Jacopo Tissi, the young Italian dancer who is starting to make waves, has been offered a contract with the Bolshoi Ballet Company. That's not something that happens every day. The Moscow company, like all Russian companies, has almost no dancers from outside the ex-Soviet borders. Tissi arrives via the Makhar Vaziev connection, the ex-director of the La Scala company and since March at the Bolshoi. He'd seen what Tissi can do during his last years at La Scala's school and with the company.
Vienna was a wonderful experience both from a personal point of view and professionally. During the season that I was there I remained in contact with Maestro Vaziev and with La Scala and I felt that it was the right moment to return to Milan and embark on a new journey there.
While Tissi was at La Scala under Vaziev he danced Prince Desiré in Ratmansky's Sleeping Beauty with Svetlana Zakharova, Des Grieux in Manon with La Scala's new Principal Nicoletta Manni, he was Cinderella's Prince in Mauro Bigonzetti's new production of the ballet, Espada in Nureyev's Don Quixote, and so on. However, things changed when Bigonzetti took over as head of the ballet company. Almost a chance happening, as Bigonzetti was in the theatre creating his Cinderella, as was Laurent Hilaire who was working with the company and remounting Don Quixote. More or less, it was a toss-up between the two men. An odd way to fill such an important position: no international search for suitable candidates (even though the suitable candidate was under their noses: M Hilaire… but that's another story). The dancers complained about the choice of a contemporary choreographer to direct a company with a classical repertoire – a repertoire that is already metamorphosing – but the decision had been made and, like all such decisions, any reflection on the fact that it may have been ill-judged must be ignored, “Brexit means…”, but I digress. Tissi tactfully says,
From April on there was a moment of transition during the change of leadership which wasn't particularly productive for me.
Frustrating for a 21-year-old dancer who knows that ballet dancers' clocks tick much faster than those of the rest of us. The story recalls that of Xander Parish at The Royal Ballet who became fed-up with carrying spears, got accepted into the ranks of the Mariinsky, and received the acclaim he deserved.
I'd remained in contact with Maestro Vaziev after he left for Moscow and he invited me during the summer break to work for a period with the Bolshoi company. I loved it. There is a lot of opportunity to work and grow artistically and for me it also means being able to continue along the path that began with Vaziev at La Scala.
While there he teamed up again with Zakharova to rehearse Le Corsaire and Giselle being that her partner, Mikhail Lobukhin, was away. Of course, she has danced often with Bolshoi Principal David Hallberg who has physical and technical similarities with Tissi. Hallberg is still, sadly, out of action.
I will be the first Italian to work with the company, as far as I know, since the Italians who were here during the ‘60s and ‘70s went for the cultural exchange programmes between the two theatres.
Tissi came up through La Scala's school where Russian methods have always been fundamental. The director of the school for thirty years, Anna Maria Prina, who after going through the school herself was part of that exchange programme, studying for two years at the Bolshoi, always made the Vaganova method the basis for the school's teaching. Now, under Frédéric Olivieri, the school continues to employ Russian teachers.
I don't know at what level I will enter the company ranks, I'll see when I arrive, but Maestro Vaziev wanted to invest in me and so I will work as hard as I can to learn so that artistically I can grow, which is the most important thing.
So on 18 August, Tissi resigned from La Scala's ballet company. He's waiting for his visa. Although Moscow is just a three and a half hours away – an hour less than travelling down to Naples by train – it is psychologically distant; certainly not like spending a year in Vienna. But Tissi seems nonchalant and has his eye on the goal:
It's not the first time I've left Milan. Yes, I'll be leaving a few, dear friends behind, but we'll keep in contact and I hope to see them from time to time.
Last November I wrote of Manon at La Scala,
Jacopo Tissi, Christian Fagetti and Timofej Andrijashenko as the three gentlemen at the party, seemed to be in a ‘anything you can do, I can do better' mood, instead of trying to work together as a coordinated team. Maybe Tissi, after having played Des Grieux the previous evening, found it difficult getting back into line.
Of course, some just don't belong in line.
Follow Jacopo Tissi on Instagram @jacopotissi
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.