(Anna Galayda’s article appeared in Russia Beyond the Headlines, 6/21; Photo: Elena Svinko; The Hvorostovsky Krasnoyarsk Opera and Ballet Theater.)

We have rounded up the rising stars, not only from Moscow and St. Petersburg, but also regional theaters. 

1. Denis Zakharov

Denia Zakharov

Once again, as 30 years ago, the Bolshoi Theater has a whole new generation of rising stars. In the front row is 22-year-old Denis Zakharov. A powerful flying leap, a soft and, at the same time, dynamic pirouette and an ability to switch easily from the bucolic La Fille Mal Gardée to the ironic Cipollino – these were the qualities that got Zakharov noticed at his first appearances on the big stage. This was two years before he graduated from the Moscow State Academy of Choreography. During his last year at the Academy, at the invitation of the Bolshoi’s ballet director, Makhar Vaziev, Denis made his debut in The Sleeping Beauty, in which he danced the virtuoso part of the Bluebird. This was unprecedented in the history of the Bolshoi – until then, only girls had been given this honor.

It is not surprising that, at the Bolshoi, Denis has been given carte blanche to dance the parts of princes – in the past three years, he has appeared as the Nutcracker/Prince, Prince Désiré in the The Sleeping Beauty, Principal Dancer in Etudes and romantic James in La Sylphide.

But arguably his best role to date is the part of the Evil Geniust in Swan Lake. The part was passed on to him by one of its early performers, Valery Lagunov.

2. Maria Ilyushkina 

Maria Iliushkina and Julian MacKay perform at a gala concert held at the State Kremlin Palace

In the rankings of the Mariinsky Theater, she occupies the modest place of soloist. At present, there are not many leading parts in her repertoire, but each role has become an event.

Ilyushkina not only has excellent looks and physical qualities. Her style of dancing has its own incomparable “timbre”. She is a steadfast Odette and a naive Odile delighted to attend her first ball in Swan Lake; she is the Lilac Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty, who makes you believe that the good will triumph; and she is equally the youthful Raymonda.

Maria’s ballet career is typical of someone with a St. Petersburg background: She started with rhythmic gymnastics and then joined the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet; at the end of her time there, she was awarded a Gold Medal at the Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition in New York and, in 2016, was accepted into the Mariinsky Theater company. Like everyone else, she started in the corps de ballet, but stood out even among the Big Swans in Swan Lake. And when she was given her first solo parts, ballet enthusiasts began to flock to three-act performances to see her variations of one or two minutes’ duration.

3. Ksenia Shevtsova

Ksenia Shevtsova and principal dancer Dmitry Sobolevsky during a rehearsal

After graduating from the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg, Ksenia was expected to join the Berlin State Ballet, but ended up in Moscow at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Music Theater. She has been no stranger to changes of cities and circumstances: She grew up in Samara and went to ballet school there. Mobility is what distinguishes Shevtsova. While still at the academy, she already performed a lot and had an extensive repertoire for a schoolgirl. Admittedly, she started in the theater with… “standing with a candelabra”. 

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