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Skorik

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Cygnet,

Indeed that would be the same documentary. It is titled "A Beautiful Tragedy".

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Even with all of her shortcomings, I would much rather see 10 consecutive Swan Lake performances by Oksana Skorik than 1 minute of Alina Somova. Skorik has lovely limbs and knows how to use them in a lyrical manner. Also, Skorik is musical and a sensitive artist. Skorik has a lovely turnout. On the other hand, Somova, with her big thrust-out chin, lack of turn-out and mugging at the audience at inappropriate times, is the balletic joke of the century.

Hyper-extension is the least of Somova's problems, IMO. Even if she had Fonteyn-style 1960s extension, she'd still be a big hot mess. Case in point: see how she runs out onto the stage mugging at the start of the Paquita Grand Pas telecast shown on European TV a couple of years ago. Skorik has professional dignity. 'Nuf said.

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This afternoon skoryk danced her second Tokyo swan lake with sergeev and I thought the two made a lovely pair. Sergeev is a born dancer, noble in manner, poetic in dance and secure in technique. he is also a fine partner and I thought his warmth drew out an inspired skoryk. Although I still detected little emotion on her face her dancing was quite lovely in the white act pas. Musically they seem suited, and aesthetically they looked nice. I was also impressed that in the diagonal of turns in the white swan variation skoryk made two rotations and still on pointe bought her passé breathing down her rotating leg. I didn't see any visible obvious mistakes. In act 3 she was controlled and poised though I thought the solo was labored in tempi and there was not enough sensuality or emoting in the pas. She did 32 single fouttes with minimal movement and at least to my ears they were done at a reasonable speed. Visibly relieved after the fouttes the manège and the diagonal of pas de chat into attitude/arabesque was done with gusto and attack. Act 4 was also at least to my eyes quite lovely, I admired her epaulment and I liked that when sergeev partnered her in the white acts, in the supported turns her back achieved a singing quality and his secure partnering allowed her to employ fully her adagio skills. I suppose she will always have her detractors but I hope that people will give her a chance because on the right day, with the right partner and with practice and time as she has had with this sl she can produce a fine performance.I also hope that the Mariinsky management will allow this two to dance together more often because I thought sergeev brought out a different skoryk from the one in bayadere. Surprisingly so since height wise they are not ideally suited.

The corps was breathtaking as always and I especially admired the cygnets, Petushkova in the Spanish dance and alisa sodoleva and ekaterina bondarenko as the princesses. Also oksana marchuk stood out in the corps. Ivanova continued to be captivating, i found myself constantly drawn to her petit frame in the act 4 corp even when centre stage was occupied. The only disappointment was a sub standard pas de trios at the skoryk and lopatkina performances and almost unchanging secondary casting for the three sl performances.

On another note, lopatkina was absolutely brilliant two days ago and she received most deservedly a spontaneous standing ovation from an oversold house( there were additional seats specially for that performance). Kondaurova and kolb were also a magnificent pair and at their performance I admired the delicate shirinkina in the pdt.

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Even with all of her shortcomings, I would much rather see 10 consecutive Swan Lake performances by Oksana Skorik than 1 minute of Alina Somova. Skorik has lovely limbs and knows how to use them in a lyrical manner. Also, Skorik is musical and a sensitive artist. Skorik has a lovely turnout. On the other hand, Somova, with her big thrust-out chin, lack of turn-out and mugging at the audience at inappropriate times, is the balletic joke of the century.

Hyper-extension is the least of Somova's problems, IMO. Even if she had Fonteyn-style 1960s extension, she'd still be a big hot mess. Case in point: see how she runs out onto the stage mugging at the start of the Paquita Grand Pas telecast shown on European TV a couple of years ago. Skorik has professional dignity. 'Nuf said.

