(Vaganova Academy graduate Olga Smirnova and Karim Abdullin, photo by Damir Yusupov)
Even though he was Russian and trained at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, George Balanchine’s work has never been performed by students at the school. Now, through an exciting collaboration between the Mikhailovsky Theatre, Open World Dance Foundation and the George Balanchine Trust, students at the school will perform Balanchine’s Raymonda Variations on November 29. The performance will be staged by former New York City Ballet soloist and repetiteur Darla Hoover.
The project is a true meeting of cultures and time periods. The Mikhailovsky is one of Russia’s younger ballet companies, while the Vaganova Academy (formerly the Imperial Ballet School) is more than 276 years old. Raymonda premiered in 1961, mid-career for Balanchine—who went by Georgi Balanchivadze when he was a student. As well as serving as an expert on Balanchine ballets, Hoover is the artistic director of her own program: the pre-professional division at New York City’s Ballet Academy East.
As Nikolai Tsiskaridze, director of the Academy says, “I am proud that the masterpieces of Balanchine, who was Georgian by birth, Russian by culture and the greatest of all American choreographers, are being performed by a new generation and continue to hold a grand place in the world of ballet.”