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With the rise of social media came Insta-fame and influencers with entire armies of followers. Among this pandemonium, not to mention the astoundingly rapid career progressions, it is easy to overlook what matters most. The theatre is above and beyond Instagram, and one of La Personne’s missions is to introduce its readers to promising young dancers, whom we should already be paying close attention to. Anastasia Nuykina, who joined the Mariinsky last year, is one such dancer. A graduate of Vaganova Ballet Academy, where she had studied under Lyudmila Kovaleva, Anastasia has already danced the part of Maria in “The Fountain of Bakhchisarai” and Masha in “The Nutcracker”. At the end of her first season, she was supposed to debut as Gamzatti in “La Bayadere”, but an injury prevented her from performing. New debuts await Anastasia in the upcoming season, and we wish her all the energy and inspiration she needs to work towards her ultimate dream – to dance.
When you moved to St Petersburg in 2014, you found yourself far from your native Samara, your family, and your friends. Were you scared?
When I got in, my future teacher, Elena Georgievna Zabalkanskaya – she was the one who suggested I should try out for Vaganova, having seen me in class at Samara Ballet Academy – told me that finding my feet at the Academy would, initially, present a challenge. Elena Georgievna convinced my parents to let me board at the Academy, rather than stay at a rented apartment. She had reasoned that it would be easier for me to integrate into the student community this way. It took me a while to get used to my new life. I wanted to go home to my parents, and I was constantly on the phone to my mom. But through all of this, I had always felt Elena Georgievna’s support, despite how strict she was, and I am grateful for everything she has done and continues to do for me to this day.
Lyudmila Kovaleva was your teacher from Grade 6 / Level I onwards.
Yes. It was such a big deal; after all, Lyudmila Kovaleva is a legend! Her lessons are structured in a way that, on top of working out every muscle, you work on perfecting each movement.
Did this prove useful when you joined the company?
Of course! Though my coach at the Mariinsky, Margarita Garaldovna Kullik, is always asking me when will I, at long last, become a ballerina. You see, things are very different at the Academy. There, we were students; here – we must be dancers.
Did you have any difficulty understanding your coaches during your first season?
At the moment, Vladimir Kim and Margarita Kullik, who have taken me under their collective wings, are trying to get me to loosen up. That is my biggest challenge. During my first season at the theatre, I event felt out of place among my colleagues. Perhaps this anxiety was what led to an injury on the eve of my debut in “La Bayadere”. We are thinking that this injury will help set my body and spirit free.
You got to dance the part of Polyhymnia in the Mariinsky’s “Apollo”, opposite Xander Parish, while you were still a student at the Academy. Was George Balanchine’s choreography challenging?
It was an enormous responsibility on so many levels: my partner was a Mariinsky principal dancer, we rehearsed under Yuri Valerievich Fateyev (Artistic Director of the Mariinsky ballet), and the ballet itself is legendary. To be honest, I did not know what awaited me, and all that was going through my head before the performance was: “What will happen?! What will happen?!”. Thankfully, my mom came to the opening night, and I could sense her affection coming from the auditorium.
Aside from Xander Parish, you have also already danced with Kimin Kim.
We even traveled on tour to Vienna together, where Kimin Kim did not only partner me, but coached me as well. During the curtain call, I wanted to push him forward, as if he were my wonderful lucky charm. He dedicates himself entirely to the ballerina. By the way, Kimin is greeted with such intense applause wherever he performs, as if he were in a sporting arena. It’s unbelievable!
What did you find most difficult about your first season with the company?
The first thing that comes to mind is my performance in the “Swan Lake” corps de ballet. I panicked so hard, and my eyes were rolling around in my head as I was trying to maintain the lines, but all the girls were supportive and tried to help out. The lyrical Maria from “The Fountain of Bakhchisarai” was one of my most challenging roles. Margarita Garaldovna would stay behind in the evenings, and together we would work on each gesture and nuance together, and when I was preparing “La Bayadere’s” Gamzatti, we were joined by Kimin, who shared his thoughts about the ballet.
Which roles do you think suit you best?
Character roles, I think. In real life, you can’t be like, say, Gamzatti. Of course, I also dream of dancing the playful Kitri and the femme fatale Carmen. That being said, every role requires a certain life experience, which I lack, so for now I am binge-watching recordings of, for example, Viktoria Tereshkina performing, and soaking up Margarita Garaldovna’s every word.
What roles would you like to dance this season?
There are so many! Balanchine’s “Jewels”, especially “Rubies” and “Diamonds”, are at the top of my wish list. The former are so striking and sharp, while the latter, though cold, have such incredible subtext. I also have a special affinity for Igor Stravinsky’s music! To be perfectly honest, I just want to dance and dance. That is what matters most to me.
Interview OLGA UGAROVA
Photography IRA YAKOVLEVA
Make up and hair MARIA BYSTROVA