I respect your knowledge and am sure that many agree with you. However, I believe ballet is similar to opera, and there are tons of examples of opera singers that some people think are horrendous. A good example is Cecilia Bartoli, who I actually like a lot, but I understand why some good friends of mine can not stand to hear her. Their criticisms (and many people have agreed with them throughout her career) are that she makes horrendous, bizarre faces when she sings, moves her body in a jerky manner when she sings (both things are normally not allowed by a voice teacher), and she aspirates her coloratura, has a small voice, indulges in some breathy or campy mannerisms, etc. But many people find the good points of her voice outweigh the bad points and love her. She is one of London/Decca's cash cows always selling tons of cds of Vivaldi or Gluck arias that no other singer could actually get anyone to buy. She has just released a cd of arias by Steffani who is an obscure composer. No other opera singer would probably be able to release a cd of such rare arias that no one knows, b/c the cd would normally not sell. She can release this, b/c she sells cds no matter how obscure the composer is.

Another example is Maria Callas, a legend. I would say that most people love the drama she brought to her singing and her recordings are the first I would grab to take with me during a fire in my house. However, there are some who think her voice is like fingernails on a chalkboard like someone above commented. There are plenty who feel that way. People are divided on her even after all these years and even after her "legend" status (which I personally think is deserved). Her international career was short also which indicates something might not have been right about her technique (and there are many theories why she lost her voice) but you will find many, many Callas lovers who play many instruments and also sing who will tell you that her technique was flawless. But there are just as many Callas haters who play many instruments and sing and think she is overrated and is the cause of the decline of operatic standards.

In the end, opera singers and ballet dancers are like wine. Each person tastes something different in a particular bottle of wine. One person will go into ecstasy over a certain bottle while another will spit it out disgusted.

The only reason I say all this is that the trashing of Somova on this site is always given as a fact. It is not a fact. It is an opinion. I suppose the trashing of Skorik can be opinion as well. I have seen some full-length performances of Skorik and I have to say currently I would prefer not to see her in any role, but I hope she can prove my opinions about her to be unfounded and maybe one day I will eat my words. Maybe one day she will improve her self esteem (because maybe that is the key to all her flubs as someone implies above).

Each singer, dancer, or bottle of wine is going to have good things and bad things and it depends on what we are willing to tolerate. I can tolerate Cecilia Bartoli's aspirated coloratura, over animated face and body, etc. Others can not. Many think she is a joke to the opera world, but many totally disagee. There is a male mezzo (counter tenor really) who has a funny parody of Bartoli on YouTube, and he is amazing not only vocally but also copies all her flaws as well as her amazing vocal pyrotechnics. It is actually hilarious, but it demonstrates how a particular artist divides people completely and one person's trash is another person's treasure. I have a good friend who is dumbfounded that I like Bartoli, but I have friends who like her as much or more than I do. Less people trash Callas b/c she is a legend and they sound ignorant to criticize Callas, but they will confide that they can't stand her voice if you get to know a Callas hater. They know it is taboo to claim to hate her voice and find it horrible (although some people do say it out loud). But a current singer like Bartoli is always fair game and you will find plenty who will trash her today.

I think you, Cristian, and everyone else have every right to your opinions. I am not trying to convince anyone that Somova is good. That is in the eye of the beholder. But I simply don't personally think it is fact. Some flaws (in any dancer) can be shown as fact that they make mistakes or have flaws, and that helps to form an opinion, but the overall decision that a dancer is terrible is an opinion (possibly based on facts). I even have to remind myself that my opinion of Skorik is an opinion.

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Even with all of her shortcomings, I would much rather see 10 consecutive Swan Lake performances by Oksana Skorik than 1 minute of Alina Somova. Skorik has lovely limbs and knows how to use them in a lyrical manner. Also, Skorik is musical and a sensitive artist. Skorik has a lovely turnout. On the other hand, Somova, with her big thrust-out chin, lack of turn-out and mugging at the audience at inappropriate times, is the balletic joke of the century.

Hyper-extension is the least of Somova's problems, IMO. Even if she had Fonteyn-style 1960s extension, she'd still be a big hot mess. Case in point: see how she runs out onto the stage mugging at the start of the Paquita Grand Pas telecast shown on European TV a couple of years ago. Skorik has professional dignity. 'Nuf said.

