by guest blogger Elizaveta Dilanyan
On 18 June it was announced that Vaganova Ballet Academy will open a second campus in Vladivostok, the capital of the Primorsky Krai province, in far eastern Russian, almost 10,000 km away from St Petersburg in the extreme west by car or train. The train journey will take almost week, though the more affluent could hop on a plane for a mere 10½ hour flight. It's a long way away.
According to the academy's director, Nikolai Tsiskaridze, the project was initiated by Vladimir Miklushevski, the Primorsky Krai governor, and Valery Gergiev, the general and artistic director of the Mariinsky Theatre. The project has also received strong support from President Vladimir Putin.
Gergiev has reportedly taken an interest in developing the arts and culture scene in Russia's westernmost region, with the Mariinsky Theatre opening its Primorsky Stage in Vladivostok on 1 January. During the President's subsequent visit to the region, governor Miklushevski suggested that a ballet academy should be opened in Vladivostok to train dancers for the new theatre.
Earlier this month, the Vaganova Ballet Academy staff have submitted a report to the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, outlining the resources necessary to open a second campus. Reaction has been mixed. Some think that the funds required for this project should be allocated instead to the Perm State Choreographic College, an offshoot of Vaganova Ballet Academy, established during the Second World War. Others have wondered whether members of the academy's current staff might be relocated to Vladivostok.
The project has also received a lot of support, as it will provide a large number of children, from such a remote region, with a once in a lifetime opportunity to pursue a professional ballet career.
In several earlier interviews, Tsiskaridze has expressed concern over the number of gifted children who are unable to travel to either St Petersburg or Moscow to audition for, let alone attend, the cities' academies. Tsiskaridze was considering applying for funding to mobilise a group of talent scouts that could scour the country in search of young talent, but it is unclear whether the project will go ahead. A second campus in the far-flung Primorsky Krai could, indeed, be the answer to this problem.
The first intake will be of 10-12 children, who will commence their studies in September 2017. They will spend their first year in St Petersburg before being transferred back to the Vladivostok campus. Auditions will be held at the end of August. A group of Vaganova Ballet Academy staff, including Tsiskaridze, will travel to Vladivostok to oversee the selection process.
The news has great significance as it is the first instance of outside forces affecting a change in the Academy's operations since Tsiskaridze's appointment in 2013. During the tumultuous first months in his new role, Tsiskaridze pledged to protect the academy and preserve its integrity, famously promising to resign if powerful outsiders – like Gergiev – were to force him to make a decision that would harm the academy. He has been true to his word for almost three years.
Stretching the resources of one of the world's oldest and most prestigious ballet schools is an ambitious and risky project, which places the academy's director in a potentially disagreeable situation. Tsiskaridze must be aware that if the project fails, the blame will be placed squarely on his shoulders.
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.