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Yuri Fateyev Interview in Dancing Times

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A lot of Mariinsky Ballet and Vaganova Academy admirers are surprised by Yuri Fateyev's interview (excerpt below). I would love to hear people's reactions to this:

Igor Stupnikov: Many leading company dancers are not graduates of the Vaganova Academy. Does this indicate that the Academy does not produce enough dancers to fill vacancies? Or is it that not all graduates meet the high standards of the company?

Yuri Fateyev: The Vaganova Academy is an excellent nursery for dancers and produces many professional artists every year. The majority of them are good for the corps de ballet, with some for the higher rank of coryphee. However, the Mariinsky needs more talented dancers with individual qualities who can perform leading roles in the classics. It is, I think, a problem for any company in the world. The thing is that nowadays parents prefer to send their children to all kinds of sports-gymnastics, skating, football.

It is from Dancing Times (Dec. 2014 issue)

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It's generally not a problem for companies that grow their dancers. The Petipa classics are one of the great reps that provides roles for growth within the ballets. If he expects Principal dancers to pop out of the thigh of Zeus fully formed, I'm not sure he understands the role of an Artistic Director.

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Interesting -- while it's true that some students show promise of a major career even while they are still relatively green, most need the gradual development post-school that you get by working your way through the standard categories. Either he didn't really answer the question asked, or he's not that familiar with the field.

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It's generally not a problem for companies that grow their dancers. The Petipa classics are one of the great reps that provides roles for growth within the ballets. If he expects Principal dancers to pop out of the thigh of Zeus fully formed, I'm not sure he understands the role of an Artistic Director.

I like this what you said, b/c I think artists have to be nurtured and given roles little by little. Classical ballets are set up where there are many small parts of varying difficulty and length to give dancers some experience before giving them a large, full-length role. So hypothetically the small roles should be heavily rotated in my opinion. You want MANY dancers who can do the peasant pas de deux in Giselle or Big Swans and Little Swans in Swan Lake. To my eyes it seems like he uses the same people over and over when it should be rotated so that at times there are at least 20 different corps dancers who could step in for someone else in a small role in cases of injury or tours. Meanwhile, that gives all of them experience on the stage and doing some difficult variations and then you notice which ones might be able to handle a larger role.

Maybe I am wrong in my thinking but I think the small roles should be given out like hot cakes. I understand limiting who dances Odette/Odile......but the small roles get the young girls ready for the big roles and stage experience. And to me that would nurture the dancers and the individuality will come. I have worked at schools where children had to wear uniforms and many parents complain at first (until they discover it is much cheaper for them to buy uniforms and not keep buying the latest fashions) that it will take away individuality. I have never seen individuality go away in human beings that I worked with. Every single human is so unique that individuality is there even if you put everyone in straitjackets. So I am confused by Fateyev's comment about individuality. I think all the Vaganova dancers I have seen are so different. I sit and watch many Mariinsky Swan Lakes and every single dancer does little things that are totally unique to her. Yes, the choreography is adhered to but there are differences in expressions, emotions, hand movements, etc.

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So - is he saying that no Vaganova student is good enough for soloist/principal status and that all they are good for is the corps? That is a terrible thing to say.

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I'm not sure, when people are making comments about the current state of the Vaganova school, if they are actually discussing the situation in the school, or if the discussion is more about positioning in the bigger political/cultural sea, where alignments and loyalty seems to be shifting around.

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So - is he saying that no Vaganova student is good enough for soloist/principal status and that all they are good for is the corps? That is a terrible thing to say.

That is exactly how I interpreted his answer to the question. I wanted to know if others felt he said that.

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So - is he saying that no Vaganova student is good enough for soloist/principal status and that all they are good for is the corps? That is a terrible thing to say.

That is exactly how I interpreted his answer to the question. I wanted to know if others felt he said that.

Well, it certainly sounds like it. In any case, it was an irresponsible thing to say in a public place - i.e., The Dancing Times. Maybe he thinks that, but how must all those students and teachers at Vaganova feel now? And what about all the Vaganova graduates in the Mariinsky corps? He just blighted all their hopes for roles. Maybe this is political positioning, but I just think it's an awful thing to read. I think the Vaganova graduates are wonderful - as someone said further up this thread, they just need the opportunities to develop through the roles they are given. So, isn't he going to let them do this? I do think that he has failed in his leadership in saying that in the Dancing Times.

