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© Ismene Brown 1992-2019


Tsiskaridze elected Rector by 227 to 17

‘Diaghilev started showbiz, he’s no role model’: Tsiskaridze

Tsiskaridze: ‘Schooling needs to be as good as Soviet times’

'They dare to instruct us what’s needed? It’s them who should learn from us'

28 DEC 14     

“The West dares to teach us Russians what’s needed? It’s them who need to learn from us.” Yesterday Nikolai Tsiskaridze gave a characteristically tub-thumping state-of-the-nation assessment of the ballet world to the Russian News Service that reportedly damned Western ballet as “half-trained” and accused the world of effectively pirating Russia’s ballet by staging Swan Lake, Don Quixote and La Bayadère without paying the country for them.

The Rector of the celebrated Vaganova Academy in St Petersburg - counted the flagship nursery of classical ballet tradition over there - said that Russian ballet needed to be “isolated” from Western “ignoramuses”, according to reports of the interview.

St Petersburg’s Gazeta adds an information coda implicitly debating with Tsiskaridze’s nationalist claim on ballet by stressing the French and Italian roots of Russian classical ballet right up to the 20th century. But then makes mistakes of its own.

It’s worth mentioning - to show that surface statements are not always what they appear - that Tsiskaridze has just presided over graduation performances by the Vaganova students in which works by Balanchine and Bournonville were performed - both of them “Westerners” but evidently not, even in his eyes, “half-trained”.

The tub-thumping, as so often with the former monstre sacré of the Bolshoi Ballet, who was dismissed last year by the Bolshoi management for his anti-authority media statements, seems calculated to chime with nationalist political circles, in which he is said to have significant support.

Here is a translation of the gazeta.spb report.

Western ballet ‘ignoramuses’ slammed

Gazeta.spb, 27 December

Nikolai Tsiskaridze has proposed that Russian ballet should be isolated from “half-educated Western people”, according to the Russian News Service.

According to the rector of the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, there are no state structures in the West in which choreographic art and music are taught at a high level. Hence it is essential that Russian ballet should be isolated from interference by “half-educated Western people”.

Which countries should be reckoned particularly representative of the “half-educated” West Tsiskaridze did not specify.

The celebrated ballet dancer thinks the whole world has made free with Russian ballet, putting it into general circulation and appropriating to itself the achievements of the Russian “school”. The Vaganova Rector is outraged that when Swan Lake, Don Quixote or Bayadère are staged abroad, it means that “some uncle or other took a Russian production, changed three or four steps in it, altered something from left to right, and then put it out as his own.”

In this process, according to Tsiskaridze, Russia gets nothing back from these productions. “They earn money! But not a kopek comes Russia’s way. And they even dare to teach us what’s needed? It’s them who should learn from us,” Tsiskaridze told the broadcast news agency.


Ballet originated as a new form of dance in Italy, the birthplace of opera, from where it was adopted by France. The beginning of the ballet era is considered as 1581, when the premiere of The Comedy Ballet of the King was premiered at the French court. What we consider classical ballet was also nurtured on the theatre stages of France in the 18th century.

The Russian ballet’s identity began taking shape in the 19th century thanks to the work of the French choreographer Charles-Louis Didelot. Subsequently, Russian ballet developed due to the influx of foreign professionals. The image of Russia’s ballet emerged with the start of the 20th century. An enormous influence on the form of Russian ballet came from the famous Russian seasons of Diaghilev.

To recap, in October Tsiskaridze was appointed rector of the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet  [IB: sic - in October 2013  he was named acting Rector; he was formally elected 29 November 2014]. The post of artistic director of the cultural institution was taken on by the Mariinsky Theatre prima ballerina, world-famous Ulyana Lopatkina. [IB: Incorrect - Tsiskaridze appointed Zhanna Ayupova.]

Tsiskaridze: Save Russia from the half-trained West

Nikolai Tsiskaridze (photo RNS)