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On the Rise: Yulia Stepanova
With her soulful presence and elegant manner onstage, Yulia Stepanova was touted as a major talent when she graduated from the Vaganova Ballet Academy in 2009. She joined the Mariinsky Ballet, where her sensitive phrasing as Odette/Odile confirmed her potential. Stuck for a promotion, however, she made a bold move to Moscow, and it paid off: Stepanova is now the Bolshoi's newest principal, and a rising star.
Company: Bolshoi Ballet
Hometown: Orenburg, Southern Russia
Training: Vaganova Ballet Academy, St. Petersburg
Accolades: 2014 Taglioni Award for "Best Young Ballerina"
Stepanova in La Bayadère. Photo by Damir Yusupov, Courtesy Bolshoi Ballet
Vaganova legacy: Stepanova's final teacher at the Vaganova Ballet Academy was Lyudmila Safronova, a former student of Agrippina Vaganova herself. "She developed my individuality," says Stepanova. "She always told me: Yulia, when you appear onstage, you're not the girl next door, you're a ballerina."
Bolshoi goals: While Stepanova danced leading roles in her five years with the Mariinsky, she remained a coryphée: "Gradually I realized that there wouldn't be much change." After spending six months with Moscow's Stanislavsky Ballet, Stepanova worked up the courage to request an audition at the Bolshoi in 2015. "I was afraid—I thought that if the Mariinsky didn't work, it would be even more complicated with the Bolshoi." After a monthlong wait, however, she was offered a soloist position by Sergei Filin, and joined with her dancer husband, Kamil Yangurazov.
"Yulia has huge potential. Just wait—she will be one of the best."
Right place, right time: Soon after Stepanova's arrival, Makhar Vaziev became artistic director of the Bolshoi, and immediately noticed her. A string of big roles followed, and last summer, Vaziev promoted her straight to principal, skipping two ranks.
Star turns: Stepanova's favorite Bolshoi role so far is Nikiya in La Bayadère. While she had previously performed Gamzatti, when she auditioned in the role for Vaziev, he asked her to prepare the lead role instead. "I immediately said, 'Yes, please,' " she laughs. For the future, her wish list includes Giselle and works by Alexei Ratmansky and Yuri Possokhov.
Stepanova as Myrtha in Giselle. Photo by Damir Yusupov, Courtesy Bolshoi Ballet
Between styles: Stepanova has had to adjust to the more extroverted style in Moscow. "The tempi are much faster here," she says, "and everything is done with more emotions. I feel much freer, and more confident."
Jewels girl: To relax in her free time, Stepanova taught herself jewelry-making and loves to create tiaras: "I haven't danced with them yet, but I hope to some day. I'm probably still too shy!"
One of the biggest myths about ballet dancers is that they don't eat. While we all know that, yes, there are those who do struggle with body image issues and eating disorders, most healthy dancers love food—and eat plenty of it to fuel their busy schedules.
Luckily for us, they're not afraid to show it:
Looking for your next audition shoe? Shot at and in collaboration with Broadway Dance Center, Só Dança has launched a new collection of shoes working with some pretty famous faces of the musical theater world! Offered in two different styles and either 2.5" or 3" heels, top industry professionals are loving how versatile and supportive these shoes are! Pro tip: The heel is centered under the body so you can feel confident and stable!
When I wrote about my struggle with depression, and eventual departure from dance because of it, I expected criticism. I was prepared to be challenged. But much to my relief, and horror, dancers from all over the world responded with support and stories of solidarity. The most critical response I saw was this one:
"Dance isn't for everyone."
This may as well be a mantra in the dance world. We have become entrenched in the Darwinian notion that the emotionally weak will be weeded out. There is no room for them anyway.
Growing up in a family-owned dance studio in Missouri had its perks for tap dancer Anthony Russo. But it also earned him constant taunting, especially in high school.
"There was a junior in my sophomore year health class who was absolutely relentless," he says. "I'd get tripped on my way to the front of the classroom and he'd say, 'Watch out, twinkle toes.' If I raised my hand and answered a question incorrectly, I'd hear a patronizing 'Nice one, Bojangles.' "
What does a superstar like Carlos Acosta do after bidding farewell to his career in classical ballet? In Acosta's case, he returns to his native country, Cuba, to funnel his fame, connections and prodigious energies back into the dance scene that formed him. Because of its top-notch, state-supported training programs and popular embrace of the art of dance, Cuba is brimming with talented dancers. What it has been short on, until recently, are opportunities outside of the mainstream companies, as well as access to a more international repertoire. That is changing now, and, with the creation of Acosta Danza, launched in 2016, Acosta is determined to open the doors even wider to new ideas and audiences.
There's so much more to the dance world than making and performing dances. Arts administrators do everything from raising money to managing companies to building new audiences. With the growing number of arts administration programs in colleges, dancers have an opportunity to position themselves for a multifaceted career on- or offstage—and to bring their unique perspective as artists to administrative work.
While Solange was busy helping big sis Beyoncé give Coachella its best performances of all time, an equally compelling project was quietly circulating on Instagram:
New York City Ballet continues its first year without Peter Martins at the helm as our spring season opens tonight.
When he retired at the start of the new year, we plunged headfirst into unknown, murky waters. Who would the new director be? When would we know? Would we dancers get some say in the decision? Who would oversee the Balanchine ballets? Who would be in charge of casting? Would a new director bring along huge upheaval? Could some of us be out of a job?
In the world of ballet, Arcadian Broad is a one-stop shop: He'll come up with a story, compose its music, choreograph the movement and dance it himself. But then Broad has always been a master of versatility. As a teenager he juggled school, dance and—after the departure of his father—financial responsibility. It was Broad's income from dancing that kept his family afloat. Fast-forward six years and things are far more stable. Broad now lives on his own in an apartment, but you can usually find him in the studio.
Bales of hay, black umbrellas, bicycles—this Midsummer Night's Dream would be unrecognizable to the Bard. Alexander Ekman's full-length, inspired by Scandinavian solstice traditions and set to music by Mikael Karlsson, is a madcap celebration of the longest day of the year, when the veil between our world and that of the supernatural is said to be at its thinnest. The Joffrey Ballet's performances mark the seductively surreal work's North American premiere. April 25–May 6. joffrey.org.