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Tsis­karidze & Lopatk­ina at the Vag­an­ova Bal­let Academy


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#76 Natalia

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Posted 02 November 2013 - 12:28 AM

I know that circumstances and scope have changed but most of Petipa's grand ballets were created in the famous atrium studio of the Vaganova Academy. The academy studios were very much a part of the Imperial/Kirov ballet troupe until the extension of the Kirov Theatre in the late 60s.  So many students at the time lamented the loss of the daily interaction with the troupe members, once the pros moved to the Kirov Theatre.  The school had much fewer students in the old days, though, e.g., no contingent of foreign students, no separate modern dance classes, etc. 

 

All of this makes me wonder if there will be changes to the curriculum and a tightening of entry standards to those of the old days? (Not that entry standards are lax now but children of many more 'body types' seem to graduate nowadays.)



#77 Catherine

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Posted 02 November 2013 - 02:16 AM

Yes, Drew, the company used the academy's studios until the major renovation to the Kirov Theatre added all of today's studios; I thought that it was in the late-60s, not 70s. The 'new' studios are in the long wing to the left of the main entrance of the theatre (when facing the facade).  

 

But wait a moment:  Doesn't the sparkling new Mariinsky II theatre contain beautiful new studios for both ballet and opera?

 

I've been backstage at the MT2. As I wrote in the coverage of the MT2 opening for Dance Europe magazine, there is one large (overly large) studio. So large that it could have (should have?) been divided into two.

 

In the basement there are two small rooms with mirrors/barres and low ceilings.

 

The current Mariinsky (historical stage) has 5 studios that are fully in use from 10am to 10pm seven days per week with no days off. For the ballet only. The opera has separate areas. So, to go from 5...which is inadequate when you consider there are, as of this September, 60+ extra dancers in the troupe and no where to have them rehearse, to essentially ONE functional studio for close on 300 ballet dancers....

 



#78 Catherine

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Posted 02 November 2013 - 02:18 AM

I thought the M-II had warm-up studios, but I may have mis-read that.

I think the school thinks that it will be squeezed out this time, giving the increased demands of the ballet. It won't be a co-mingling. I'm guessing that in any case, some private money could be found to find space to create temporary studios for either the company or school, but for the students, it's important for them to be in the historic studios, with all of the history, the portaits, and the ghosts to instill a sense of continuity.

 

The problem is, that private money was already donated, spent and pocketed by those middlemen who stuck their fingers into the pie of the MT2. And the result is a building that does not, after --was it seven years?-- of construction, meet the needs of the ballet troupe. And so now people are scrambling to cover up the mess that could have been solved if someone had sat down for five minutes during the planning stage with the multi billions of dollars *just spent* for this specific purpose.

 

As an example of the poor layout, when you go to floor 2 or 3 or 4 of the MT2, there are huge corridors -- they are not hallways, they are vast open spaces (in the hallway). Then walls of tiny offices, millions of them, along the periphery. Empty rooms. Redesigning even 20% of ONE floor in the building would have created a single ballet studio. The footage (metrage) is massive. And - useless now. At least for the ballet. The opera is covered.

 

As an example also of what the ballet is dealing with: behind the actual stage there is a space equal to the dimensions of the stage space itself, to the right, to the left, and behind the stage (think of a "U" shape curving behind the stage). So basially five "blocks" or squares in the same dimensions of the stage.   There are no mirrors or barres there -- one side (right) is a workshop with men building scenery. the other side (left) was/has been empty. So the ballet laid down a marley (the floor is not sprung!!) and in this black box, no mirror, no barre space, will rehearse ballets. Ratmansky had to do rehearsals for his DSCH ballet there...

 

But how convenient if they have to request more money to "redesign" the inside of the (still unfinished!) interior of the MT2. Then the construction companies, designers, everyone will pocket more money along the way, above the actual costs, and in addition to the people actually needed to do the work. Materials will be downgraded so middlemen can pocket money and rinse repeat.



#79 puppytreats

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Posted 02 November 2013 - 05:06 AM

Even with the "pocketing" , one could still have hired a decent architect to design functional space.  Even with the desire to "rinse, repeat", one could always find (or create) the need for new expenditures for repairs, modifications, expansions, or redesigns.  Therefore, corruption does not seem to explain this sufficiently.



#80 tamicute

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Posted 02 November 2013 - 05:19 AM

Even with the "pocketing" , one could still have hired a decent architect to design functional space.  Even with the desire to "rinse, repeat", one could always find (or create) the need for new expenditures for repairs, modifications, expansions, or redesigns.  Therefore, corruption does not seem to explain this sufficiently.

The simple answer is that Gergiev places no value on his ballet slaves. Having a  raked stage, despite having raked floors as children and in the MT1 ballet studios and on all major Russian stages, Gergiev never considered anything for ballet, so no raked stage or raked studios. Lack of ballet studios is simply that ballet is of no importance in Gergiev's mind, so they will have to manage as is.



#81 puppytreats

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Posted 02 November 2013 - 05:39 AM

The simple answer is that Gergiev places no value on his ballet slaves. Having a  raked stage, despite having raked floors as children and in the MT1 ballet studios and on all major Russian stages, Gergiev never considered anything for ballet, so no raked stage or raked studios. Lack of ballet studios is simply that ballet is of no importance in Gergiev's mind, so they will have to manage as is.

 

Saying he places no value on ballet seems too simplistic.  He reviews the theatres' revenues.  He understands cultural values in his community and in the various international communities with which he is involved.  He is a politician and knows the economic and cultural values and desires of the artists, audience and politicians.  One may surmise that he desires to use the ballet as a pawn, seeks to impose punishment, or wishes to demonstrate his power as a warning.



#82 Birdsall

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Posted 02 November 2013 - 05:45 AM

Catherine says, "In the basement there are two small rooms with mirrors/barres and low ceilings."

 

I am not surprised by this revelation. But how sad that is the officially equipped ballet studio. The basement is where you put things you don't care about that much but can't get rid of......to me things like this tell us a bigger story! 



#83 tamicute

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Posted 02 November 2013 - 05:49 AM

Saying he places no value on ballet seems too simplistic.  He reviews the theatres' revenues.  He understands cultural values in his community and in the various international communities with which he is involved.  He is a politician and knows the economic and cultural values and desires of the artists, audience and politicians.  One may surmise that he desires to use the ballet as a pawn, seeks to impose punishment, or wishes to demonstrate his power as a warning.

 

He realizes the money making ability of ballet, but he loves his orchestra and opera and treats ballet like a slave. A look at Mariinsky ticket prices will show that he charges much more for ballet, but Ilya Kuznetsov in his complaint, severely criticized Gergiev for making 8 new opera productions to none for ballet in past season. I am doing this on memory, so my numbers might be slightly off.

Gergiev never considered the raked floors or number of ballet studios to be worth considering. For him, ballet is not important, but he does realize, as proven by ticket prices, that it is his biggest money maker, but he does nothing for ballet, except treat it like a slave.



#84 Catherine

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 01:16 AM

Even with the "pocketing" , one could still have hired a decent architect to design functional space.  Even with the desire to "rinse, repeat", one could always find (or create) the need for new expenditures for repairs, modifications, expansions, or redesigns.  Therefore, corruption does not seem to explain this sufficiently.

Could have hired. I think though, that this touches on the issue. They *did* hire Jack Diamond Architectural firm from Canada, known for the Opera House built there, to build this building. So, it was not even a Russian company. I am no specialist in architecture, but numerous publications have already commented on how the (exterior) design leaves so much to be desired, and the theatre employees have commented at length, as have many who've been backstage, on how the interior design is also lacking. So we had the "decent architect." They worked, they were paid, they left. What happened? I think corruption *does* explain just this. My guess is that the design was dictated by the theatre and the ballet was not considered. Also, I do not know if this goes on in the West, but you have no idea the degree to which the middle men come out of the woodwork for the piece of the pie (I have no better metaphor). And as soon as that pendulum starts to swing away from the original plan (ie: we need a new opera house with ABC in it) it swings far and wide, and the original ABCs by the end of the entire building process, have long been forgotten.

