Evgenia Obraztsova


Evgenia Obraztsova was born in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) on 18 January 1984 to a family of ballet dancers. Her future career choice (which, of course, was initially made by her parents) was predetermined by the girl’s liveliness, energy, excellent physique and obvious artistic talent. Moreover, the world of ballet was close and intimately familiar to Evgenia from a very young age. Tied to her theatre seat with a belt from a ballet robe, lest she jumped onto the stage to join the action, she saw the entire classical ballet repertoire. But by the time Evgenia had to make a definitive career choice, she also became fascinated with drama theatre. Nonetheless, the unity of music and theatre, the stylistic beauty and the incomparable atmosphere of the ballet world ultimately tipped the scales in its favour.

Evgenia Obraztsova graduated from the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet. During her years at the Vaganova Academy, Evgenia worked with a number of teachers who played an important role in shaping her style and personality as a ballerina. At different points in time, her class was taught by Lyudmila Sofronova, Inna Zubkovskaya and Marina Vasilieva, and each of them imparted something of their own that helped shape the overall individuality of the young ballerina. One must also mention the graduate of the Moscow ballet school Nikolai Tagunov, who developed an impeccably clean dancing technique in his students through hard discipline. As for the Vaganova Academy’s acting skills instructor Alexander Styopin, Evgenia continued working with him when she was already a ballerina of the Mariinsky Theatre and it was him who helped her prepare for her first performance at the Mariinsky Theatre, Romeo and Juliet. "We worked long and hard on the role of Juliet striving to make my whole body tremble at the very thought of me being carried away from St Petersburg to Verona. "Myself in the given circumstances!" became the principal part of my life back then and, maybe, this is why I’m so much attached to this performance and up to this day can’t let go of it and I think I won’t until the very end of my career."

In 2002, Evgenia was accepted into the ballet company of the Mariinsky Theatre.
In the 2002-2003 season, Ninel Kurgapkina, took the young ballerina under her tutelage, helping Evgenia prepare for the roles of Shirin, Princess Aurora, Sylphide, Maria, Giselle, Kitri, and many others. But that was still to come and, in the meantime, there occurred the most fateful event of Evgenia’s first season at the Mariinsky, her debut as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet by Leonid Lavrovski. Evgenia danced Juliet when she was 18 and that was probably the first and the only time when such a young ballerina was given that role. Strange as it may seem, but roles of the kind were rarely entrusted to young artists at the Mariinsky Theatre.

2004 started for Evgenia with a second major role at her home Mariinsky Theatre — the title role in La Sylphide, now generally considered to have become her calling card. To help prepare for this role, Evgenia and Ninel Kurgapkina enlisted the help of S. Berezhnoi, a guardian of this ballet’s traditions at the Mariinsky. The preparation was very meticulous, as Evgenia and her teachers wanted her Sylph to be an example of the true St Petersburg ballet style. In general, the City on the Neva River has meant a lot for Evgenia as an actress. For one, even Marius Petipa, when he created his famous semitransparent descending shadows scene in La Bayadere, was inspired by images of St Petersburg — a city filled with music and poetry, a city that may feel a bit distant and cold, but at the same time be one of the most romantic cities in the world. The ethereality and poetry of Evgenia’s heroines are also a reflection of her native St Petersburg.
In the same 2004, Evgenia performed another important role in her career — that of Shirin in The Legend of Love by Yuri Grigorovich. Having herself been handed that role directly by Grigorovich many years ago, Ninel Kurgapkina made it the only one that she specifically requested for her protégé. Kurgapkina truly loved that character and, thus, demanded extreme precision and attention to detail from Evgenia’s performance.

2005 was another key landmark in Evgenia’s dancing career. That year she won the Gold Medal at the Moscow International Ballet Competition. Having arrived to participate in this competition entirely on her own, without counting on anyone’s support, Evgenia managed to outshine a number of strong rivals and win. Winning the medal was a goal that Evgenia had set for herself while still graduating from the ballet academy, and this victory opened up the international ballet scene for her. Already in 2005 she started receiving her first personal touring invitations. Her first such experience was in the premiere of Konstanin Sergeev’s version of The Sleeping Beauty in the USA. That same year, she was invited by the Teatro Dell’Opera di Roma to take on a highly complex, yet interesting work in Carla Fracci’s Cinderella. Evgenia would later return to the Roman Opera as a guest soloist several times: first in 2006 as Margherita in Faust by Luciano Cannito, and then in 2010 in the title role of Giselle by Carla Fracci. 2005 also gave Evgenia interesting experience in cinema work, when she tried her acting skills in front of a movie camera in Les Poupees Russes (The Russian Dolls) by French director Cedric Klapisch.

