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Ninel Kurgapkina

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There has been a report this morning of the passing of Ninel Kurgapkina at the age of 80 in a car accident near St. Petersburg. Nothing available in the news yet. Anyone with further news - it would be greatly appreciated.

Yes, that's what I heard as well. No official news yet.

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I never saw her perform live but I have a video memory that I'm very fond of.

On the DVD release, "The Glory of the Kirov" she dances, among other selections, an pdd to an arrangement of waltzs from Der Rosenkavalier. It's a B&W film on a rooftop sort of set overlooking old Vienna (I suppose).

She is absolutely charming, adorable really. The piece is a bit of fluff but I get a kick out of how the dancers manage the props; a cane, a fan , and a hat

amidst quite a few complicated toss lifts. It's really a lot of fun.

RIP, Ninel

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Kurgapkina was not only a great dancer in her time, but she is also known for being a legendary coach at the Kirov (Mariiinsky) Theatre for many, many years. Indeed, she was Ulyana Lopatkina's coach for much of the 1990's.

Her passing is truly a huge loss to the Mariinsky Theatre. :dry:

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in our video age a picture postcard is pretty 'small beer' as they saying once went, but without the skills or technology to provide full-scale video examples, etc. all i have to offer regarding the sudden death of N. A. Kurgapkina is this 1960 Soviet fotocard, showing N.A.K. and B. Y. Bregvadze in L. Yakobson's Strauss WALTZ "miniature."


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Although there are confirmed reports from the Russian ballet community of Nella's passing, there is something inside of me wishing it were not so. Such a zest for life. An amazing talent. Too many memories of a great lady and a wonderful time in life. This news is so very sad.

Thank you for the links and photo.

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in our video age a picture postcard is pretty 'small beer' as they saying once went, but without the skills or technology to provide full-scale video examples, etc. all i have to offer regarding the sudden death of N. A. Kurgapkina is this 1960 Soviet fotocard, showing N.A.K. and B. Y. Bregvadze in L. Yakobson's Strauss WALTZ "miniature."

Thanks rg, this is a photo from the pdd that I mentioned. Ninel is just a delight in this. Also the photo shows the top hat, cane , and fan which the two dancers

manage beautifully during the complicated moves of the pdd.

I love watching this video from time to time, glad it was filmed!

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Ballerina Dies in Car Crash


Ninel Kurgapkina, a famous ballerina and the first partner of ballet icons Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov, died in a traffic accident Saturday outside St. Petersburg, the Mariinsky Theater said in a statement. She was 80.

No details about the accident were reported in the Russian media as of Monday afternoon. President Dmitry Medvedev issued condolences Sunday.

Kurgapkina was born in Leningrad in 1929 and graduated from the Leningrad Choreography School in 1947.

Kurgapkina was the Mariinsky Theater's prima ballerina from 1947 to 1981 and taught in the theater from 1982 to 1999. Among her students were three Mariinsky Theater prima ballerinas, Ulyana Lopatkina, Irma Nioradze and Zhanna Ayupova. She will be buried Tuesday after a memorial at the Mariinsky Theater. (MT)

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I'm very sorry to hear of Kurgapkina's death. The ballet world has sustained two huge losses in quick succession.

Just a few months ago, Ninella was honored at the Maryinsky with a "soiree/gala" evening featuring her pupils. That's why it's so important to give thanks, show appreciation and give due honor in due season while these gems are still with us. Madame Kurgapkina, rest in peace.

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That TV is too quick for me to get all of it, but it and the original report from the Mariinsky say she died on Friday May 8, not Saturday. The latest Izvestia report says she was hit by a car in the countryside near her dacha. They say the details are not yet released. Awful

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I'm shocked and wished it was not true. Her death affects way too many people and puts a stop to her incredible talent for giving and teaching her knowledge, she certainly cannot be replaced. She has to have been the ballerina I enjoyed watching the most. I feel for all the people she left so tragically.

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Translation of Kommersant obituary May 12: ‘Dance’s female lion-tamer’

On 8 May in the outskirts of St P Ninel Kurgapkina’s life was tragically ended under the wheels of a car. She was a People’s Artist of the USSR, renowned Soviet ballierna and leading teacher-coach at the Mariinsky Theatre.

Only two months ago at a jubilee evening in honour of her 80th birthday, she appeared in a long pink gown with fur trimmings over her naked shoulders, on the Mariinsky stage, where she thanked her pupils, “My dear girls, who long ago stopped being girls”. All applauded, her numerous students and her stage partners and colleagues and friends, all acclaiming this shapely miniature person, in high heeled shoes, with her wild curls, lively black eyes and loud voice (she was hard of hearing) .

