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Angelina Vorontsova in the company's revival of "Cinderella." Photo by Stas Levshin, Courtesy Mikhailovsky Ballet.

Ella Persson remembers the rehearsals for her debut as Giselle. "I was in my first year with the company, and I started preparing with Mikhail Messerer during late evenings," the Mikhailovsky Ballet's Swedish-born coryphée says. "I was definitely not ready, but he gave me a chance to push myself and made me so much stronger, mentally and physically."

Under Messerer, the Mikhailovsky Ballet has carved a niche on the Russian and international stage by investing in coaching and dancers' growth. Unlike the older Mariinsky, St. Petersburg's second ballet company was only founded after World War I. But with a classically focused repertoire and productions that rotate onstage every month, it offers plenty of opportunities for talent to thrive.


Ballet master in chief Mikhail Messerer. Photo Courtesy Mikhailovsky Ballet.

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Vorontsova in Don Quixote. Photo by Nikolai Krusser, Courtesy Mikhailovsky Ballet.

It may be a dancer's dream to hit the headlines, but Angelina Vorontsova would rather forget the moment she did. Soon after the acid attack on Bolshoi Ballet director Sergei Filin, in January 2013, the young dancer, then just 21, found herself caught up in the storm. As suspect Pavel Dmitrichenko's then girlfriend and a protégée of Nikolai Tsiskaridze, who claimed Filin faked his injuries, she was suddenly a person of interest, with some speculating Dmitrichenko had been angered by her lack of advancement.

“It was a huge tragedy," is all Vorontsova will say, wearily. The events overshadowed her promising career, but two years on, she is finally hitting her stride away from Moscow. A few months after the attack, she accepted an invitation to join St. Petersburg's Mikhailovsky Ballet as one of its youngest principals; she has since taken over the company's repertoire with a new sense of maturity.

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