I am not laughing at the joke, if joke it is. And I completely disagree with your statements about Alina Somova.

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I just wanted to make a clarification of what I have said way above about hyper-extension. When I refer to hyper-extension, I am not talking about the ballet term leg extension (raising leg to waist height or up to the ear). By hyper-extension I am talking about joints and how some people's joints are hyper-extended. That means instead of the knee, for example, looking bent like normal it actually bends the wrong way (slightly). You can see non-dancers who are simply hyper-extended from birth, b/c that is unique to their bodies. When they are standing straight their legs are not straight. They indent where the knee should actually be more forward than the shin. You have this with elbows also, In fact, when I taught Pilates I ran across this problem in elbows a lot more than I did in legs, b/c we have become accustomed to thinking hyper-extended legs are attractive (most ballet dancers want it). A hyper-extended elbow joint means that when the arm is held straight it actually goes too far in the opposite way than it is supposed to bend. People with these types of joints do not feel like their arm or leg (whichever limb is hyper-extended) is straight unless they hyper-extend. This is something that many ballet companies see as a plus but when I taught Pilates the people who trained me believed it was important to train clients NOT to hyper-extend. Hypothetically it causes the joint to push the wrong way more and more over time and that can eventually lead to injury of that joint. The more the person relies on locking out the limb to hyper-extension the more they are stressing the joint. However, I would love to know what actual dancers think of this who are retired. Do they have joint pain and problems due to hyper-extension being a plus in the ballet world?

I wish I could explain what I mean. Again, I want to stress that I am not talking about leg extension (how high a leg can be raised). I am referring only to joint movement and the joint moving in the "wrong" way slightly (for lack of a better description since "wrong" is subjective.....many ballet dancers want hyper-extension in their legs).

Bart

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I don't think it's simply an opinion that Somova has weak technique: there is ample evidence of it, and weak turnout and feet are only part of it. Whether her other qualities compensate is a matter of opinion. It is also not simply an opinion that her lines and extensions are contrary to the central standards of classical ballet. (Not that she's the only one, of course.) Whether people prefer her aesthetic to the classical one -- one that Petipa would recognize in his ballets -- is a matter of opinion.

I speak of Somova, because I've seen her live. I've only seen video of Skorik, and what I've seen hasn't made me want to rush out and buy a ticket.

I could watch Tereshkina assume her starting position in that practice video all day long.

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Helene,

I love Tereshkina. She is amazing!

But teach me something. How can you tell if a dancer has poor turn out or good turn out, since they move so fast all the time? If a dancer stands still in 5th you can tell. I understand that, but as they move about the stage I find it very difficult to tell. Unless the dancer is doing simple moves at the barre during classes it seems hard to tell. During performances they rarely stand still in 5th long enough to really see just how good their turn out is or am I mistaken? Please teach me how to look for good or bad turn out during performances.

B. Birdsall

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Kondaurova and kolb were also a magnificent pair and at their performance I admired the delicate shirinkina in the pdt.

I was there on 29th Nov 2012. Yes, Kondaurova was absolutely spot on beatiful and displayed solid dance. However, Kolb was awful. His choreography was simplified, yet, he made so many step and posing mistakes. Disaster, it was. Their height balance was not good either - as you all know, Katya is really tall where as Kolb is not tall enough for her. I therefore, am afraid, cannot help casting doubt about your comment on Skorik's Swan Lake.

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Kondaurova and kolb were also a magnificent pair and at their performance I admired the delicate shirinkina in the pdt.

I was there on 29th Nov 2012. Yes, Kondaurova was absolutely spot on beatiful and displayed solid dance. However, Kolb was awful. His choreography was simplified, yet, he made so many step and posing mistakes. Disaster, it was. Their height balance was not good either - as you all know, Katya is really tall where as Kolb is not tall enough for her. I therefore, am afraid, cannot help casting doubt about your comment on Skorik's Swan Lake.