A student of Agrippina Vaganova’s post-war generation, Ninel Kurgapkina entered the Kirov theatre in 1947. Like her great teacher, she made her journey to ballerina status step by step, and left the stage in 1981, having worked almost 14 years past the usual retirement for ballet artists. though in her 50s shewas dancing in such form that many people thought she left too early. Recalling Ninel Kurgapkina’s dancing, everyone, both professionals and public, noted her speed, attack and energy. They spoke of her life-enhancing talent. About cleanness and exactness, a purposeful perfectionism without which she could not take a step.

Among her roles only one was created specially for her - Anna Andreevna in the Oleg Vinogradov ballet Revisor, a hilariously funny provincial lady. This joyful ballerina never incarnated dry-spirited aristocrats of refined, fastidious manners. Better for her such characters as the combative Frenchwoman Jeanne in Flames of Paris and the spirited Spaniard Kitri in Don Quixote. Both are ordinary girls with a realistic view of life, firmly rooted on the ground.

She herself was that sort of personality, she loved a good joke, had the exact retort ready. She could tame even Rudolf Nureyev. That restless lad was given to her as partner when he graduated from the school into the company. At their joint rehearsals the conceited Rudik would curse without restraining his language, but he would still repeat lifts 20 or 30 times, as many times as his demanding partner required. On tours he would drag boxes of apricots into the carriage for her, presents from her fans delivered to the railway stops on the way. In 1989, when he made his one visit to Leningrd following his famous defection, Nureyev stayed in Kurgapkina’s flat not far from Palace Square, and for his partner in that historic performance of La Sylphide he chose Ninel’s leading pupil, Zhanna Ayupova, then only beginning her solo career.

Three years later, the terminally ill Nureyev invited Kurgapkina to Paris as his assistent on his last production at the Paris Opera, and they created La Bayadere together, just as 30 years earlier they had created their roles. On one of the viedo recordings of the rehearsals the old friends sit side by side, chuckling and swearing colourfully, evidently recalling a rich past.

Kurgapkina’s gift for coaching appeared the instant she began teaching in 1969 inside the theatre, and after her theatre retirement, at the Leningrad’s Vaganova ballet academy. In 1989 she graduated a particularly phenomenal class of her “girls”. True, not one of them today remains in Russia; all are successfully dancing in Europe and America. But in her native theatre many ballerinas owe their professional reputation to Kurgapkina. For example she almost literally gave Uliyana Lopatkina’s career legs - after her graduation from school, the young dancer had no special gift for ballerina virtuosity. To her last day Ninel Kurgapkina taught in the Mariinsky theatre, and several generations of stars were her work. And her life ended suddenly, in an instant - not after a hard and prolonged illness.

Ninel Kurgapkina’s farewell is being held today in the Mariinsky Theatre.

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Kommersant's obituary says it all: not only a highly-revered dancer, but also an equally highly-revered coach and instructor for both the Mariinaky Theatre and Vaganova Academy. I still remember seeing documentary on Kultura TV that was posted online about Kurgapkina's 80th birthday gala at the Mariinsky Theatre and you could see her still strong enthusiasm for ballet with a smile that belies her age.

Thank you, Ninel Kurgapkina, for a truly distinguished career in the history of 20th Century ballet. :flowers:

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The ultimate soubrette dancer (Kitri, Jeanne, Columbine, etc) of her generation, Ninel Kurgapkina became even greater as a pedagogue and stager of classical works. This is a huge loss and practically the last 'slam' on classicism. Who remain among the teachers of Vaganova's pure classical style to the female dancers? Moiseeva? Periodically, Kolpakova (who rarely works at home)?

May Mme Kurgapkina rest in peace.

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From the Mariinsky site, under 'News', with the heading

The Mariinsky Theatre will be bidding farewell to

Ninella Alexandrovna Kurgapkina

The Mariinsky Theatre will be bidding farewell to

Ninella Alexandrovna Kurgapkina

on Thursday 14 May at 10.00.

12.00 – service at the Church of St Nicholas.

15.30 – cremation.

It is with great sadness that we announce the tragic death, on 8 May 2009, of outstanding ballerina and coach, People’s Artist of the USSR Ninella Alexandrovna Kurgapkina. We have lost one of the 20th century’s greatest ballerinas, who devoted over fifty years to art.

Ninella Kurgapkina’s life-affirming art, vivacious and exultant in nature, was in tune with her own era: the ballerina was at the height of her powers in the post-war age – a time of unconquerable optimism for a victorious nation. A graduate student of Agrippina Yakovlevna Vaganova in 1947, who together with her contemporaries had known the privations of study during the evacuation of Leningrad, Kurgapkina positively exuded all her unspent energy on stage, her whole youthful fire. A pupil of the renowned Vaganova, Ninella Kurgapkina also stood out for her strong technique, her irreproachable training and her absolute mastery of the profession. Her dance was in tune with Pushkin’s «profession bowing at the feet of art». She always trusted in the algebra of harmony, striving for impeccable performance levels.

