Russian prima ballerina lashes out at spoiled, internet-obsessed younger generation of dancers

Portman
Natalie Portman in Darren Aronofsky's 2010 ballet thriller, Black Swan

One of the world’s most celebrated ballerinas has accused younger dancers of being “weak”, lacking dedication, and being too concerned with their own happiness.

Diana Vishneva recalled learning her craft under harsh conditions while subject to fierce competition, in stark contrast to today’s dance hopefuls.

“I was lucky. I came from a generation of teachers who were great at preparing us,” Vishneva, 40, recalled.

“Today’s dancers are weaker, less prepared even than our graduation class.

“If you look at conditions at the school now, they are so much improved. It is warm, clean, well refurbished.

“I remember how it was in my time. There were holes in the floor and it was always terribly cold, because the window frames were not fixed properly. But there was good discipline and we were very concentrated.

“Now, with this different style, with the internet — young people get so much information, and their attention is taken away from work. But every day is important.

Diana Vishneva at the Mariinsky Ball in Ekaterininsky Palace, St Petersburg, in 2012 Credit: Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images

“Maybe now children are happier. There is not so much shouting and demands — but probably this is a reason as well. When I was at school, I was taught not to spare myself, to give everything I had.”

Vishneva was born in St Petersburg, making her name with the Mariinsky company in her home city.

She had spent the last 12 years as a principal at American Ballet Theater before stepping down from the role, although she has not stopped working with them.

She also continues to dance with her alma mater, and will perform in London this summer when the Mariinsky stages Alexei Ratmansky’s Anna Karenina and Alberto Alonso’s Carmen Suite.

Rudolf Nureyev - seen here with Margot Fonteyn during rehearsals for Romeo and Juliet in London, 1968 - began his career at St Petersburg's Mariinsky company. Credit: Reg Wilson/Rex Features

However, speaking to The Sunday Times, Vishneva expressed concern at recent developments at the historic school since the recent appointment of Bolshoi-trained Nikolai Tsiskaridze as head.

She said: “When we were entering the school, 90 people were competing for one place. That is why we were so determined. We were not taught twice what to do, because we could be kicked out if we didn’t do what was demanded of us.

“There are different nuances in the schools, between the Bolshoi and the Mariinsky. He claims it is the same, but the style, the movements, the breathing, the manner is different.

“Now Tsiskaridze is in St Petersburg, while Makhar Vaziev [who was trained in St Petersburg] is at the Bolshoi. And both claim it is the same style because it is convenient for them to say that.  But what I hear is upsetting to me.”

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