Diana Vishneva feels passionately about the Vaganova Ballet Academy, from where she graduated in 1995, and yesterday made it clear that she has doubts about its future under the new school Principal, Nikolay Tsiskaridze. Last year, the historic school celebrated its 275th anniversary, and Vishneva talked to Anna Galaida about its importance.
The school is everything: the guarantee of future success and duration of our professional lives. The teachers you have are of vital importance, from the primary school, when you're put in a position and taught the basics, right through to the final year. When I came to the West, I realized that in our school there are some downsides, but it has great strengths: the placement of the hands, the back, the control of breathing during movement… no other school is better at this.
I think if Vaganova was alive, she would have modified the technique. At the time, she took the best that existed in the ballet world and united it in her method. If she had seen how ballet in the West has developed in recent years, I think she would have incorporated parts of that.
Going slightly against her recent comments about Tsiskaridze who, if nothing else, surely has a unique personality, she adds:
For the Vaganova method to evolve you need teachers with strong personalities, and now I don't see these people. The last was Konstantin Sergeyev who kept an eye on the new trends in dance. When I was in the third grade he gave me a perfect score, which is unusual at this age. Maybe he noticed a new aesthetic…
Tradition is a very important concept in our profession, and the school should preserve it, but we mustn't forget that the people who created these traditions were always looking for improvements. Vaganova's own students said that she approached each of them as individuals.
The Vaganova is one of the best schools in the world. When I first went to the American Ballet Theatre, I was very nervous because I had to dance Kenneth MacMillan's ballets for the first time. Irina Kolpakova – herself a product of the Vaganova school – said, “What are you worrying for, you have the Vaganova training!”… The Vaganova Academy gave me complete freedom to move in any way I choose to.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.