Drew

Vishneva Interview (ballet training today etc.)

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Posted (edited)

Wasn't sure if this should go under Vishneva or News and Issues--but it seems to me to speak more to the latter. Vishneva's complaints about dance students going soft in today's Vaganova academy were less interesting to me than what she says about the differences between the Bolshoi and Mariinsky:

 

“There are different nuances in the schools, between the Bolshoi and the Mariinsky. He [Tsiskaridze] claims it is the same, but the style, the movements, the breathing, the manner is different.

“Now Tsiskaridze is in St Petersburg, while Makhar Vaziev [who was trained in St Petersburg] is at the Bolshoi. And both claim it is the same style because it is convenient for them to say that.  But what I hear is upsetting to me.”

 

http://www.thetimes.co.uk/magazine/culture/diana-vishneva-ballet-dance-mariinsky-ballet-dcpv6gs33

 

and a featurette on the interview:

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/03/19/russian-prima-ballerina-lashes-spoiled-internet-obsessed-younger/

 

(My attention was drawn to this interview by Carla Escoda on Twitter)

Edited by Drew

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Kids these days!!!

Most of these complaints are half true - and half myth. In some ways, in theory, it could be a good thing for Mariinsky to learn some Bolshoi methods, and vice versa. But the "purity" of the institution supposedly gets lost. If it ever needed to be looked after.

 

It would actually be great if someone could put together some of the best generational laments as they've appeared over the centuries.

 

 

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The generational lament can start sounding like self parody. I take the idea that there are ( or have been) real differences between the Kirov/Mariinsky and the Bolshoi ways of dancing -- and that Tsiskaridze and Vaziev are not disinterested in what they have to say on the subject -- more seriously. Change is inevitable and some homogenization of styles between the two companies may be inevitable. But I can't say I don't think something may be lost along with wharever gains may accrue.

 

 

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Imho Tsiskaridze has more "substance" than most people give him credit for. When he was appointed as

rector of Vaganova I thought it was due to his connections only, and was quite upset when our beloved

Asylmuratova left, but found out later that while dancing at the Balshoy he was also teaching at ballet schools

in Moscow and beyond. I watched his webcast interview at Prix de Lausanne last year and thought here is

someone who knows what he is talking about. I will try to find and post that interview - in the meantime here

is the recent RT docu featuring him and Shakirova :  https://rtd.rt.com/films/ballet-a-la-russe-e1/

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I'm sort of laughing at this:

Quote

“Today’s dancers are weaker, less prepared even than our graduation class,” she says firmly. “If you look at conditions at the school now, they are so much improved. It is warm, clean, well refurbished. I remember how it was in my time. There were holes in the floor and it was always terribly cold, because the window frames were not fixed properly. But there was good discipline and we were very concentrated. Now, with this different style, with the internet — young people get so much information, and their attention is taken away from work. But every day is important.”

 

Because Vishneva's years as a Vaganova student are actually well-documented. She was the subject of a documentary. You can see her here:

 

 

Doesn't look at Dickensian as Vishneva describes. 

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Complaining younger people have better heating etc. seems silly. If Vishneva's generation didn't have good infrastrucure (so to speak) ... well, I'm glad that has been fixed. But I don't count on this kind of documentary to show me really all that the students were going through. 

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18 hours ago, pherank said:

I'm not crazy about Tsiskaridze's personality, but so far, he's gotten good reviews for his efforts.

 

 

Here is Tsiskaridze's interview at Prix de Lausanne 2016 - he talks about how he started teaching ballet

(from 19:00 >) if anyone is interested in hearing it :  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYDhzyC8ys0

 

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8 hours ago, canbelto said:

Doesn't look at Dickensian as Vishneva describes. 

 

I'm not able to access The Times pay site, but in the short Telegraph posting she just states, "If you look at conditions at the school now, they are so much improved. It is warm, clean, well refurbished. I remember how it was in my time. There were holes in the floor and it was always terribly cold, because the window frames were not fixed properly. But there was good discipline and we were very concentrated."

 

I don't see any reason not to believe her (especially since there are other dancers/ex-students who can back this up). And we are talking about the long Russian Winter here, which will kill a person in short order, if they are not properly protected. I imagine it's pretty easy to be cold in the older, historic buildings, and upkeep has got to be quite expensive.

 

But the conditions were even worse for past generations. Danilova and Balanchine dealt with truly awful conditions at the time of the revolution and immediate post-revolution period. Plisetskaya's generation was operating in straightened circumstances too. Fortunately, the Russian state decided that ballet was still of importance to the culture, but there was never much money devoted to the Bolshoi and Mariinsky infrastructure during the  U.S.S.R. period.

 

6 hours ago, Drew said:

Complaining younger people have better heating etc. seems silly. If Vishneva's generation didn't have good infrastrucure (so to speak) ... well, I'm glad that has been fixed. But I don't count on this kind of documentary to show me really all that the students were going through. 

 

The authorities are not about to show cracks in the practice floors.  ;)

The Cubans have had some of these same issues for many years. They can't even go about hiding the dilapidated look of their ballet buildings.