In 2007, Evgenia graced her admirers with a performance of the title role in Giselle.

2008 brought an unexpected and, thus, a much welcome treat for ballet audiences when Evgenia took on the role of Kitri in Don Quixote. The audience discovered Evgenia as a completely different actress –mischievous, light-hearted, but with a strong personality, a classical St Petersburg ballerina, yet with a genuine southern temperament. Soon after the debut as Kitri on her home stage, Evgenia was invited to reprise this role in Sergei Vikharev’s version of Don Quixote with the Tokyo-based ANB Ballet company.
This Japanese Don Quixote was one of the many collaborations between Vikharev and Obraztsova. She danced in his other ballet productions as Flora in The Awakening of Flora, Columbine in Le Carnaval and Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty.

2006 brought a whole kaleidoscope of ballet premieres for Evgenia. She debuted in the role of Maria in The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, then made her long awaited appearance as Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, and took on a new and unfamiliar dance plastique in Cinderella choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky. Finally, 2006 was also the year when Pierre Lacotte’s Ondine premiered — the first ballet staged specifically in collaboration with Evgenia. The French small step technique, uncommon for the Russian style, as well as health problems that caused significant hardship during final rehearsals and the premiere — all of these were overcome by the ballerina with such effortlessness and grace, that the unsuspecting audience was nothing short of amazed at her virtuosity and lightness, and heartbroken together with Leonid Sarafanov’s character by the ballet’s tragic climax. The role of Ondine earned Obraztsova the most prestigious theatrical prize in Russia — the Golden Mask.

2007 presented Evgenia and her admirers with an encounter with Giselle. Evgenia may not appear as often as the audience might like in this role, probably the most important one in the romantic ballet repertoire. But every time she performs it, her heroine changes, with her inner world becoming ever deeper, and the audience being less and less capable of holding back its tears over Giselle’s death in the first act or restraining its admiration of the fortitude of her immortal soul in the subsequent scenes.

2008 brought an unexpected and, thus, a much welcome treat for ballet audiences when Evgenia took on the role of Kitri in Don Quixote. The audience discovered Evgenia as a completely different actress –mischievous, light-hearted, but with a strong personality, a classical St Petersburg ballerina, yet with a genuine southern temperament. Soon after the debut as Kitri on her home stage, Evgenia was invited to reprise this role in Sergei Vikharev’s version of Don Quixote with the Tokyo-based ANB Ballet company.
This Japanese Don Quixote was one of the many collaborations between Vikharev and Obraztsova. She danced in his other ballet productions as Flora in The Awakening of Flora, Columbine in Le Carnaval and Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty.

2009 turned out to be both happy and very sorrowful for the ballerina. The tragic death of Ninel Kurgapkina ended their 8-year creative union that gave audiences a number of performances by Evgenia that were truly moving in their depth and precision. But 2009 also brought new roles — first and foremost the first duet in Jerome Robbins’s In the Night, as well as the character of Syuimbike in Shurale by Leonid Yakobson — and marked the start of Evgenia’s creative collaboration with her new teacher Elvira Tarasova. Another very important event in the ballerina’s life that year was her appearance in the role of Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty as a first-time guest soloist at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, where she had performed previously on multiple occasions while on galas or on tour with the Mariinsky Theatre. Although Aurora had been in Obraztsova’s repertoire for some time by then, at Covent Garden she had to master a new version of this ballet as well as the English ballet style, which significantly differs from the Russian style. According to critics and audiences, Evgenia accomplished this task brilliantly, successfully conquering yet another leading world ballet stage.
Among Evgenia’s other notable accomplishments have been her performances at Staatsballett Berlin as well as at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Musical Theater, where Evgenia has been a guest soloist since 2010.
It was on the stage of the Musical Theatre that Evgenia, for instance, had her first encounter with the work of the remarkable choreographer Jiří Kylián and then danced a part in his famous La Petite Mort (The Little Death). It was also on the stage of the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Musical Theatre that in 2010 she danced Giselle together with one of her favorite partners, the Paris Opera etoile Mathieu Ganio. Just prior to this engagement, she participated in the Etoiles Gala au Japon event, where she first danced the duet from McMillan’s version of Romeo and Juliet (together with Ganio), and also starred in Pierre Lacotte’s new ballet The Three Musketeers (set to the music of Michel Legrand) in the role of Constance Bonacieux. Partnering with Evgenia in that performance were such renowned world ballet stars as Mathias Heymann, Benjamin Pech, Matheu Ganio, Alexandre Riabko, and Jiří Bubeníček.