During the unfortunate performance of Skoryk I witnessed, right early in her career, Kolb was her partner, and he didn't make things beter at all, even in a personal level. It was a sad display for both indeed...

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I wish I could explain what I mean. Again, I want to stress that I am not talking about leg extension (how high a leg can be raised). I am referring only to joint movement and the joint moving in the "wrong" way slightly (for lack of a better description since "wrong" is subjective.....many ballet dancers want hyper-extension in their legs).

I understand what you mean, Bart, having hyper-extended knees myself. You've been right with everything you've said about them so far and the challenges they pose to dancers. Many dancers are hyper extended, giving them a curvier standing line in arabesque. It's in "fashion" now but definitely was not in the past.

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I wish I could explain what I mean. Again, I want to stress that I am not talking about leg extension (how high a leg can be raised). I am referring only to joint movement and the joint moving in the "wrong" way slightly (for lack of a better description since "wrong" is subjective.....many ballet dancers want hyper-extension in their legs).

I understand what you mean, Bart, having hyper-extended knees myself. You've been right with everything you've said about them so far and the challenges they pose to dancers. Many dancers are hyper extended, giving them a curvier standing line in arabesque. It's in "fashion" now but definitely was not in the past.

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I’m very glad Helene mentioned Tereshkina, as this was an example of the Kirov getting things absolutely right. She was eighteen when I first saw her dance Gamzatti and she already looked the finished article. Other roles came thick and fast after that and she has gone on to excel in everything she dances. There is no controversy here about Tereshkina whereas there have been and will continue to be seemingly endless debates concerning Somova and Skorik and that is because of actual (not perceived) deficiencies.

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...tumblr_m6ezyioWiE1r96ao3o1_500.png

Thanks for posting this photo, cubanmiamiboy. This says it all, doesn't it?

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I don't think it's simply an opinion that Somova has weak technique: there is ample evidence of it, and weak turnout and feet are only part of it. Whether her other qualities compensate is a matter of opinion. It is also not simply an opinion that her lines and extensions are contrary to the central standards of classical ballet. (Not that she's the only one, of course.) Whether people prefer her aesthetic to the classical one -- one that Petipa would recognize in his ballets -- is a matter of opinion.

I speak of Somova, because I've seen her live. I've only seen video of Skorik, and what I've seen hasn't made me want to rush out and buy a ticket.

I could watch Tereshkina assume her starting position in that practice video all day long.

I do not agree that Somova has weak technique or insufficient turnout. There are numerous videos on YouTube showing her school classes that show excellent turnout from an early age. Numerous videos also show her excellent turnout in many of her roles in the Mariinsky today. Furthermore, any student showing "weak turnout and feet" would never have been allowed to graduate from Vaganova Academy, as this failing would have been spotted at a very early age. With regard to Somova's extensions, perhaps she was encouraged to exploit her natural extension too much at first, but recent performances show that she is now choosing to use her extension artistically and well within the bounds of classicism. Her long arms and legs make for beautiful lines and her Odette/Odile, Aurora, Giselle, Rubies and many other roles that I saw before her pregnancy show her to be a ballerina of considerable artistry and great expression, with particularly fluid, beautiful arms.

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....any student showing "weak turnout and feet" would never have been allowed to graduate from Vaganova Academy, ....

This is the single most amazing fact in her story. Many, many of us are incredulous as to how this slipped through the system! Read Catherine Pawlick's tome for clues. Thank goodness, the teachers who allowed this to happen are no longer at the academy.

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...tumblr_m6ezyioWiE1r96ao3o1_500.png

Thanks for posting this photo, cubanmiamiboy. This says it all, doesn't it?

It does indeed,sadly...

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....any student showing "weak turnout and feet" would never have been allowed to graduate from Vaganova Academy, ....

This is the single most amazing fact in her story. Many, many of us are incredulous as to how this slipped through the system! Read Catherine Pawlick's tome for clues. Thank goodness, the teachers who allowed this to happen are no longer at the academy.

