Maria Khoreva and Victor Caixeta chat backstage at the Kennedy Center.

Quinn Wharton

The Mariinsky's Next Generation: Meet 4 of The Company's Rising Young Stars

On the Mariinsky Ballet's tour to the U.S. last fall, audiences clamored to see long established stars like Ekaterina Kondaurova, Kimin Kim, Viktoria Tereshkina and Vladimir Shklyarov. But it was also an opportunity to catch an exciting group of young protégés being nurtured by acting director Yuri Fateev. Just a few years out of school, they are a tight-knit and social-media-savvy group oozing with potential. In between performances at the Kennedy Center, Pointe sat down with four of them—first soloist Maria Khoreva, second soloists May Nagahisa and Victor Caixeta, and corps de ballet member Daria Ionova—to talk about what it's been like to be thrust into the Mariinsky spotlight so soon.


Maria Khoreva, First Soloist

Age: 19

Joined Mariinsky: 2018

Quinn Wharton

Maria Khoreva and Konstantin Zverev rehearse Paquita. "The full-length changed my perception of her character," says Khoreva. "I was used to seeing only the grand pas, which has a royal feeling to it. But while Paquita is of noble birth, she's lived as a gypsy for most of her life, so she has a playful energy to her."

Utterly self-possessed onstage and intensely focused offstage, Maria Khoreva has been on the fast-track from the moment she joined the Mariinsky. She had already gained the world's attention on social media as a promising Vaganova Ballet Academy student, and within her first few months in the company she had starred in her first full-length (Paquita) and been promoted to first soloist. Yet she still feels awestruck dancing among the Mariinsky's principals and soloists. "It's like living your everyday life with the ballet gods," she says. "It's insane! I cherish their advice."

Khoreva trained at the Vaganova Academy for eight years, but as graduation approached, she admits she wasn't sure where she wanted to dance. That's when Fateev cast her as Terpsichore in Balanchine's Apollo alongside principal Xander Parish. (He tapped classmates Daria Ionova and Anastasia Nuikina, now a second soloist, to dance the two other muses.) "He said, 'You can see how the theater works and how we rehearse, I can see what you're capable of, and then you can decide,' " says Khoreva. "After one or two rehearsals I knew I wanted to be here—I loved the atmosphere, and I loved rehearsing with Yuri."

Khoreva has danced only principal and soloist roles since then; this season she adds Aurora and Raymonda to her repertoire. And while her dream roles include Odette/Odile, she is willing to be patient. "There's a special time for everything. I'm just looking forward to learning something new and telling new stories."

May Nagahisa, Second Soloist

Age: 19

Joined Mariinsky: 2017

Quinn Wharton

Before her Giselle debut, Mai Nagahisa received advice from first soloist Ekaterina Osmolkina, a dancer she admires in the role. "My rehearsals weren't going well. She caught me in the corridor and said, 'Don't overthink it. You've rehearsed this for so long, trust that everything will be with you.' This was so helpful. I still remember it."

May Nagahisa danced her first featured solo at the Mariinsky as a 15-year-old student. Initially trained in her native Japan, Nagahisa left for Monaco's Princess Grace Academy at age 12 after winning a scholarship at Youth America Grand Prix. Two years later, Fateev spotted her at a YAGP summer intensive in Los Angeles and offered to give her a private rehearsal. Soon afterwards, he invited Nagahisa to perform as a guest in the company's production of La Bayadère. "I danced the Manu variation with two small girls from the Vaganova Academy," says Nagahisa. "I cried afterwards because I was so excited to be on the Mariinsky stage."

She visited Russia three more times before officially joining the company as a trainee, and jumped straight to second soloist one year later. Nagahisa has since danced major principal roles, including Giselle, the Sylph and Princess Florine. "I'm happy to just be here, and then to dance lead roles on top of that? I have no words."

Victor Caixeta, Second Soloist

Age: 20

Joined Mariinsky: 2017

Quinn Wharton

Victor Caixeta rehearses the role of Clemente in Paquita. "He has a really challenging variation," he says. Recently Caixeta has begun preparing his dream role, Romeo. "They think I'm Brazilian and full of energy, but I want to learn romantic roles."