Edited by pherank

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Vishneva doesn't equate falling standards with improved infrastructure. She places the blame elsewhere.

 

"Now, with this different style, with the internet - young people get so much information, and their attention is taken away from work. But every day is important."

 

She's not alone in criticizing the joined-at-the-hip relationship many people have with their smartphones. I've read nearly identical complaints from American choreographers, for example. The statement in the article "that devotion to ballet has been lost as material circumstances have improved" is made by the journalist, not Vishneva.

 

If the Vaganova Academy is less competitive than it once was, and if the teachers are less demanding or less harsh, that also wouldn't have anything to do with how well the windows are insulated. Incidentally, in the past Tsiskaridze had also lamented that competition to get into Russian ballet schools was no longer as great as it once was. He noted that in the USSR ballet dancers were more likely to have the opportunity to travel abroad, whereas the average citizen would not. He argued that once borders became more open, parents had less of an incentive to send a child to ballet school. (I haven't tested his supposition, simply pointing out that he made it.)

 

For my part, I agree with Vishneva about Tsiskaridze, Vaziev and the muddying of style. Generally speaking there may be a single Russian school, but there are different Petersburg and Moscow styles within it, which is why I think both Tsiskaridze and Vaziev are playing around with semantics. It's difficult for me to judge the state of the Vaganova Academy, although I will acknowledge holding a heretical view about the Vaganova style as is it practiced today; namely, that I don't like it (even though I like just about every other school and style under the sun). That is why I shudder at the thought of Vaziev turning the Bolshoi into a Mariinsky Lite. Vaziev likes to negate the differences between the Moscow and Petersburg styles. He likes to point out that 95% of the Bolshoi's dancers are graduates of the Moscow Choreographic Academy, all while appearing to favor those who are not. Consider the casting for the company's forthcoming tour of Japan. 60% of the principals scheduled for that tour were not trained at the Moscow Academy. Of the principals not traveling to Japan, all but one is a graduate of the Moscow Academy. (Well, two, if you count David Hallberg, who last performed with the Bolshoi in July 2014.)

 

Of course Melissa Hayden used to say that it was by dancing Balanchine ballets that one became a Balanchine dancer. In the Soviet days the Bolshoi recruited dancers from opera houses all around the USSR, but, not surprisingly, they were expected to be compatible with the Bolshoi repertoire, and Moscow Academy graduates who weren't deemed compatible with the repertoire weren't offered jobs at the Bolshoi, e.g., Vladimir Malakhov. Under Vaziev the Bolshoi is hardly performing its core repertoire any longer. (Count 'em: three performances of Giselle, four performances of Swan Lake, five performances of Spartacus in Moscow this season; audiences can't be too happy about this.) Frankly I don't know what sort of dancer it needs today.

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I completely agree that Vishneva is dovetailing more than one issue together, as part of a general complaint about relaxing standards (and perhaps, quality). But I suppose she's trying to get a dialogue going.

 

"Under Vaziev the Bolshoi is hardly performing its core repertoire any longer. (Count 'em: three performances of Giselle, four performances of Swan Lake, five performances of Spartacus in Moscow this season; audiences can't be too happy about this.) Frankly I don't know what sort of dancer it needs today."

 

The Bolshoi just premiered The Cage apparently, so they're going to need something besides Moscow Ballet Academy or Vaganova training if they're going to keep that sort of thing up. ;)

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There is a viewpoint that a ballet company should not be a museum for the same old works, and that a thriving ballet company should explore new choreography and unfamiliar territory.  Not everyone agrees with that view, and a lot of audience members will only go to the old war horse ballets. Although it's absurd to think of the Cage as a new work, given how old it is, it is certainly different in style from what the Bolshoi is used to.    Since Vishneva  is the doyenne of trashy modern non-classical  choreography in her solo shows, it seems a little hypocritical of her to  complain that there isn't enough Giselle and Swan Lake being performed.  

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4 hours ago, abatt said:

  Since Vishneva  is the doyenne of trashy modern non-classical  choreography in her solo shows, it seems a little hypocritical of her to  complain that there isn't enough Giselle and Swan Lake being performed.  

 

She doesn't. That was an issue raised by Volcanohunter's post.

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And I didn't necessarily mean it as a complaint either. I'm only pointing out a significant shift in repertoire priorities at the Bolshoi, where Swan Lake has gone from being the centerpiece of programming to becoming an add-on, which has obvious implications for dancer training. For what it's worth, the Bolshoi performs plenty of choreography newer than The Cage. Heck, Spartacus is "newer" than The Cage. What perhaps hasn't stuck yet is the idea of a mixed bill. Do audiences like it? They aren't as enthusiastic about it as they are about the warhorses. The current Cage/Russian Seasons/Etudes bill is playing the smaller theater, where tickets cost a fraction of what the Bolshoi charges for Giselle on the main stage, and the performances tomorrow and on Friday aren't yet sold out. And to bill as "contemporary" a program that includes one ballet choreographed in 1951 and another made in 1948 is clearly absurd.

 

In her interview Vishneva supports the modernization of repertoire and the embrace of "new" choreography, but I agree that her taste in contemporary choreography is terrible.

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