Bursting out of a group of corps men at the start of Alexei Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH, Nadezhda Batoeva embodies the ballet’s blend of Russian and American influences, launching into a perilous sequence of fast turns with devil-may-care energy. After overcoming initial obstacles, the bubbly Mariinsky Ballet second soloist now dances with an infectious joy that makes her stand out among her more studied colleagues.
Batoeva’s determination rocketed her from character parts to lead roles. Here, in William Forsythe’s In the middle, somewhat elevated. Photo by Natasha Razina, Courtesy Mariinsky Ballet.
Company: Mariinsky Ballet
Hometown: Neryungri, Russia
Training: Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg
Accolade: 2008 Hope of Russia prize
Playing catch-up: When Batoeva was accepted to the Vaganova Academy at age 9, her complete lack of previous classical training meant she struggled. “All nine years were a challenge,” she says. “At first I was fighting not to be kicked out.” But her final teacher, Lyudmila Safronova, one of the last remaining students of Agrippina Vaganova, persuaded her that she could do it. “All those years before, everyone tried to tell me that ballet wasn’t for me.”
Character star: Despite her strong technique, when she joined the Mariinsky in 2009, Batoeva’s appearance was considered unsuitable for classical corps work, and she was pigeonholed in character roles. In 2010, she had a breakthrough performance in the sensual Etruscan dance in Leonid Yakobson’s Spartacus, attracting director Yuri Fateyev’s attention.
Typecast no more: With the help of her coach, Galina Kekisheva, Batoeva slowly broke out of the character mold. “Over time she built up her body, and I thought we should try something classical,” says Fateyev. She moved into leading roles, such as Kitri, and, increasingly, romantic parts: Earlier this year, she made her debut as Juliet.
Ratmansky connection: Batoeva’s promotion to second soloist came at the end of the 2012–13 season, after Ratmansky chose her for the Mariinsky premiere of his Concerto DSCH. The speed of his work suits her, and she has since earned international plaudits in his Cinderella. “I love his musicality—it makes you listen from a different angle.”
Choreographer’s muse: Her husband, Anton Pimonov, has choreographed for the Mariinsky, and Batoeva has created roles in his pieces. “It’s difficult to work with him,” she says, “because I feel a responsibility. In the studio, I try to do more, to tell the others if I notice something that would help him.”
On the small screen: In 2015, Batoeva took part in the second season of the TV competition “Bolshoi Ballet,” which features up-and-coming dancers from Russian companies. She and fellow Mariinsky second soloist Ernest Latypov placed fourth. “The conditions were very challenging—there is so much waiting with filming, so I had to learn patience. I was very happy when it ended.”