"I never imagined I would dance in Russia," says Victor Caixeta. Born in Brazil, he started ballet at age 12, training privately with Brazilian and Russian teachers. Naturally charismatic onstage, he won a scholarship at Youth America Grand Prix to attend the State Ballet School of Berlin. Dancing at the Mariinsky wasn't even on Caixeta's radar when he went to the Moscow International Ballet Competition at age 17. But after Caixeta's first solo, Fateev approached him backstage and offered him a trainee contract on the spot. "I couldn't believe it," says Caixeta. "I didn't know internationals could even dance here. From Moscow I went back to Berlin, got my luggage and moved to Russia."

By 18 he was making his first major debut as the Nutcracker Prince (May Nagahisa, then 17, was his Masha). Since then he's added Don Quixote's Basilio, La Sylphide's James and the lead in Balanchine's "Rubies" to his repertoire, and he was promoted to second soloist in September. "Even if I'd gone to another company in Europe, I would never have the opportunities I've had here."

Daria Ionova, Corps de Ballet

Age: 23

Joined Mariinsky: 2018

Quinn Wharton

"When I first joined the theater, I was so scared, because everything at the Vaganova Academy is so strict," says Daria Ionova. "But my coach, Margarita Kullik, really wants me to relax and enjoy dancing, and to feel my emotions."

"I always wanted to dance with the Mariinsky, but for a long time I didn't believe I would get in," says Daria Ionova. Originally from Kaliningrad, she was twice rejected by the Vaganova Ballet Academy when she auditioned at ages 13 and 15. She thought about quitting. "But something told me to audition again, at 19," says Ionova. The school took her for its three-year graduate program on a probationary basis. But as her graduation approached, it was clear Fateev had plans for her. He cast her as Calliope in Apollo along with Khoreva, and a few months later showed off his "baby ballerina" cast at performances at New York City Center.

Though still a corps member, Ionova has already danced the lead pas de deux in "Emeralds," ("I love Balanchine," she gushes), as well as roles like Princess Florine, the Maiden in Le Spectre de la rose and one of Le Corsaire's three Odalisques. Balancing corps, soloist and principal roles means long hours. After class, she spends the first half of her day in corps rehearsals, with coaching sessions for any approaching soloist roles afterwards. "And then I perform, sometimes every night of the week. I get tired, but I just tell myself to stay strong."

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Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

2020 Stars of the Corps: 10 Dancers Making Strides In and Out of the Spotlight

The corps de ballet make up the backbone of every company. In our Fall 2020 issue, we highlighted 10 ensemble standouts to keep your eye on. Click on their names to learn more!

Dara Holmes, Joffrey Ballet

A male dancer catches a female dancer in his right arm as she wraps her left arm around his shoulder and executes a high arabesque on pointe. Both wear white costumes and dance in front of a blue backdrop onstage.

Dara Holmes and Edson Barbosa in Myles Thatcher's Body of Your Dreams

Cheryl Mann, Courtesy Joffrey Ballet

Wanyue Qiao, American Ballet Theatre

Wearing a powder blue tutu, cropped light yellow top and feather tiara, Wanyue Qiao does a piqu\u00e9 retir\u00e9 on pointe on her left leg and pulls her right arm in towards her.

Wanyue Qiao as an Odalisque in Konstantin Sergeyev's Le Corsaire

Gene Schiavone, Courtesy ABT

Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson, Houston Ballet

Three male dancers in tight-fitting, multicolored costumes stand in positions of ascending height from left to right. All extend their right arms out in front of them.

Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson (far right) with Saul Newport and Austen Acevedo in Oliver Halkowich's Following

Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet

Leah McFadden, Colorado Ballet

Wearing a white pixie wig and a short light-pink tunic costume, a female ballet dancer poses in attitude front on pointe with her left arm bent across her ribs and her right hand held below her chin.

Leah McFadden as Amour in Colorado Ballet's production of Don Quixote

Mike Watson, Courtesy Colorado Ballet

Maria Coelho, Tulsa Ballet

Maria Coelho and Sasha Chernjavsky in Andy Blankenbuehler's Remember Our Song

Kate Lubar, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

Alexander Reneff-Olson, San Francisco Ballet

A ballerina in a black feathered tutu stands triumphantly in sous-sus, holding the hand of a male dancer in a dark cloak with feathers underneath who raises his left hand in the air.

Alexander Reneff-Olson (right) as Von Rothbart with San Francisco Ballet principal Yuan Yuan Tan in Swan Lake

Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

India Bradley, New York City Ballet

Wearing a blue dance dress with rhinestone embellishments and a sparkly tiara, India Bradley finishes a move with her arms out to the side and hands slightly flexed.

India Bradley practices backstage before a performance of Balanchine's Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2.