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What puzzles me is that the Vaganova grads seem to occasionally dance solo roles in ballets at the Mariinsky, yet Fateyev says they are not good enough for soloist status. Why are they good enough for soloist roles but not soloist status? The entire thing is strange.

Zhiganshina danced several roles including Masha last year. Of course, she ended up going to the Bolshoi.
Shakirova danced several roles including Apollo and Concerto DSHC in London plus the Rubles lead and Florine at Mariinsky.
Tskhvitaria danced Florine at the Mariinsky also.
Shakirova and Tskhvitaria graduate in June.

Maybe Fateyev's opinion is a new one, since this season no Vaganova grads have danced.

Helene, could this thread be moved to the Mariinsky forum? I thought originally since I posted an excerpt from a magazine you would want it here, but many people have privately said it belongs in the Mariinsky forum.

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It's a writing on ballet, and it belongs here as much as anywhere.

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And on that topic (writing about ballet) I still find it curious that he's saying this stuff in a British/international publication -- does he talk like this at home?

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It's crazy how he can say this when some of the world's top ballerina's right now have all graduated from Vaganova. Three of the most famous examples are Obratsova, Zakharova, and Smirnova. And they all left for the Bolshoi. Vaganova has and continues to keep churning out principal material. It's the Mariinsky's fault for not developing them. It's baffling how they'd rather develop Perm graduates like Skorik but not (superior imo) Vaganova trained dancers like Stepanova or Zhiganshina. Who both also left...

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It's generally not a problem for companies that grow their dancers. The Petipa classics are one of the great reps that provides roles for growth within the ballets. If he expects Principal dancers to pop out of the thigh of Zeus fully formed, I'm not sure he understands the role of an Artistic Director.

Yes. 2015 marks the 8th year he has been in charge of the Mariinsky Ballet. His management policies have proven that he has no clue how to spot talent, cultivate, develop or keep it. Moreover, there are certain individuals whom he has delegated to coach novices, who are teaching major roles that they themselves never studied or performed. Add to this the problem that he puts all of his eggs in one basket. Therefore, he's unable to cast in depth leading and supporting roles. Mariinsky dancers languish for years in the lower ranks, (or), they leave for artistic and economically greener pastures elsewhere. For example, Smirnova once mentioned that she chose the Bolshoi upon graduation because they actively pursued her and showed great interest in her development. In other words, the Bolshoi (Filin) had a game plan for her career; the Mariinsky (Fateev) didn't. The Dancing Times piece isn't the first time Fateev (or Maestro Gergiev), have sucker-punched the Vaganova Academy or the Mariinsky Ballet publicly. Unfortunately, it probably won't be the last.

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The ballerinas who fled: that was so five years ago. Or ten years ago.

The Mariinsky was in a pickle when they had a few ballerinas out having babies. It had the talent to bring up another layer, but instead relied upon a dancer who needed some breathing room to develop, as if polarizing is a good thing.

The Mariinsky is a big and deep enough company that it can be Gergiev's cash cow and be brilliant at the sane time. It could even be a much nicer place to work.

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It could even be a much nicer place to work? Yes, it could be. I just think it must be awful to be one of those Vaganova graduates doing the same corps roles over and over and knowing that is all their Artistic Director thinks they are worth. What kind of an atmosphere must that be? It is really wrong of him to denigrate those Vaganova graduates so publicly. The facts speak for themselves, particularly when one remembers all the great graduates who are not in Mariinsky for one reason or another.

And, incidentally, it might be old news about "the ballerinas who fled", but I think it's worth bringing up here again just to show how erroneous Fateyev's comments are.

In the past 5 years, these talented dancers have left, going by year they graduated (I have included male as well as female dancers):

Sarafanov (not Vaganova graduate, but what a talent to lose)
2001 Elena Sheshina
2002 Obraztsova, Lobukhin
2003? Sisoeva
2005 Vasnetsova, Dolmatova
2006 - Chugai, Cheprasova
2007 there was no graduation class due to 9th year change
2008 - Spilatova, Lischuk
2009 - Stepanova
2010 - Zapasnikova an exceptional ballerina did not join MT. Outstanding Viktor Lebedev did not join
2011 - Smirnova, Shapran, Strelkov did not join MT
2014 - Zhiganhsina did not join
I forgot to mention Kirill Safin (coryphee)! That is a pretty staggering list of dancers who left or did not join Mariinsky Theatre. That is a lot of IMMENSE TALENT for a ballet academy that apparently only produces corps worthy graduates ...
Who is he kidding???

