and she would become weak and get injured, a vicious cycle that lasted until she moved to Seattle to join PNB. (Not that she's been injury-free since she's been here, but she looks gorgeous.)

At the end of Wiseman's "La Danse," Brigitte Lefebvre is giving a career review to a young corps member who looks like she'd snap from blowing out a birthday candle, and that dancer happily tells her boss how she's lost weight as she was told, much to Mme. Lefebvre's satisfaction. My stomach did a 360 at that one.

I rather watch "barrels" and "tanks" dance.


Gosh, I don't recall her saying "as she was told," although I recall that she received praise.

#102 Birdsall

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 06:35 PM

And for this state of affairs only Fateyev is to blame.



The irony is that Fateyev looks like he needs to lose a lot of weight. I just saw him recently. I don't mean to be catty. I just find it crazy that an overweight person who doesn't seem to be able to control his food intake seems (according to people here) to demand that ballerinas be so thin. Again, I don't mean this to insult him. It just seems crazy when heavy people are telling fairly thin people that they need to lose weight.

#103 alexaa1a

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 07:44 PM


Also, selection for taller and skinnier females means selection for tall, cavalier-type male dancers,


How successful are they in achieving this? I often read complaints about a lack of adequate partners. Therefore, one can question the benefits of selection.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, selection is not what it was during communism. Many parents dreamed of their children dancing for the Kirov Ballet and obviously, many children felt the same way. The number of girls auditioning for the school has dropped and the number of boys has dropped substantially. Vaganova does not have as many students, particularly boys to choose from. There are still many girls trying out since many do get rejected, but sometimes, they do not not have enough boys audtioning, to make one full class, let alone two classes.
The desire to have tall girls with skinny legs is almost forcing Vaganova to take tall boys, but not enough boys, tall or short, are auditioning. They can weed out the current undesirable, not anorexic, but super talented girls, to invite the talentless, skinny girls with long legs. However, there are not enough boys trying out to allow many rejections. Anyone attending the auditions will verify what I have stated. However, despite this problem, favoring taller girls, requires taller boys and the desire to have skinny boys is producing boys with serious partnering problems and more in need of strong healthy food. Healthy food is much better, but Vaganova does not consider much healthy eating in their diet plans which is basically, the less food eaten, the better it is.

For those wondering why fewer girls and boys audition than in Soviet times, the answer is that under communism, there were few jobs that offered what the Kirov Ballet offered. Now there are so many well paying fields in business, that many parents think ballet is not financial rewarding enough.Probably the number of girls desiring to be ballerinas is the same, but more parents are opposed to ballet than during Soviet times. There will always be talented Russian ballet dancers. Look at all the great dancers born around World War II when so many children died, Komleva, Maximova, Sizova, Makarova, Bessmertnova, Sorokina, Soloviev., Nureyev was in another region, Vasiliev, Lavrovsky and Vladimirov. The talent is inside the Russians and Vaganova will continue to produce the wrtold's greatest dancers, but it is not easy now. however, around the time Vaganova died, the war had caused many deaths among the young and probably Vaganova ahd fewer dancers to choose from than today and look who came out in the late 1950s and 1960s.

#104 Helene

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 09:09 PM

The irony is that Fateyev looks like he needs to lose a lot of weight. I just saw him recently. I don't mean to be catty. I just find it crazy that an overweight person who doesn't seem to be able to control his food intake seems (according to people here) to demand that ballerinas be so thin. Again, I don't mean this to insult him. It just seems crazy when heavy people are telling fairly thin people that they need to lose weight.


The late Charles France of ABT wasn't svelte, either. If you look at coaching videos in Russia (and older ones from the Soviet Union), many of the older coaches, especially, are quite heavy, when they had been a lot thinner as dancers, even if they came from generations where proportion and balance, rather than thin-ness was prized. They don't need to be svelte to impart their knowledge, nor do they need to be svelte to administer a company.

#105 Jayne

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Posted 05 September 2012 - 09:27 PM

I think the weight issue is a big deal for all athletes - artists or not - once they stop their daily 6+ hours of exercise. Their metabolism changes and it's hard to find the right balance.


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