Ballet Stars
Margarita Shrainer in "Flames of Paris." Courtesy Bolshoi Ballet

Ever since Makhar Vaziev took the reigns of the Bolshoi Ballet in 2016, he's been pushing a new crop of promising young talent. Last summer, he chose Alena Kovaleva, then just 18, to dance the lead in "Diamonds" in New York City. This weekend North American audiences have an opportunity to catch another rising company dancer, corps de ballet member Margarita Shrainer, in movie theaters. On Sunday, March 4, Shrainer will star as the strong-willed Jeanne in Alexei Ratmansky's 2008 revival of The Flames of Paris, part of this season's Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema series. Fathom Events and By Experience (BYE) will partner to broadcast the film, captured live from a Moscow performance earlier in the day, to more than 500 movie theaters in the U.S. and Canada.

The Flames of Paris, which is set in the French Revolution, is a high-octane ballet full of dazzling bravura. While Shrainer is no stranger to principal roles, dancing for millions of viewers will add another element of pressure to her performance on Sunday. We spoke to her over email to see how she handles it all.

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Ballet Stars
Photo by Nisian Hughes for Pointe.

This is Pointe's December 2017/January 2018 Cover Story. You can subscribe to the magazine here, or click here to purchase this issue.

Few ballets are as unforgiving for a young dancer as Swan Lake. Both Odette's heartbreak and Odile's deceit of Siegfried demand the kind of dramatic commitment and maturity that often come with experience. At the same time, when a director entrusts an 18-year-old corps de ballet member with the double role, the implicit promise is clear: A special ballerina will emerge from that chrysalis.

So it was with Alena Kovaleva, who turned 19 shortly after her Swan Lake debut, last September, on the historical stage of the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow. Barely a year after her graduation from the Vaganova Ballet Academy, Kovaleva isn't a full-fledged Swan Queen yet. At nearly 5' 10", she is so tall that her coltish limbs sometimes falter, and she was visibly tiring by Odette's final pleas.


Kovaleva in "Swan Lake." Photo by M. Logvinov, Courtesy Bolshoi Ballet.

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Makhar Vaziev with La Scala Ballet dancer Claudio Coviello on tour in Japan. Photo courtesy of Teatro alla Scala on Twitter

 

From Russia to Italy and home again: Makhar Vaziev, former director (and principal dancer) of the Mariinsky Ballet and current director of the La Scala Ballet in Italy, will replace Sergei Filin at the Bolshoi Ballet when his term is up next spring.

Given his two decades of directorial experience, Vaziev’s appointment to the helm is not surprising—but it is exciting; the Russian expatriate is known for shaking up repertoires at both La Scala and the Mariinsky, which he lead for 13 years.

The title “artistic director” will leave with Filin. Instead, Vaziev will be known as “ballet director,” and it remains to be seen whether the title’s narrowing will reflect a narrowing in the scope of the director’s power as well. Either way, we can only hope his tenure is less tumultuous than his predecessor’s.

 

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