Alyona Kovaleva performs a pas de deux from the Raymonda ballet at the "Fifty-Five" gala which marks the 55th birthday of People's Artist of the Russian Federation, choreographer and director Andris Liepa.Iliya Pitalev/RIA Novosti
Adolphe Adam's "Giselle" on the Mariinsky stage during the 7th Mariinsky ballet festival in St. Petersburg. Olesya Novikova of the Mariinsky Theatre, in the name part, and Mathieu Ganio, Opera de Paris leading dancer, as Albert. / Valentin Baranovskiy/RIA Novosti
She joined the Mariinsky Theatre at the peak of Ulyana Lopatkina, Diana Vishneva, and Svetlana Zakharova’s careers - so the competition was intense. To begin with, Novikova didn’t exactly stand out for the her skill or virtuosity, and was often shoehorned into productions by Marius Petipa. But she practised relentlessly and learned to convey exactly what each choreographer wanted. Eventually, she was rewarded for her hard work and trusted with a difficult solo in William Forsythe’s “The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude” - choreographed by Alexey Miroshnichenko.
She played the part with poise, and soon became a prominent ballet dancer. At only 33-year-old she already has three children but remains youthful. When playing the likes of Giselle, Raymonda, and other characters she seems to defy gravity. Novikova is now at the height of St. Petersburg’s ballet scene.
Don Quixote Grand Pas variations performed by Oksana Kardash during a concert marking the 90th anniversary of the Stanislavski and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Academic Music Theatre. / Stanislav Krasilnikov/TASS
Her path is unusual. Oksana studied ballet at the Natalia Nesterova University, rather than an academic institution. As soon as she joined the Stanislavski and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Academic Music Theater, she was thrust into the public eye. She entered the company at a turning point, when the leadership and direction was going through serious change as Neumeier, Duato, and Kilian ballets were staged. Kardash, who has never stood out for her classical training, drew the crowds’ attention in other ways. Her coordination, accuracy, energy, and freedom have been widely praised. Most of the performances were ensembles but she always led the way.
However, she mostly ended up playing second fiddle during classical performances. But with the arrival of directors Kenneth McMillan and Natalia Makarova, new life was breathed into Kardash.
Her solos in “Mayerling,” “Manon,” and “La Bayadère” proved her worth as one of the country’s top young ballerinas. She was offered the part of Princess Odette in “Swan Lake” and she’s only improved since.
Maria Doval Ballet/YouTube
Polina Budakova and Nikita Chetverikov of Perm Choreography College perform a pas de deux from The Peri ballet at the Mihkailovsky Theater Grand Prix final. / Alexei Danichev/RIA Novosti
She nailed down the role of prima ballerina at Perm’s Theater of Opera and Ballet just two months ago, but she had to sweat for it - for six years. She joined the famous company after graduating from Perm State Choreographic College, where she studied alongside incredibly talented students. Her soft, elegant movement and “talking” hands promised much from a young age - and Buldakova has been carefully nurtured in Perm to make sure she achieves her full potential.
She enjoys a creative relationship with artistic director Aleksey Miroshnichenko, who has transformed Perm into a hub of European choreography. Buldakova’s roles in “Swan Lake” and “Sleeping Beauty” have won her many admirers, while her Calliope in “Apollo” and solo in “Les Patineurs” (The Skaters) showed she is not only a fine ballerina, but also a talented actress.
Perm Opera Ballet Theatre/YouTube
"Sapogova was being showered with awards (e.g. Golden Mask) and put on a pedestal alongside the likes of outstanding prima ballerinas Ekaterina Krysanova and Ekaterina Shipulina." Elena Lehova/Tatyana Andreeva
While Sapogova was rehearsing for a minor part of Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet,” which Vyacheslav Samodurov directed in Yekaterinburg Theater last season, she was not earmarked to become a prima ballerina. She was only 20-years-old and had never come near a main role - in truth she was considered to be too short. But, like the above, she put her back into it and worked hard, so hard that she was soon noticed by Samodurov for her originality and natural elegance. He pulled her from the shadows and cast her as Juliet.
Soon, Sapogova was being showered with awards (e.g. Golden Mask) and put on a pedestal alongside the likes of outstanding prima ballerinas Ekaterina Krysanova and Ekaterina Shipulina. Her ability to sidestep convention on stage and convey her own unique style was evident in a production of “Giselle” and a show choreographed by the legendary Hans van Manen.
International Festival of Arts Diaghilev. P.S./YouTube
Alyona Kovaleva performs a pas de deux from the Raymonda ballet at the "Fifty-Five" gala which marks the 55th birthday of People's Artist of the Russian Federation, choreographer and director Andris Liepa. / Iliya Pitalev/RIA Novosti
Not many people were aware of Kovaleva’s talents when she graduated from the Vaganova Academy last year but she was a sensation while touring New York during a festival dedicated to late choreographer George Balanchine’s “Jewels” ballet. He created the three-act show for the French, American, and Russian schools, so artists from the Opera National de Paris, Bolshoi Theater, and New York City Ballet were invited to strut their stuff. Kovaleva was chosen to head the third act: “Diamonds.”
Maria Doval Ballet/YouTube
“Everything in this performance paled in comparison to the ravishing splendor of Alena Kovaleva in the lead role...She’s tall, dark, willowy, beautiful. And she’s technically impressive, but you hardly notice because she’s so triumphant, so gently secure, so obviously happy to be dancing,” wrote Robert Gottlieb, a Balanchine ballet expert, about her debut.
Maria Doval Ballet/YouTube
This autumn, Moscow will see Kovaleva in “Swan Lake.” It was as if she was born especially for this ballet, with her long graceful arms and tall figure.
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