2011 for Evgenia without a doubt became the year of Swan Lake. Obraztsova spent over six months preparing for this role — probably one of the most important and difficult roles in a classical ballerina’s repertoire. The premiere took place in April 2011 at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Musical Theater where Swan Lake is danced in the version of Vladimir Bourmeister, which is one of the most interesting, yet complex versions of this ballet. By taking on the role of Odette-Odile, Evgenia once again had to fight against popular preconceptions regarding her typecasting, and once again she came out victorious! In spite of her touching fragile vulnerability and the desperation of her tragic fate, Evgenia’s Odette was still a character of royal blood — not a strong powerful leader, but a gentle flower that had known only beauty and love until brutally and mercilessly torn out of her familiar world. Appearing in sharp contrast to this very embodiment of tenderness was Evgenia’s Odile, a cold calculating vixen, whose brilliant glances were akin to flickers of light reflecting off a cold and indifferent mirror. Odile was like a diamond, a cold rock whose masterly cut enthralled and whose brilliance made one forget that a stone is incapable of giving warmth. After such an Odile, it seemed that the ballerina could no longer return in the finale as the same Odette, and she did not. Odette in the fourth act displayed a different character. There was no sense of desperation in this Odette any more, only a sense of fate. She no longer saw the prince as her hero savior, but had rather come to accept him just the way he was. Their devotion to each other was put through a trial, and Odette passed hers, thus breaking her curse. She no longer needed her wings, for now she had love. The change of masks between Odette and Odile, as well as within the character of Odile that Evgenia displayed that night was simply amazing. It was perhaps the chief artistic achievement of that performance. Evgenia managed to accomplish something that few others can — she created completely different characters in the same play and it was difficult to tell which one was closer to her seemingly "obvious" typecasting.
Another important performance for the ballerina that year was the Russian premiere of Pierre Lacotte’s La Sylphide in December 2011, also at the Musical Theatre, where Evgenia appeared in the title role, thus eagerly continuing her long-standing collaboration with the famous French choreographer. The music, the choreography and even the very image of the air spirit are very different in the French ballet. The French Sylph was a true femme fatale, a creature of witchcraft behind whose lovely smile lurked some very intense passions. In the end, these passions burned down both the Sylph and her unfortunate lover (partnering with Evgenia at that performance was Thiago Bordin from the Hamburg Ballet), but not before she managed to weave an elaborate threadwork of small steps characteristic of the French ballet style.

In October 2011, Evgenia Obraztsova had a taste of what it is like to be a prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Theatre, debuting on its stage as a guest dancer. For this debut she fittingly chose the role of Kitri, as Don Quixote can be considered one of the more "Muscovite" ballets in the theater’s repertoire. The Bolshoi Theatre soloist Vladislav Lantratov became Evgenia’s Basil that night.
Finally, in 2011, Obraztsova first tried herself on television, taking part in the Russian Channel 1 program Bolero, which paired ballet dancers with figure skaters in a dancing competition. Evgenia’s partner was a world famous skater Maksim Staviski. While not without some controversy, this experiment nonetheless proved useful and expanded the ballerina’s circle of friends and admirers.
2012 became one of the most important years in the ballerina’s career. In January 2012, Evgenia Obraztsova became a full-time prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Theatre! During her first season in this new rank, she appeared as Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty (version by Grigorovich), debuted in the role of Anyuta in Vladimir Vasiliev’s eponymous ballet, danced in Johann Kobborg’s version of La Sylphide and appeared as Mary in Grigorovich’s Nutcracker. Among the debut roles Evgenia danced in 2012 was that of Aspicia from The Pharaoh’s Daughter by Pierre Lacotte, one of Evgenia’s favorite choreographers. 2012 brought remarkable Bolshoi premieres with it, both choreographed by George Balanchine, with Obraztsova dancing Terpsichore in Apollo and the title role in Emeralds, the first "French" part of Jewels.

