The Russians Are Coming
November 1, 2015

We have a history of fascination with Russian dancers here in the U.S. It started for me with the glamour and Cold War intrigue of Nureyev (1961) and Baryshnikov (1974) defecting to the West. And now that cultural exchanges go both ways (David Hallberg splitting his time between the Bolshoi and American Ballet Theatre; Keenan Kampa joining then leaving the Mariinsky; and Joy Womack, the first American to graduate from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy), we are privileged to see the fruit of the legendary Russian training more regularly. Diana Vishneva, Natalia Osipova, Maria Kochetkova and Daniil Simkin (who is one of the dancers featured in Dance Magazine’s video series, “Behind the Curtain”), for instance, have all appeared with ABT, either as guest performers or principals.

And of course, with the dancers come the teachers. For instance, when Galina Alexandrova (on the cover) left Russia for the Bay Area, her mother Svetlana Afanasieva followed and quickly established a reputation for training in the Vaganova style. Now Alexandrova operates her own school, and her students are beginning to make names for themselves: The Joffrey Ballet’s Jeraldine Mendoza began her training with Alexandrova, and 17-year-old student Rio Anderson won the silver medal at Youth American Grand Prix earlier this year (see “Pure Vaganova”).

But how does the notoriously strict Russian training fare when exported to American soil? Wendy Perron, who has served on competition juries with several Russian teachers, asked four of them to talk about how they’ve adjusted their expectations and class demeanor (see “From Russia with Love—and Discipline”).

While the Russians may have an advantage when it comes to ballet training, tap dance is pure homegrown American. This month we check in with two of our favorite tap artists. In “Technique,” Katharine Pettit demonstrates how she teaches a five-count riff step, and Ray Hesselink recommends some music for tap class.

Check out the DT Costume Guide. Fall is when dancewear manufacturers unveil their new lines, and style editor Alyssa Marks has curated a sample of new and best-selling ballet costumes (“Costume Preview”) in time for your recital ordering. She also spoke with the designers to identify trends you’ll see this season.

Photo by Matthew Murphy

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