Ballet Stars

The Standouts of 2018: Mariinsky Ballet's Olesya Novikova in "The Sleeping Beauty"

Novikova in The Sleeping Beauty. Photo by Natasha Razina, Courtesy Mariinsky Theatre.

The luminous Olesya Novikova has become one of St. Petersburg's best-kept secrets. Pushed into leading roles early, the 34-year-old has been out of the limelight in recent years, partly because she has given birth to three children with husband Leonid Sarafanov. Last March, however, for the bicentenary of Marius Petipa's birth, she was tasked with leading a revival of Sergei Vikharev's landmark reconstruction of The Sleeping Beauty, first performed in 1999.


Novikova and Timur Askerov in "The Sleeping Beauty." Photo by Natasha Razina, Courtesy Mariinsky Theatre.

It must have been a bittersweet assignment: Vikharev was Novikova's coach at the Mariinsky from 2009 until his accidental death in 2017. Yet the deceptively delicate-looking first soloist cast a spell fit for her mentor's sumptuous production. Not only did she betray no effort (no small feat in The Sleeping Beauty), but her phrasing and upper-body details made Petipa's steps look blissfully unstudied. Novikova speaks the language of classical ballet with the kind of sincerity that sets apart the greatest Auroras—a jewel in the Mariinsky crown, and a principal in all but name.

The Conversation
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Ma Cong in the studio with Tulsa Ballet. Courtesy Tulsa Ballet.

Without him we wouldn't have The Nutcracker, Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty. But how much do you know about Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky, the man behind classical ballet's most recognizable music? Did you know that the Russian composer hid his homosexuality for much of his life? He also struggled with depression; there's been speculation that his death in 1893 was in fact a suicide.

Tulsa Ballet resident choreographer Ma Cong dramatically recounts his life in a new full-length ballet titled Tchaikovsky: The Man Behind the Music, premiering March 29-31. If you think a story ballet about the most renowned composer of story ballets set to, yes, a Tchaikovsky score, is a bit meta, you wouldn't be wrong. But considering the renewed importance of LGBTQ rights in society, it's a ballet perfectly timed to our era. In Russia, censorship still asserts that Tchaikovsky was not gay. The subject also calls to mind backlash surrounding an LGBTQ-themed work at Louisville Ballet just last month.

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The Royal Ballet's Vadim Muntagirov and Marianela Nuñez in La Bayadère. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy ROH.

Do you ever wish you could teleport to London and casually stroll into The Royal Opera House to see some of the world's best-loved ballets? Well, we have a solution for you: The Royal Ballet's 2018-19 cinema season.

Whether live or recorded, the seven ballet programs listed below, streaming now through next October, will deliver all of the magic that The Royal Ballet has to offer straight to your local movie theater. Can you smell the popcorn already?

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