2013 passed under the sign of Pierre Lacotte. That year witnessed two most important events in the life of the ballerina: it was then that Evgenia was invited for the first time to dance on the stage of Opéra National de Paris, the most coveted stage for a classical ballet dancer. She made her debut as a guest star on the stage of Opera de Paris in Pierre Lacotte's La Sylphide. Her partner in this virtuosic and charming performance was the Paris Opera etoile Mathias Heymann and it would not be an exaggeration to say that Evgenia's debut in Opera de Paris was a real triumph. What's more, Evgenia was the first Russian performer of the role of Angela in Pierre Lacotte's Marco Spada, a ballet premiered by the Bolshoi Theatre in 2013. 2013 brought other famous roles for the ballerina which became the pearls of her repertoire: one of the title roles of the "white" classical repertoire – that of Nikiya in La Bayadere (a production by Yury Grigorovich), the title role in Diamonds, the third act of Balanchine's Jewels, and lastly the role of Tatiana in John Cranko's Eugene Onegin, which helped the ballerina reveal new facets of her talent for drama. In 2013 the ballerina had encounters with one of her most beloved theatres the Royal Opera House, where she performed on a tour with the Bolshoi Theatre and then as a guest artist of the Royal Ballet dancing Juliet in MacMillan's Romeo and Juliet, with her partner Steven McRae being the principal of the Royal Ballet.

In 2014 Evgenia would return to the stage of Opéra National de Paris once again, but this time on a tour with the Bolshoi Theater. The theater toured with a premier. It was then that Evgenia first appeared in Alexei Ratmansky's ballet Lost Illusions in the role of Coralie (partnering with David Hallberg). The year was also notable for a very interesting personal tour: Evgenia danced Nikiya at the Royal Theater of Denmark (with Ulrik Birkkjær as her partner) and Mary from The Nutcracker with the NBA Ballet, Tokyo (with John Neumeier as her partner). Another important premier of 2014 was The Lady of the Camellias choreographed by John Neumeier.

2015 brought with it a lot of remarkable productions in Bolshoi and an unusually interesting tour and guest star performances. The Bolshoi Theatre artists danced Onegin in Stuttgart, the theater where this ballet came into this world and has never since been off the stage. The "exam" before the audience that was so familiar with John Cranko's style was passed with flying colours: Evgenia and her colleagues (Vladislav Lantratov being her partner in this performance) received standing applause. Two more landmark performances on the world's famous ballet stages should not go unnoticed: in 2015 Obraztsova danced Juliet on the stage of the New York American Ballet Theatre (partnering with Herman Cornejo) and Swan Lake at the Royal Opera House (partnering with Steven McRae).
2016 in the life of the artist was rich for events not directly relating to stage performances. A photography exhibition of a renowned photo artist Victor Goryachev, entitled "Galatea" and dedicated to Evgenia Obraztsova, was held in Moscow and St Petersburg, demonstrating about 30 works dedicated to the ballerina. In 2016 Evgenia was awarded the title of an honorary artist of Russia, which was so long awaited by the audience. And finally, 2016 witnessed one of the most crucial events in Evgenia's life: Evgenia and her husband, sculptor Andrey Korobtsov, became parents of two charming girls.

In 2017, just six months after the birth of her daughters, Evgenia has returned to the stage of the Bolshoi Theatre in one of her favourite roles, that of Shirin in The Legend of Love by Yuri Grigorovich. This year has brought another premiere for the ballerina, an unexpected one and bright: on a tour in Japan Evgenia made a debut as Jeanne in The Flames of Paris, a ballet by Alexey Ratmansky. The collection of the classical ballet productions has been enlarged, too. On her personal tour in Australia the ballerina danced Odette and Odile in the Swan Lake staged by Ben Stevenson.
Evgenia has a lot of wonderful roles, unorthodox character interpretations and artistic treats for her audiences ahead
The ballerina does not aim to confine herself to narrow typecasting, adhere to stereotypes, or follow expectations dictated by conservative tastes. The main goal for the actress is to live through and interpret her roles in a way that makes audiences truly believe in the authenticity of the stage action. Among Obraztsova’s heroines there are strong-spirited women as well as naive fairy-tale characters that differ greatly among themselves.
Yet if a ballerina is a real actress that can be convincing in each of these dissimilar stories, does it not mean that her defining style is not a stereotype, but a collection of roles that one truly senses, lives through and is able to relay to the spectator?

Text by Maya Farafonova
in translation of Nina Obraztsova

рус / eng