Erin Baiano, Courtesy NYCB

Bella Ureta, Cincinnati Ballet

Wearing a white dress with pink corset, Bella Ureta does a first arabesque on pointe in front of an onstage stone wall.

Bella Ureta performs the Act I Pas de Trois in Kirk Peterson's Swan Lake

Hiromi Platt, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

Alejándro Gonzales, Oklahoma City Ballet

Dressed in a green bell-boy costume and hat, Alejandro Gonz\u00e1lez does a saut\u00e9 with his left leg in retir\u00e9 and his arms in a long diagonal from right to left. Other dancers in late 19-century period costumes watch him around the stage.

Alejandro González in Michael Pink's Dracula at Oklahoma City Ballet.

Kate Luber, Courtesy Oklahoma City Ballet

Nina Fernandes, Miami City Ballet

Wearing a long white tutu and crown, Nina Fernandes does a saut de chat in front of a wintery backdrop as snow falls from the top of the stage.

Nina Fernandes in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker

Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy Miami City Ballet

Quinn Wharton

Pacific Northwest Ballet's Angelica Generosa Shares Her Classic, Comfy Style In and Out of the Studio

"I love the feeling and look of effortless fashion," says Angelica Generosa. Preferring a classic style, the Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist keeps her wardrobe stocked with blazers. But they serve a practical purpose, too. "It tends to get chilly in Seattle, so it's the perfect accessory for layering," Generosa explains.

She's also quite fond of designer handbags. "They're my go-to accessory, and they're also my weakness when shopping," she says, naming Chloé, Chanel and Dior as some of her favorite brands. "I really appreciate the craftsmanship it takes to produce one—they're so beautiful and each has its own story, in a way."

In the studio, Generosa prioritizes comfort, and she'll change up her look depending on the repertoire (leotards and tutus for classical works, breathable shirts with workout pants for contemporary). But she always arrives to work in style. "I really love putting together outfits for even just going to the studio," she says. "It's another way of expressing my mood and what kind of vibe I'm going for that day."

The Details: Street

Angelica Generosa, wearing a blue blazer, white blouse and gray jeans, is photographed from underneath as she walks and looks to the right.

Quinn Wharton

BCBG blazer: "It has some shoulder pads and a really cool pattern," says Generosa. "It reminds me of my mom and '80s fashion."

Zara blouse: She incorporate neutrals, like this white satin button-up, to balance bright pops of colors.

Angelica Generosa looks off to her right in front of a glass-windowed building. She wears a blue blazer, white blouse, gray jeans and carries a small green handbag.

Quinn Wharton

Madewell jeans: Comfort is a major factor for Generosa, who gets her fashion inspiration from her mom, friends and people she comes across day to day.

Chloé bag: "I tend to have smaller purses because I'm quite small. Bigger bags overwhelm me sometimes—unless it's my dance bag, of course!"

The Details: Studio

Angleica Generosa, wearing a blue tank leotard, black wool leggings and pink pointe shoes, balances in a lunge on pointe with her left leg in front, facing a wall of windows.

Quinn Wharton

Label Dancewear leotard: "This was designed by my good friend Elizabeth Murphy, a principal dancer here at PNB. Her leotards always fit me really well."

Mirella leggings: "I get cold easily," says Generosa, who wears leggings and vests to stay warm throughout the day.

Angelica Generosa, wearing a blue tank leotard, black wool tights and pink pointe shoes, jumps and crosses her right foot over her left shin while lifting her arms up to the right.

Quinn Wharton

Freed of London pointe shoes: "When sewing them, I crisscross my elastics and use an elasticized ribbon from Body Wrappers," which helps alleviate Achilles tendon issues, she says. She then trims the satin off of the tip of the shoe. "Then I bend the shank a bit to loosen it up and cut a bit off where my arch is."

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This New "Nutcracker" Competition Wants Your Dance Studio to be Part of a Virtual Collaboration

Despite worldwide theater closures, the Universal Ballet Competition is keeping The Nutcracker tradition alive in 2020 with an online international competition. The event culminates in a streamed, full-length video of The Virtual Nutcracker consisting of winning entries on December 19. The competition is calling on studios, as well as dancers of all ages and levels, to submit videos by November 29 to be considered.

"Nutcracker is a tradition that is ingrained in our hearts," says UBC co-founder Lissette Salgado-Lucas, a former dancer with Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Joffrey Ballet. "We danced it for so long as professionals, we can't wait to pass it along to dancers through this competition."

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