I have read Catherine Pawlick's book and am not sure what you mean? I am very surprised to read your comment. I have read many reports and seen videos on the selection process for the Vaganova academy and the girls who audition are rigorously scrutinized in all parts of their anatomy, not only by teachers who have the experience to know exactly what physique child they are looking for, but also by medical practioners. The medical practioners in particular are obviously vastly experienced in anatomy and they can determine from various statistical reports what kind of physique any child will have. The most important part of this is to check for turnout, and no prospect candidate would be accepted with poor turnout. The weeding out process throughout the whole of any student's time at the Vaganova is very rigorous, and any technically weak students are simply not permitted to continue in the academy. They certainly would never allow such a student either to graduate or to be admitted into the Mariinsky and promoted. Could you please tell me which Vaganova teachers you are referring to, and what was their exact position at the Vaganova?

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If these paragons of the teaching profession genuinely have the expertise you claim, how come they rejected Glurjidze and Kolesnikova?

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I agree that the sur le cou-de-pied at the end of the adagio could have been better but then there are dancers that beat that working leg with such urgency and crudeness without sufficient turn out or holding the thigh in place and restricting the movement to below the knee, that while hers seemed too small in scale and too constrained I did not see it as a major flaw. With time perhaps she will learn to do it with clarity but without sacrificing the delicacy. As for the arabesques I can only say that while it was not the rounded fullness nor the luscious contour of Kondaurova's line, I did find it a fine classical line just different. I don't have issues with the sissones, as for control I thought her legato work was fine, yes it would have looked a lot better if she didn't slam down her leg when she made the transition from supported developpe into an individual manuovere. Perhaps the comment was meant to address her black swan variation solo in which yes i think I saw at least one over extended devloppe that was not well controlled given that she veered too much of horizontal in order to achieve that over 180 look which yes, I don't like either. As for the entrechat passe, i thought she she missed one passe in the middle or was slightly slow in the middle thus leading to some scrambling after that. I agree that the commentator that you quoted has made valid points but I think that the two of us are coming from different POVs. I didn't expect a flawless performance and as long as individual mistakes did not mar the overall impression I was willing to give her chance. I saw potential and I am not going to be fixated on certain technical issues. Also of course 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder' and aesthetic/artistic taste vary from person to person as discussion on this thread has evidently demonstrated..

As for Kondaurova/Kolb I thought him a fine partner and I respected the fact that despite the height issue he partnered with consideration. I was also sufficiently moved at this performance to be prepared to negate his obviously weakened technique but I must say that I still thought him a fine actor. Again each to our own...

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If these paragons of the teaching profession genuinely have the expertise you claim, how come they rejected Glurjidze and Kolesnikova?

I am from the UK so am familiar with Elena Glurjidze. I am not as familiar with Kolesnikova, but I know that both of these ballerinas were accepted by the Vaganova on their first audition. Are you telling me that both Glurjidze and Kolesnikova have horrible turnout and that Vaganova should never have accepted them, and that that proves the Vaganova selection process knows nothing about turnout? Please could you clarify?.

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My point is that neither was accepted into the Kirov company and that both reported serious psychological bullying and discouragement from their teacher. Kolesnikova has danced extensively in the UK by the way.

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I wish I could explain what I mean. Again, I want to stress that I am not talking about leg extension (how high a leg can be raised). I am referring only to joint movement and the joint moving in the "wrong" way slightly (for lack of a better description since "wrong" is subjective.....many ballet dancers want hyper-extension in their legs).

I understand what you mean, Bart, having hyper-extended knees myself. You've been right with everything you've said about them so far and the challenges they pose to dancers. Many dancers are hyper extended, giving them a curvier standing line in arabesque. It's in "fashion" now but definitely was not in the past.

Hyperextension presents its own challenges, but learning to control your hyperextension and use it appropriately is part of ballet training. If a dancer cannot control her (his) hyperextension the majority of the time, then are not dancing at a professional level, IMO. For one thing, it's dangerous. Pushing back into hyperextension is bad for the joint, as you stated, and leads to the overuse of other muscles, which can present a whole other set of problems.