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Daria Vasnetsova is so outstanding. You can spot her talent a mile away in the smallest role. Now she has gone to Finnish National Ballet and is using her husband's name Makhateli. Letting this treasure slip through his fingers is like a crime beyond belief while promoting outside dancers who do not create any magic whatsoever.

Same with Victor Lebedev. Amazing dancer. To me Lebedev is like a modern day Nijinsky!

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What makes this laughable is that can we really say dancers like Oksana Skorik, Timur Askerov or Bondareva have superior interpretation, personality, and are better technically than Stepanova, Zhiganshina, or Lebedev? Of course not. To say so is just being disingenuous. And they aren't box office draws either...

I don't know what type of politics he's got going on behind the scenes to hire dancers that are of less caliber over Vaganova graduates. But if he's going to say stuff like this and have this type of philosophy, atleast hire dancers from the outside that are better. It'd be a heck of a lot more convincing...

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I'm ITA with MadameP, Plisskin and Birdsall. There's another 2001 Vaganova graduate who bailed out of the House of Blues:

Daria Sukhorukova. For 6 years she was always the first swan in line, stage left in "Swan Lake." She left for Munich's

Bavarian State Opera Ballet in 2007 to become a leading soloist. In 2010 she promoted to Principal Dancer.

I'd like to offer some points of clarification for the record. Fateev's official title is Deputy Director of the Ballet, not Artistic Director. After 8 years, he's no longer classified as "interim" - as he was when he started. The most recent Artistic Director of the Mariinsky Ballet (at that time known by it's Soviet name 'Kirov'), was Oleg Vinogradov from 1977- 1994. His successor was Makhar Vaziev. Vaziev's title was Director of the Ballet from 1995 - 2007. He left in 2007 to become Artistic Director of La Scala's company when Gergiev refused to upgrade him to that title. Of all the major Petersburg companies, it's ironic that the mighty 'M' is the one that doesn't have an A.D. at it's helm. If you look at the company's current condition, and the low morale, Fateev's job title and description are just semantics.

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It's not individual cases that are the issue -- in almost every company, there are going to be great talents that languish because the AD -- in function, if not in title -- does not recognize it, care for it, or find use for it. (Sadly, most of them leave ballet.) It's the pattern.

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It's not individual cases that are the issue -- in almost every company, there are going to be great talents that languish because the AD -- in function, if not in title -- does not recognize it, care for it, or find use for it. (Sadly, most of them leave ballet.) It's the pattern.

But do most companies totally ignore its feeder school graduates and keep them in low levels while promoting outside dancers? I am truly asking this question because I do not know. I have heard complaints about ABT doing that to an extent, but I was shocked to learn that in the past 10 years, no Vaganova graduate has gone higher at Mariinsky than coryphee with the one exception of Batoeva. And now we have Fateyev saying point blank in a British magazine that Vaganova graduates are basically only good for corps de ballet and coryphee. And his actions seem to support what he says in the magazine.

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It's not individual cases that are the issue -- in almost every company, there are going to be great talents that languish because the AD -- in function, if not in title -- does not recognize it, care for it, or find use for it. (Sadly, most of them leave ballet.) It's the pattern.

Sadly, most of them leave ballet has never been true in Russia. It is a rarity that any corps dancer will quit ballet in Russia.

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ABT has had a couple of attempts at a school, but it hasn't been that long since they've had ABT II, where many of the corps have come from in the last decade or so, and most of the soloists that have been promoted from within.

Balanchine and Martins have hired a number of Danes: Bruhn (didn't last long), Martins, Luders, and Andersen, Hubbe, his son, and Ask La Cour. Peter Boal brought Seth Orza (promoted quickly to Soloist and then Principal), Sarah Orza (promoted to Soloist), William Lin-Yee (promoted to Soloist), and Matthew Renko from NYCB, as well as Miranda Weese as a guest artist and then company member, and he hired a couple of his former SAB students from other companies. Noelani Pantastico said that when Korbes came, she anticipated that Korbes would get the Patricia Barker treatment (ie, personal attention, roles, prestigious nights, first casts and the coaching that entails), and she didn't want that to happen to her. Angel Corella has already hired people he worked with in Spain both as dancers and as staff.

