10 Minutes With…Diana Vishneva

October 30, 2016

Ballet superstar Diana Vishneva keeps topping herself. While still a principal with both the Mariinsky Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, she has brought contemporary dance to Moscow in a big way. CONTEXT, her contemporary festival showcasing international choreographers and companies for Russian audiences, returns November 14–19. Now in its fourth year, CONTEXT, which is curated by Holland Dance Festival director Samuel Wuersten, will expand to St. Petersburg (a four-hour train ride away). Visiting companies include Béjart Ballet Lausanne, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Luzerner Theater, Canada’s National Ballet School and Introdans. In addition, Ana Laguna will perform
Axe, by Mats Ek, and Vishneva will perform a duet, with Aurélie Dupont, choreographed by Ohad Naharin. Dance Magazine editor at large Wendy Perron attended the festival two years ago and caught up with the ballerina through email, translated by Lisa Rozova.

Do you feel your audience for CONTEXT is changing?

The festival and the excitement around it grow each year. For the audience, CONTEXT has become a symbol of something new, unknown and interesting. We primarily attract young people, but the older generation shows their interest as well.

Why are you extending the festival to St. Petersburg?

We’ve been thinking about holding the festival in my hometown for a long time, and this year Valery Gergiev, the general director of the Mariinsky The-atre, made it possible. We have put a closing concert together, a mix of the best that CONTEXT has to offer. Those going to the opening gala in Moscow will want to see the closing gala in St. Petersburg.

Alonzo King LINES Ballet is the only group from the U.S. this year. What do you like about his work?

Alonzo King is very offbeat and interesting, magnetic. He often turns to folklore motifs. And you can always see a very deep choreographic handwriting in the way he raises the emotional attention of the viewer. The company has never been to Russia, but their neoclassical style is very close to Russian ballet.

Why did you decide to create a choreography competition as part of CONTEXT?

I’m very curious to plunge into the world of young choreographers, so different from mine. It enhances my knowledge about the current tendencies in Russian contemporary choreography. The festival keeps discovering more new choreographers and companies. When we see potential, we want to help them become world-class.

Mats Ek said in our March issue that he is retiring and does not want his dances performed anymore. Is he making an exception for


I could not have dreamed that such a brilliant choreographer would visit us, especially after he officially declared the end of his career. Last year Ana Laguna (his wife and muse) and I were together at a press conference in St. Petersburg. Maybe my thoughts found an echo in her heart. Ek is a person of absolute unattainable height; he is remarkably smart and has an outstanding personality. I hope we can offer a public talk with him and show his film with Ana Laguna and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Will you be able to take a few days off after this is over?

I hope that I will be able to take a break for a bit. But for me to relax doesn’t mean to lie on a beach. I often go on a trip and meet interesting people, including choreographers—the ones who can leave you with new impressions, knowledge and emotions. n

Vishneva has announced that she will retire from American Ballet Theatre after the 2017 spring season, giving her final performance on June 23. She cites a desire to commit more time to her various projects (including CONTEXT) and will continue to perform with the Mariinsky.