That said, ballet training has evolved. When I was a child, we hyperextended folk were taught to push back into our hyperextension, have a gap between our heels in first etc. because it creates a better line (clearly that is debatable), and no one realized it was bad for the joints. Or at least, that knowledge was not wide-spread, even at major ballet schools. When I was in high school, people realized that pushing back wasn't a great idea and we had to relearn how to stand.

Most dancers I know/know of have knee problems and lots and lots of older dancers have had knee replacements. I think part of that is just ballet technique (the plié contradiction - you can never plié too much but too many pliés overworks the joint) but I bet a lot of it is due to hyperextension. Look at Darcey Bussell. She retired because of hip problems, but if you look at the S-line her legs made, her knees and hips are not lined up and anatomically-speaking that is not healthy.

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There had been videos on YouTube of Somova as a student, with, I think, one year missing in between. In the first couple of years, she displayed the turnout and line that one would expect from a promising, top student at the Vaganova School. By the time she was a teenager, however, the distortions of extension and line were already present, as well as the weak turnout.

Weak turnout is not always an issue of physical limitation, which would have been spotted during the school audition process: it can also be a matter of not using it properly. The same thing is true of feet, with the complication of adding pointe shoes, and since most eight-year-olds aren't experienced on pointe, so that the audition process can only take potential into consideration.

I've seen Somova live and in video, and simply disagree that her turnout and feet are strong.

Pawlick discusses an aesthetic shift to "Western" by the Mariinsky management, and dancers like Somova met that demand, which was based on a distorted view of ballet in the West, emphasizing a physical caricature rather than an underlying movement quality. Somova was assigned to Vaziev's wife, a dancer who was the antithesis of her student in style and whose technique was rock solid -- most of us saw her Odette/Odile from Wolf Trap so many years ago -- and Vaziev made her the poster child for this aesthetic and promoted her as its exemplar, which did her a huge disservice. Institutions like schools can't just turn on a dime, and, thankfully, not all of the babies were thrown out with the bathwater.

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I've read Pawlick's book too. I interpret it as not only a hommage to Vaganova's life and legacy, but a resounding repudiation by the old guard teachers and coaches, such as Gennady Selyutsky, Gabriella Komleva, prima ballerina Uliana Lopatkina and the late Ninelka Kurgapkina of the new aesthetic of performance style and approach to daily work, that's been de rigueur since the 1994-1995 season. By 'old guard,' I mean the people who know what the style of the company is, remember what it used to be not so long ago, (and lament) what's going on now. They discuss in detail how they have tried to inculcate and perpetuate Vaganova's style in their students and the dancers of the company. Those of us who know this company, the personnel, the institution, the 'culture' of the Mariinsky Theatre, may be able to guess which primas (circa 1986-1992) became the prototypes of this 'new way of doing things,' and from whom Fateev's current favorites have "descended" both aesthetically and artistically.

Somova graduated in 2003. Her graduating teacher was Ludmilla Safronova, who was one of Agrippina's pupils. She was a soloist with the Maly/Mussorgsky - (now) Mikhailovsky Theatre in the 60s. After she retired she was sent by the Soviets to plant schools in places such as Vietnam, and small towns in the Soviet bloc. After those assignments, she came to teach at Vaganova Academy. Fast forward: In 2003 Ludmilla Kovaleva was on illness leave, when the graduating females' preparation would have been her responsibility. Safronova was assigned to take Kovaleva's place and prepare the girls. Earlier, Birdsall mentioned wine tasting as an analogy re opera singers and ballet dancers. To put this in perspective, consider this: Nureyev said when commencement time rolled around at Vaganova, that "...Every year (was) a vintage year." Not so: Under Safronova's guidance, the class of 2003, re the females was in fact a comparatively weak class compared to (immediate) prior years, i.e. early 90s - 2002. 2003 would be the first and last Vaganova graduating class she would prepare.

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