Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky told Izvestia:
Tsiskaridze is preparing thoroughly to take up this post, bringing with him a wealth of teaching experience, and his training in the legal profession. Lopatkina is now at the height of her career, and it is important for the Academy to have this professional experience. The aim of the Academy is to be the undisputed world leader in the field of ballet education.
Tsiskaridze said the discussions for him assuming the role started a year ago, and have been finalised over the last few weeks. Lopatkina said that she is not thinking of retiring from the Mariinsky Theatre:
The Academy needs my experience as a working ballerina.
The current Principal Vera Dorofeeva, who has directed the Vaganova Academy since 2004, will be offered a new job, said Medinsky. There have been conflicts recently between her and Mariinsky Musical Director Valery Gergiev, who has repeatedly stated his dissatisfaction with the quality of the training. Gergiev is delighted at the announcement:
A masterly personnel decision! Such a couple are capable of resolving the most complex and ambitious task! Nikolay has already proved that he can nurture world-class artists. It's wonderful that Ulyana will not give up the stage to be the new artistic director – she is the idol of every student.
The future of Altynai Asylmuratova, who is at present the Artistic Director of the Academy, is uncertain, and the Minister indicated that it was for Tsiskaridze to decide.
The Academy of Russian Ballet Vaganova, founded in 1738, is one of the oldest ballet school in the world. Among its graduates are Vaslav Nijinsky, George Balanchine, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolf Nureyev, Natalia Makarova, and many, many more. Its future is now in the hands of two 40-year-old ballet stars, and while Tsiskaridze is often accused of being temperamental, no-one can accuse him of not being intelligent.
Bolshoi chief Vladimir Urin, who recently offered Tsiskaridze the opportunity to dance farewell performances at the theatre, which later the Bolshoi star declined, said:
They are both highly qualified professionals, and know ballet intimately. They will have to now learn a new profession as leaders and teachers. I wish them good luck, and the patience and wisdom needed to direct such an important institution as the Vaganova Academy. They face a huge burden of responsibility, as their tasks will include not only organizational and educational issues, but also moral education, and creating harmony among diverse personalities.
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.