282nd Vaganova Academy Graduation Performance – 6 June 2024

The 282nd graduating class of the Vaganova Academy demonstrated the results of their training in 3 performances on the Mariinsky’s historical stage in a three-act mixed bill in early June.

An except from “Flora’s Awakening” featured two girls cultivated by Academy rector Nikolai Tsisaridze. Ekaterina Morozova, who essayed Flora and, in Act 3, the Lilac Fairy, seemed the most polished and graceful of the bunch. She accented well-centered turns in arabesque with graceful port de bras and appropriate épaulement.

The non-intuitive sequence of tendus into à la seconde and then retiré passé did not phase Ekaterina Efimova, a graduate of pedagogue Irina Zhelonkina, whose welcoming smile added warmth to her role. Polina Parfenova, also one of Tsiskaridze’s charges, performed a driven, sharp-edged Diana and later reappeared as the Silver Fairy in the final act of the evening (from “The Sleeping Beauty”). As Geba, Veselina Ilieva from Bulgaria skimmed across the floor in ballonés and carved soaring arcs with her ronds en l’air, demonstrating a legato softness alongside strong musicality in her delivery.

“Hungarian Rhapsody”, a spicy folk-type Russian dance to music by Franz Liszt demonstrated the dramatic and character talents of Ekaterina Kalashnikova with Vladislav Kolesnikov, and Uliana Gritsina alongside Alexander Vunder. Both Kolesnikov (a student of Fethon Miozzi) and Vunder emitted energetic flair with sharp head and arm accents, appearing fully polished and ready for their respective careers. The tall and blonde Ivan Sotnikov led the final number in Act II, which was “Ariadne and the Fisherman”, with confident, smooth jumps and a winning stage presence.

Maxim Sevagin, already a big name in Russia, is a 2017 Academy graduate who was handed the reins of the Stanislavsky ballet troupe upon the departure of Laurent Hilaire in spring 2022. Sevagin set “Dances at a Wedding” for the Academy students this year to music by Heinrich Granados. The hour-long work features intriguing choreographic combinations and a functional structure, but distracting costumes that at times hid too much of the ladies’ leg work. Sevagin is nonetheless a born choreographer — I chronicled his first works while he was still a student– and easily composes multi-layered ballets for corps and soloists.  Lately he has veered more to the modern end of the spectrum but “Dances” is somewhat

in between, based on a heavily Spanish theme that shifts to heeled shoes in the finale. Here, Maya Palilionis, Sofia Solomina and Alisa Shanina displayed precision musicality and appropriately haughty Spanish pride. Konstantine Lavrentiev, as the Fiancé, showed us a light jump and suave manner. Blessed with impeccable lines, the slender and long Elizabetta Nalin, who hails from Italy, danced the leading role of the Bride with aloof yet sultry expression, her legs mesmerizing with their pure lines.

Act III from “The Sleeping Beauty” closed out the evening. Most outstanding were Alisa Barinova, also a Zhelonikina student, as Aurora alongside partner Pavel Mikheev, who is already with the Mariinsky (photo above), and Maya Chobota of Romania as the beautifully proportioned Sapphire Fairy.

Barinova, a sophisticated young lady who already emits that rare ballerina presence, offered a sense of royalty infused with warmth in her flawless dancing. Chobota (shown in the photo at left), whose limbs are a pure indulgence to watch, seemed a level above her counterparts in terms of refinement. Despite the speed of the fairy trio’s music, she seems to infuse a languid legato presence into the quick tempo. One wonders what she would be like as the Lilac Fairy or the waltz in “Chopiniana”.

Yulia Kotlyarova, a petite, poised gem of a dancer, performed as Princess Florine in the Bluebird Pas de Deux alongside Nikolas Jorge, an already seasoned, compact jumper. This charming couple are both ensured brilliant futures whether they dance together again or separately.  Kotlyarova displayed beautiful technique and the gentleness of nobility. Jorge’s powerful ballon will easily gain him a myriad of roles.

The Academy continues to churn out promising talent, and each year provides a new crop of hope that the future of classical ballet will somehow be preserved going forward. In these uncertain times, it’s reassuring to see these  young dancers with their entire careers ahead of them, and it will be interesting to watch where Time takes them.

Photos by Andrey Lushpa, courtesy of the Press Office of the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet.