When ballet critics described the eighteen-year-old Russian dancing prodigy Ivan Vasiliev as the next Nureyev and Baryshnikov, he replied “I am not the next Nureyev or the next Baryshnikov, I am the original Ivan Vasiliev.”
Four years later, in 2010, the ‘rocket man’ – dubbed because of his aerial brilliance and explosive leaps – returned to London’s Covent Garden with the Bolshoi’s production of SPARTACUS and continued to wow audiences and critics alike.
Mark Monahan, in his Telegraph review wrote, Ivan “leaves you unable entirely to believe what you saw… Vasiliev is the reason to see this ballet, queue overnight for return tickets: this boy from Vladivostok is a fully-formed superstar and he will blow your mind.” Now 29, the ‘boy who can fly’ is part of the Mikhailovsky Theatre troupe, after a stint as Principle with the American Ballet Theatre in 2012-13.
He returned to London last week to perform for the English National Ballet in LE JEUNE HOMME ET LA MORT at the London Coliseum where he signed my drawing.
One of the stars of the Mariinsky Ballet from Saint Petersburg, Ekaterina Kondaurova returned to Covent Garden as part of the famous Russian company’s London season at the Royal Opera house last Summer.
After graduating from the Vaganova Academy she immediately joined the Mariinsky in 2001, where she has remained, rising through the ranks to Principal in 2012. Among her many awards was winning the prestigious Prix Benoit de la Danse competition in 2006.
I left this drawing at the Royal Opera House, which Ekaterina signed and returned for me.
Fernanda Oliveria is a Prize-winning Brazilian ballerina, not to be confused with the Brazilian Olympic medal-winning sailor of the same name. Fernanda the dancer is Lead Principal at the English National Ballet, which she joined in 2000 having trained at the Centro de Danca Rio and the Royal Ballet Upper School. She moved through the ranks from First soloist in 2003 to Principal in 2007 and Lead Principal two years later. Her favourite productions are ROMEO & JULIET and MANON and her career highlight is creating the role of Gerda in THE SNOW QUEEN for the CONCERT FOR DIANA at the newly-built Wembley Stadium in 2007. Fernanda signed this sketch for me at the ENB studios in London.
Celebrated British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon spotted Leanne Cope in the 2014 Royal Ballet Company’s production of SWAN LAKE and cast her as Lise Dassin, the lead in AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. It was a role she originated in the Broadway production, which has transferred to London’s West End and is currently running at the Dominion Theatre. After graduating in 2003 from the Royal Ballet School,Leanne progressed to First Artist six years later. Leanne kindly signed a drawing I did of her as Lise earlier in the year and did the same to this one of her from her Royal Ballet days last week.
After twenty-two years with the Royal Ballet, principal dancer Zenaida Yanowsky retired last month. The 41 year-old French-born Spanish ballerina’s last performance was in Australia as Paulina in THE WINTER’S TALE at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre as part of the Royal Ballet’s summer season in Brisbane. She joined the Covent Garden company in 1994 as a First Artist and was promoted to Principal in 2001, performing the leading roles in the classical and contemporary repertory. In 2005 Zenaida was voted Dancer of the Year by the readers of the magazine ‘Dance Europe’. I left this sketch for Zenaida to sign at the Royal Opera House stage door, which she kindly did.
“One of this generation’s most complete ballerinas,” is how The Observer’s Sarah Crompton described the Mariinsky Ballet’s star Viktoria Tereshkina in her review of SWAN LAKE and DON QUIXOTE during the St Petersburg – based company’s season at the Royal Opera House this month.
The ‘dazzling’ Viktoria, or as she wrote, the English version ‘Victoria’ on my sketch, graduated and joined the famous Mariinsky in 2001, promoted to Soloist four years later and became a Principal in 2008. She kindly signed my drawing after I left it at the stage door.
Russian prima ballerina Diana Vishneva returned to the London stage this Summer in the Mariinsky Ballet’s season at the Royal Opera House. One of the world’s leading dancers, Diana has made guest appearances for all the major Ballet companies, including The Bolshoi, the American Ballet Theatre, the Paris Opera, Balet Teatroalla Scalia in Milan and Berlin’s Staatsoper Unter den Linden.
The Financial Times wrote, “From Vishneva’s formidable technique to her musicality, her exquisite purity of style and her sheer artistry, she cannot be beaten.” There were only two chances to see Diana during the Covent Garden run, one of them was the title role in Alexei Ratmansky’s ANNA KARENINA. The Telegraph’s Mark Monahan said she was, “more luminous than ever at 41”. After that performance Diana signed this drawing I left at the stage door.
Alongside Vaslav Nijinsky, Vladimir Vasiliev and Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov is considered one of the greatest ballet dancers in history. He returned to the London stage last week, not as a dancer, but reading the poetry of Nobel Laurate Joseph Brodsky, who was one of the first people Mikhail meet in New York when he defected from the Soviet Union in 1974.
Joseph was a huge influence on ‘Misha’ In the years the later revolutionised and popularised ballet as a performer and choreographer, while launching a successful parallel career as an actor, earning an Oscar nomination playing Yuri Kopeikine in the 1977 film THE TURNING POINT. Their relationship forms the basis for Latvian director Alvin Hermanis’s experimental theatre piece, BRODSKY/BARYSHNIKOV in which Mikhail reads his friend’s poetry in the original Russian. After productions in Riga, Te Aviv and New York Mikhail, performed the show for five nights at the Apollo Theatre in London, where I managed to meet him at the stage door and he signed my sketch.
The Ukrainian urban rebel, iconoclast and ballet prodigy Sergei Polunin is regularly acknowledged as the greatest dancer of his generation. His astonishing power and poise saw him become the Royal Ballet’s youngest principal at 19. At the peak of his success he rocked the arts establishment with his shock departure from the Company in 2012.
The ‘bad boy of ballet’ made the art form go viral, walked away, driven by stardom and self-destruction, his talent more a burden than a gift. How can you be free to be yourself when you are ballet’s ‘hottest property’?
He is now the subject of Oscar nominee Steven Cantor’s latest film DANCER, which premiered last month. It includes David LaChapelle’s 2015, video sensation TAKE ME TO THE CHURCH. Coinciding with the release of the documentary, Sergei performed PROJECT POLUNIN for five nights at London’s Sadler’s Wells where he signed and dedicated my sketch.
The Broadway box-office hit AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, filled with memorable Gershwin musical numbers and spectacular dance routines, opened this week at London’s Dominion Theatre to a cluster of five-star reviews. Directed and choreographed by Tony winner Christopher Wheeldon and inspired by the Academy Award-winning 1951 film of the same name, premiered at the Palace Theatre on Broadway in April 2015 after a brief engagement at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris.
Both leads, ballet stars Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope headline the West End production. Former First Artist with the Royal Ballet, Leanne originated the role of Lise Dassin, originally played by Leslie Caron in the movie. She received a Tony Award nomination for her performance. I attempted to met Leanne in person at the stage door, but London’s fickle Spring weather sprung a leak in my plan last Saturday, so I left it at the theatre and it came back immediately.