Much of Kurgapkina’s repertoire comprised the solo roles in ballets created by her contemporaries – Parasha in The Bronze Horseman, Jeanne in Flames of Paris, Gayaneh in the ballet of the same name, Syuimbike in Shurale, Shirin in The Legend of Love and His Beloved in Shore of Hope. These roles suited the «earthly» character of the ballerina’s art.

Ninella Alexandrovna Kurgapkina enjoyed a long artistic career, intense in events, creative successes and discoveries and collaboration with contemporary choreographers. Her vast repertoire, itself worthy of detailed study, her mastery of dance technique, her brilliant memory and her great stage experience led to her appointment as a coach for the Theatre’s ballet company. She was able to pass on the secrets of her skills to the young artistes whom she coached at the Theatre. Ninella Alexandrovna Kurgapkina devoted over forty years of her life to teaching. Her students included Mariinsky Theatre prima ballerinas Ulyana Lopatkina, Irma Nioradze and Zhanna Ayupova and first soloists Yevgenia Obraztsova and Tatiana Tkachenko. Ninella Alexandrovna Kurgapkina’s activities as a teacher and coach were unbelievably focussed and productive. Her contribution to the preservation and development of the best traditions of Russian ballet was truly inestimable.

Valery Gergiev

and all at the Mariinsky Theatre

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Who remain among the teachers of Vaganova's pure classical style to the female dancers? Moiseeva? Periodically, Kolpakova (who rarely works at home)?

We may not get one unless one Ulyana Lopatkina does become a pedagogue after she retires from the performing stage. She'd be perfect, since Lopatkina was taught by Natalia Dudinskaya herself and was coached by Kurgapkina for most of the 1990's.

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There was no dancer more musical than Kurgapkina -- others phrased things differently, but HER phrasing was phenomenal, the way it made the case for the ballet. She showed the jouissance in the combination; she made it unmisunderstandable -- ad she showed her students how.: where your eyes go, when the head comes round the corner, how you punctuate the combination, how to show the heart of the matter.

Here's a 12-part series of her teaching level 8 class, barre ,a little center, and then the variations from Paquita -- to Ponomarenko, Polikarpova and several others: she's uncharacteristically severe with them, "on the warpath" as Karsavina would say.


Kurgapkina's much praised for her earthiness and wit -- and she's VERY earthy in the Nureyev documentary that came out last year-- but her Aurora was extraordinarily refined -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sKpM2jPCUmE

and look at Obrastzova, whom she coached, as Aurora, how in her last pirouette she suddenly opens her arms out a la seconde and floats around at half speed, which is just enchanting -- she seems like the virgin queen Elizabeth of Spenser and Shakespeare, the brave princess who will take care of her country when the time comes. THose qualities perhaps show better in her students/protegees, especially Lopatkina, than they did in her own dancing, but they are CERTAINLY manifest in Lopatkina, who's taken Kurgapkina's perfectionism and great-heartedness and projected them on an even more heroic scale....

The heroic "Ketinoa" has posted MANY clips of her dancing and coaching on Youtube, and we all need to thank whoever that is for opening up this world to us

There has been a report this morning of the passing of Ninel Kurgapkina at the age of 80 in a car accident near St. Petersburg. Nothing available in the news yet. Anyone with further news - it would be greatly appreciated.
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As the years go by I recognize more and more the importance of phrasing in ballet, it was something I used to take almost for granted but is becoming a forgotten art. One ghastly woman in the Royal Ballet (sadly my local Co.) dances Swan Lake in digestible chunks with visible full stops instead of a continuous flow.

I remember Kurgapkina's dancing well, when former ballerina's die there is often a tendency to be 'kind' to their memories, but Kurgapkina was a marvel, an absolute joy to watch and as far as teaching goes she has left a gap that I can't see being filled.

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It is sad and a bit eerie to think that one of Kurgapkina's greatest leading roles was the bird-woman Siumbike in the full-length ballet SHURALE by Yakobsen. The ballet is presently being restaged for two performances in the current White Nights Festival (June 29 & 30). The loss of Kurgapkina will definitely impact on this restaging.

Many people will be thinking of Kurgapkina during those two performances. I hope that the two dancers selected to essay the role of Siumbike in those two performances embody the qualities of the great coach and ballerina -- gorgeous classical lines and a big floaty jump.

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