However, schools like Royal Danish Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, Mariinsky Ballet, and Bolshoi Ballet are a different story: they find young kids and train them at great expense specifically to feed their company, and while they can sell their faculty for huge tuition, they can't sell their dancers, like Major League Baseball can members of their minor league farm teams, and there's no advantage to sending talented graduates elsewhere. Of course what Fateev said in the interview is self-serving when we can see the dancers who've escaped.

There are very few dancers at POB who were not trained at the school, and every dancer who was promoted had to go through the concours. Royal Danish Ballet is another story, as 1/3 of the 80 dancers are not from Denmark (according to their website), with 4/9 Principals and 6/15 Soloists having been trained elsewhere. I'm not sure about the Bolshoi, aside from knowing that they've happily taken dancers who were not happy at the Mariinsky.

The American schools don't start a pre-professional training track at best until the kids are tweens or young teens, and schools like PNBS are more finishing schools for the last two years or so. There were only a few handfuls (or two) of students who went through the entire SAB track from the non-professional kids division to the Professional Division and who made it up the ranks at the mature NYCB by the time I left in the '90's: Fugate, Boal, Somogyi, a dark-haired soloist guy whose father was in the orchestra, and a few others. I don't think there were that many corps members who started as kids and transitioned to PD to apprenticeships or the corps. (The numbers may have grown since then.) That would have been disgraceful at the Mariinsky until the last decade.

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Helene, you sort of said what another friend told me privately, that the Vaganova Academy is not just a feeder school. It is basically the reason for the Mariinsky Ballet historically.

But then that makes me even more shocked about Fateyev's interview. To basically insult the Vaganova Academy which historically created the Mariinsky is a huge surprise. I am surprised more people are not shocked by his comment.

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Looking at the last 3 Mariinsky ballet directors would show a sudden, drastic change under Fateyev regarding the entrance of top Vaganova graduates into Mariinsky Ballet.
Under Vaziev, top graduates never went elsewhere, although Borchenko in 2000 wanted to go home to Belarus, which she did. The only possible exception , is that in 1998, Irina Perren had been one of the better girl graduates, but was not one of the two highest ranked Vaganova graduates and went to Mikhailovsky where she became a big star.

Under Vinogradov, there was only one year as an exception and that was in 1982, the year Fateyev graduated. Vinogradov only wanted corps de ballet girls and there were two obvious soloist girls graduating, Margarita Kullik and Elena Martinson. Vinogradov did not want them since he was looking for lower ranked girls, but Dudinskaya went to Moscow to complain about her all time favorite, Kullik not being selected. Moscow made Vinogradov hire Kullik and Martinson and they both were dancing solo roles very quickly and principal roles also.

What has happened under Fateyev for gradautes is unprecedented at Mariinsky. Beginning with 2010, the most important male graduate in decades, Viktor Lebedev, along with the exceptionally talented Zapanikova, both went to Mikhailovsky. The ongoing procession of top graduates going elsewhere is unheard of. 2011 added clear standouts Smirnova and Shapran, along with a very strong male in Sergei Strelkov. The past graduating class had the most famous teenage ballerina in history, Zhighanshina, who danced the lead in Paquita in all 3 grad performances, in my opinion, superior to when I saw Viktoria Tereshkina dance Paquita as a Mariinsky ballerina.

What Fateyev has done managing Mariinsky is exactly in accordance with his Dancing Times interview. He regards Vaganova graduates as low level talent. Zhiganshina should not have taken classes at Vaganova and she would now be a big Mariinsky star. because in Fateyev's eyes, her talent disappeared once she entered Vaganova.

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I am surprised more people are not shocked by his comment.

From a certain point of view, nothing that comes from Russia on the subject of ballet is exactly "shocking" dry.png -- that ship sailed long ago.

But, yes--it would be a sad and terrible thing if they ("St. Petersburg ballet powers-that-be") screwed the pooch on the great Vaganova legacy they have inherited.

(Fateyev did bring in Shapran at the first soloist level which, whether it was a good decision or not, de facto concedes something to the school. I would have said that on video Shapran's appeal sometimes seems to have more to do with her rather winnning stage personality than anything else.)

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