Made in St. Petersburg: The greatest ballerinas of our time

ballerinas from st.petersburg

It is no secret that the world’s best ballet dancers are made at Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg. The oldest Russian school of ballet is known for its strict admission criteria and star alumni, including Anna Pavlova and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Today, we take a look at three great ballerinas of the 21st century who learned strength, resilience and grace at Vaganova.

Uliana Lopatkina

The Ukrainian-born ballerina took dance lessons from the early childhood. After completing her studies at Vaganova, she joined Mariinsky Theatre and quickly became the principal dancer. She also performed on the stage of Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, La Scala in Milan, Royal Opera House in London, Grand Opera de Paris and Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Uliana danced the roles of Giselle, Nikya in La Bayadère and Raymonda in the eponymous ballet by Petipa, but she is most famous for her interpretation of Odette/Odile in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Curiously, this is also the ballet she has always felt the most nervous about. She found it challenging to convey Odile’s evil character without being seen as brutal by the audience.

Despite her stellar success as a prima ballerina, Uliana managed to maintain a good work-life balance. She sees her greatest achievement in the birth of her daughter and is still close with her mother, who, by her own words, is her biggest critic.

Uliana Lopatkina retired from Mariinsky in June 2017 due to professional injuries.

Diana Vishneva

Born and raised in St. Petersburg, it was only natural for Diana to attend Vaganova Academy. Upon her graduation, she joined Mariinsky and just like Uliana Lopatkina, she was soon promoted to a principal dancer. She later spent 14 years dancing at American Ballet Theatre and in 2017 she came back to Mariinsky where she is still performing as a principal dancer.

Diana has also given guest-performances at many theatres worldwide. She said that this nomadic lifestyle filled her with excitement, gave her more artistic freedom and the chance to further develop herself as a dancer. She is best known for her roles in Don Quixote and Carmen, where the audience can admire not just her amazing technique, but also her acting abilities – something that is unique to ballerinas trained in Russia.

Svetlana Zakharova

The internationally acclaimed ballerina was born in Ukraine and started her ballet training in Kiev. At the age of 16, she participated in a competition for young ballet dancers, the Vaganova-Prix in St. Petersburg. Despite her being the youngest competitor, she came second and was offered to finish her studies at Vaganova.

Svetlana began her professional career at Mariinsky, where she danced the role of Giselle in her first season at the theatre. This earned her the status of a prima ballerina, which was only cemented by her performances in Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty and La Bayadère. She was soon performing all over the world, including La Scala, where she got the status of étoile – the leading dancer.

In 2003, Svetlana joined Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. You can see her in classical Russian ballets, but also in Carmen, Anna Karenina and The Lady of the Camellias, which is to be broadcast in cinemas all over the world during the 2018/2019 season. Svetlana is admired for her extensions and beautiful art movements as well as for her artistry and expressiveness.

Are you ready to experience Russian ballet live? Take a look at the event calendar of Liden & Denz in St. Petersburg and book an unforgettable evening at the theatre watching Swan Lake!

Izabela Karelova

Posted by Izabela Karelova

Привет! I'm Iza, a Translation student based in Slovakia and Austria. I'm passionate about foreign languages, culture and travel, so I'm looking forward to studying at Liden & Denz and exploring St. Petersburg.

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