Again, as I noted in my article in Dance Europe in May, and to repeat what what Islom Baimuradov stated at the time, "why wasn't in the ballet administration consulted --at some point over SEVEN YEARS -- in what was needed in terms of rehearsal space?" (comment about 7 yrs my own)

 

Also, isn't creating the need for new expenditures for repairs/modifications/redesigns (necessary or not) -- isn't that what corruption is? or at least, mismanagement?  In my view it is, whether done purposely at the outset ("let's just get a building up and we will ask for more millions of dollar later to redo the entire thing") or unintentionally ("well this is a mess and now we have to fix it so I will write the government for more millions"). Because in the case of the unintentional disaster, the bottom line is someone is still responsible. It's not every day across the world you build a new opera house and have THIS kind of reaction.



#85 Helene

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 01:35 AM

The exterior may leave little to be desired, but they knew what they were getting when they hired this firm just by looking at the Four Seasons Center and the rest of its portfolio.  I don't see why anyone was surprised:  planting a building in St. Petersburg, a very European city, is completely different than creating a building to blend into downtown Toronto.   It was not a forward-looking building like the l'Opera Bastille, whatever one thinks of it, or like the Guggenheim:  the Mariinsky got a building that could have blended into many North American downtowns.  That's what Diamond and Schmitt Architects does:

 

http://www.dsai.ca/

 

Are the theater employees of the Opera complaining?  I don't know whether you mean all backstage employees or just the ballet backstage employees.  Do you know what resource/time/scope limitations the architects were given?  Do you know whether they were given firm, complete requirements, or if they had to adjust for change requests?  Do you know if they came across structural or regulatory issues?  Do you know if the building was constructed to spec? 

 

If the ballet wasn't consulted, then why would the architectural firm build something different from what was requested?



#86 canbelto

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 05:26 AM


Well actually if you look at the history of "new buildings" for the arts there were many complaints that the new buildings had/have poor acoustics and other logistical problems. A good example might be Lincoln Center -- Avery Fischer Hall is known as one of the most acoustically dead orchestral halls there is, and the "new" Metropolitan Opera has very poor sightlines in many parts of the house as well as acoustical dead spots on the stage. The NY State Theater (now Koch) also was designed to be built for ballet but when it was the house for the NYC Opera they had to use amplification because of the poor acoustics. 
 
I don't think in these cases it's intentional. It's more like many modern architects are not familiar with how to build or refurbish performing arts theaters. 

#87 Amy Reusch

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 06:30 AM

Well, now, we might actually have a positive role for Tsiskaridze in St. Petersburg then... He certainly practiced his chops giving bad publicity to the Bolshoi renovation.

I do not doubt Tsiskaridze is passionate about his art form.

However, even were there nothing scandalous about the sudden manner in which the appointment was made, even were his personality not so brash, it is his devotion to the old Bolshoi style and Grigorovitch (If I understand from afar) that seems a bad choice for the Maryinski's school. Yes, Vaganova training dominates both schools, but the disregard for the Maryinski style is like Gergiev has encouraged grafitti on a national treasure, or worse. Sure, style evolves over time and continues to evolve, but this is grafting on a branch from a very different tree in a place where it will dominate all future growth.

#88 Drew

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 10:56 AM

OT: One complaint that hasn't been made about the New Mariinsky is the acoustics.  In fact, they initially came in for praise. Perhaps time will reveal problems but so far...I realize for ballet fans that's more evidence of where Gerviev's priorities lie, but certainly it's not a bad thing
 
The situation with the school right now is very unfortunate. I don't think it's true that there has been no criticism of Dorefeeyeva, and I did a search and discovered that even on this website, a few years back, someone once raised questions about how the school was doing under Asylmuratova, but whatever one thinks of their leadership (almost everyone I've read in English--including people familiar with the Russian scene--praise it), there are real challenges facing the Vaganova heritage that neither Gergiev nor the Minister of Culture nor Putin and his circle seem the characters likely to address effectively. 

#89 Helene

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 12:02 PM

Dorofeevna seems to have taken the same approach to role that Iksanov did at the Bolshoi, which is to manage and let the Artistic Directors do their thing.

As for acoustics, acousticians are brought in as partners in the project. The requirements of the musicians should be first and foremost in designing the pit and hall, or you get New York State Theater v.1 and Philharmonic Hall. Acoustics haven't been an issue at the Met, and I heard the house-opening Ring at the Four Seasons Center, where the acoustics were grand.

#90 Drew

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Posted 03 November 2013 - 12:18 PM

...and it's inconceivable that one would be the leader of such an important organization and no-one ever breathe a word of criticism...




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