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Yelena Vinogradova

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From Michael Beard at the Kirov Academy:

This afternoon, June 26, 2008, the ballet world lost one of its great icons. Madame Yelena Vinogradova lost her courageous battle against cancer. She was resting peacefully at her home in Virginia, with family by her side. As the Deputy Artistic Director of the Kirov Academy of Ballet for 17 years, Madame Vinogradova profoundly impacted the lives of hundreds of students, and all of her staff. Her devotion to the art form was an inspiration to everyone who knew her. Much of the reputation and achievements of the academy today are directly attributable to her guidance and direction. Our “Madame V.” will be greatly missed.

Arrangements are being made for a memorial service and funeral at the Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Washington, DC. We will send an email with details as they are confirmed.

Michael Beard

Executive Director

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As the acting head of the school that gave the ballet world people such as Michele Wiles, Hee Seo, Sascha Radetsky, Melanie Hamrick, Karen and Kimberly Uphoff, Maria Bystrova, Rory Hohenstein, Vanessa Zahorian, Melissa Hough, Danny Tidwell, Adrienne and Ashley Canterna, Mathias Dingman, Elizabeth Mason, Rasta Thomas, and many others, it is clear that Mme. V has had an important influence on ballet in the US (and to a lesser extent overseas) today. For such a small school to produce so many wonderfully proficient dancers is nearly a miracle, but I know that it is due not only to the talent the dancers bring in but also to the incredibly hard work and careful attention to detail to which Mme. V and the faculty at KAB inspire their students.

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It is unfortunate to have to sit here and write an e-mail about a person that has meant a great deal to my life and career. Mme. Yelena Vinogradova passed away earlier today on June 26, 2008.

I first entered the doors of the Kirov Academy in the summer of 1998. After my late father set up an audition for me with, Mme. V intently watched me with her clipboard as I tried my best to keep up in Mr. Morozov's ballet class. After a few combinations at barre, she swiped me from the class and took me upstairs and threw me into Mr. Kucheruk's class with the rest of the boys. Terrified as anyone would be, I tried my best to keep up. After a few combinations Mme. V left the class and took to her office to attend to business. After the class was finished I exited to find my mother holding an acceptance packet to attend the Kirov year round. Apparently Mme. V liked what she saw and I was in.

That year was eye opening for me. Ballet had taken a completely different form after passing through the doors at 4301 Harewood Rd, NE. I was now an elite student, one of about 65 that was to receive the best training in the country under the watchful eye of Mme. V. I remember learning how to "reverance" any time I saw her in the hallway. On one occasion I must not have done it so well and I was on the receiving end of a Mme. V punch to the gullet. Never again did I bow incorrectly. She ruled with literally an iron fist, but behind all of it, she loved us all whether we knew it or not.

Mme. V truly humbled me. She would not dare let me get a big head. She would give me a solo one show and put me in the corps the next. It was an ongoing process she had with me. Most of the stuff I performed at the Kirov were things that not many people did. I always felt like she had a special plan for me and would challenge me with repertoire that was not often seen. I loved everything she gave me. She slowly built me up in a very well thought out way. She did not give me stardom right away and I am grateful for that. She made me hungry for more even though I was not fully aware of it at the time.

She really did help raise us all. We were living, eating, sleeping, working and dancing under her roof. She created our structure and hand picked our teachers and mentors to give us the knowledge for us to consume and for us to later pass the ingredients on to our own students and colleagues.

Whether some of us like to admit it or not, Mme. V gave many of us our foundation and blessing to be ambassadors of some of the greatest training and ideologies in the world of ballet. She made us dancers and artists. Most of all, she made us respectful leaders in the world of ballet.

In ballet we always talk about the superstars of our art. In this art, I will go on record to say Mme. V is the Mother of Russian Ballet of the United States. Her trademark voice that many of us imitate to this day will continue to bounce off the walls of the Kirov. Her high heeled boots will continue to be heard on the marble tiles of the lobby. Her silhouette will been stained on the brick at the back door stairwell.

Mme. V, I miss you and love you. Thank you for helping shape my mind and body to be the dancer I am today.



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Let me add my voice to those who mourn a great ballet icon who inspired and motivated so many of today's dancers. Mme. showed the modern world how ballet dancers should be regarded and treated. The old-world values she instilled in her school's students are never outdated and have given her graduates that extra something which informs and defines their regard for their chosen profession.

May she rest in peace knowing she enhanced the ballet world immeasureably by her presence and her devotion.

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