Class at the Vaganova Academy with Anastasiya Sevastianova

Studying Online

Asiya Lukmanova, director of Russian Masters Ballet, explains how she is working with the Vaganova Ballet Academy to offer specialised online courses this summer.

Cookery, drawing or Spanish, but learning ballet online - impossible surely? “If someone had asked me a few months ago whether I would do online courses, I would have said no!” says Asiya Lukmanova, director of Russian Masters Ballet, a body specialising in staging intensive courses based on the Vaganova Method. Russian Masters Ballet was founded in 2014 by the non-profit National Association of Professional Ballet, which aims to provide access to an elite training to aspiring, talented dancers.

“Of course, ballet should be live,” Lukmanova continues, “both for performance and training. But ballet cannot just stop, and dancers’ bodies need to work daily, so we needed to develop and adapt our courses due to the situation with the Covid-19 pandemic, which has changed everything. Now everything is about adaption.”

With the presentation of their summer intensives as previously planned now impossible due to the social distancing and travel restrictions, Russian Masters Ballet is offering two new courses: Vaganova Academy Online Intensives and Russian Masters Online Intensives.

While many claim to be offering Vaganova training, Russian Masters Ballet courses are directly linked with the famous St Petersburg school. “The Vaganova Online Intensive course is coordinated and supervised by the Academy and replicates everything that students at the Academy are doing. The teachers, including Galina Enikeeva, Yuliya Kaserkova, Elena Alkanova, Tatiana Cherkashina, Alexey Ilyin, Andrey Ermolenkov and Elena Sheshina, are only those from the Vaganova Academy, and this course focuses specifically on the classes and programme followed by students at the Academy. So this course is a very classical education, and also facilitates, for those who are interested, the opportunity to audition for the Vaganova Academy.

“In turn, the Russian Masters course is more free and also includes not only classes, but also nutrition, contemporary, motivation and many other things. 

The teachers are the best we know from different faculties, including both the Vaganova Academy and Eifman Ballet Academy, and we also have Gentian Doda, who is Nacho Duato’s assistant, for contemporary. So this is a good programme for dancers more advanced in contemporary but with a good classical technique.”

“We have also invited artists like Polina Semionova and Maria Khoreva to work with us. With Maria, I asked her to create something very special, and so in the first part of the week she will give a ballet talk because, having studied at the Vaganova and now dancing at the Mariinsky, she has a very good knowledge. So she will talk about some ballets, the history and what teachers have told her, as well as on how she prepares to dance the roles. And with the students, they are always going to listen more carefully to one of their idols than to a historian or a ballet critic. Then, at the end of the week, she will present a variation that the students have been studying. So the students will not just be learning the moves of the variation, but the history and what the variation is actually about.”

The courses will be organised into small groups in Zoom conferences – no more than eight or ten people to a group. “We are preparing our teachers with big screens and fast wifi so that they can have a clear view,” confirms Lukmanova, “and we are also advising our students how to adapt their houses in the best possible way with certain technical requirements. Unfortunately, the courses will not be suitable for people with slow internet connections. So we will check that all the students have the necessary requirements to enable them to participate in the class. For example, it is no good for students to follow the class on a phone, they must have a large screen. The classes will not just be remote classes, the teacher will stop when necessary to correct the students – just like a real, live class. As we have a lot of Russian-speaking teachers, we will also have translators who will also follow the class and translate when necessary.”