CriticalDance Forum

Ninella Kurgapkina passes away
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Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sun May 10, 2009 8:12 am ]
Post subject:  Ninella Kurgapkina passes away

Tragically, Ninella Kurgapkina has passed away on May 8 at the age of 80. I interviewed her just several weeks ago and I believe I may have been the last journalist to do so.

This is a huge and tragic loss for the Mariinsky Theatre. Gergiev sent out a letter via the press office announcing her passing and her great contributions to the art. For those who are unfamiliar with the name, some VERY brief highlights: she graduated in 1947 as a direct student of Vaganova; she was a great ballerina in her own time; she led Nureyev to the stage of the Mariinsky Theatre, and has been the coach of Lopatkina, Ayupova, Obrastsova and Tkachenko.

Details about funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.

Author:  Sacto7654 [ Sun May 10, 2009 2:24 pm ]
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While not as great a loss as Ekaterina Maximova, Kurgapkina was a well-known pedagogue where one of her last ballerinas she coached was Ulyana Lopatkina, the best-known female ballet dancer at the Mariinsky Theatre today. Mind you, I think the passing of Natalia Dudinskaya in 2003 was more important, because her influence on both the Kirov (Mariinsky) Theatre and the Vaganova Academy is still felt even today.

I'm hoping that Maya Plisetskaya is still around for more years because she is probably the greatest ballerina of the 20th Century.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Sun May 10, 2009 7:35 pm ]
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Wow, Sacto, I would not agree with you that Ninella Kurgapkina's death is not as great a loss as Maximova's ! I don't think you can put a price on a person's life or contribution to art... Certainly in Russia the two women are known equally well. Kurgapkina has plenty of accolades and accomplishments. If she wasn't "advertised in the West", or people in America know fewer details about her, that doesnt mean she is less important as a ballerina, or a pedagogue. Certainly Valery Gergiev's personal missive regarding her passing is among numerous other awards and testaments to her greatness, and she remains HIGHLY revered inside not only the Mariinsky Theatre, but inside Russia as well. I think the special on the Kultura television channel is proof enough of that.

Author:  Sacto7654 [ Sun May 10, 2009 10:08 pm ]
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My views are actually from a distinctly Western point of view. :) By these standards, the passing of Maximova shocked a lot of older Western ballet fans because she was so very well-known from her appearances with the Bolshoi troupe in the West from the late 1950's to early 1980's.

I've always thought that the Kirov troupe not performing in the West for many years deprived Westerners of seeing several generations of great dancers. Given that the Bolshoi was the Soviet Union's "showcase" for ballet, small wonder why Kurgapkina's name isn't so well-known to Westerners except to really serious balletomanes. But we are fortunate that Kurgapkina's very long and distinguished coaching career has influenced several generations of Mariinsky Theatre dancers, with a long list of famous dancers from the 1960's all the way to now.

I had a chance to see a home recording of the recent Kurpagkina 80th birthday gala at MT and her enthusiasm was so evident even at such an advanced age. Her untimely loss is truly a blow to the Mariinsky Theatre. :cry:

Author:  Cassandra [ Mon May 11, 2009 5:09 am ]
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I find Sacto's post regarding a great lady so recently deceased in the very poorest taste. Comparisons of those that served their art as selflessly as Maximova, Kurkapkina and Dudinskaya are both odious and worthless in my opinion.

Personally I always harboured a great admiration for Kurgapkina even though I saw her dance only once. The impact she made on me was huge with her impeccable Kirov style and fluent precise technique; watching her I had the feeling of being in the presence of greatness.

I last saw Kurgapkina when I sat next to her at a performance in Baden Baden the Christmas before last, her pupil Obratzova was dancing Nutcracker and she watched her like a hawk throughout the performance: a dancer as exemplary as Obratzova is a great testament to Kurgapkina's skill as a teacher. Despite her age she was as energetic as ever and her tragic death must have come as a great shock to the company and the dancers she taught.

Author:  Sacto7654 [ Mon May 11, 2009 6:09 am ]
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I want to apologize if what I posted was in poor taste. :(

I do think that the loss--at least immediately--is definitely because Kurgapkina was so beloved as a coach and instructor up until her untimely passing. And we'll miss her enthusiasm for the art, as I noted from the interviews she's done in recent years. Someone posted on another forum that the late Rudolf Nureyev said he learned more about ballet from Natalia Dudinskaya and Ninel Kurgapkina than anyone else.

In short, we're going to miss not only Kurgapkina from her distinguished dancing career, but her equally distinguished career as ballet coach and instructor.

Author:  Cygne [ Mon May 11, 2009 1:34 pm ]
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I'm very sorry to hear of Kurgapkina's death. The ballet world has sustained two huge losses in quick succession. Kurgapkina was no less as great an artist as Maximova - not that she was Maximova's "counterpart" in St. Petersburg; but that she was one of the direct exponents and preservers of the Vaganova tradition. Maximova was the most classically pure ballerina the Bolshoi has ever produced. Why? Both ballerinas were directly linked to Vaganova. Kurgapkina was Vaganova's student, and so was Maximova's mentor, Ulanova. Maximova's teacher, Elizaveta Gerdt, (like Vaganova), was a major soloist in the Imperial Ballet. We had two very different artists, both soubrette/virtuosa hybrids, both great in their milieu. Although one was world famous and prodigious in her creative output, both of them came from the same foundation. Just a few months ago, Ninella was honored at the Maryinsky with a "soiree/gala" evening featuring her pupils. That's why it's so important to give thanks, show appreciation and give due honor in due season while these gems are still with us.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue May 12, 2009 4:00 am ]
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I interviewed Kurgapkina just less than one month ago. When she spoke to me, she was full of life and vigor, and had very firm, educated (needless to say) views on the Mariinsky's past and present. I am quite sure I was the last Western journalist, and most likely the last interview that she gave in her wonderful lifetime. As a People's Artist of Russia, she was one of the most revered members of the Mariinsky Ballet, and received the utmost respect from the dancers. It goes without saying that each of her pupils in recent years have become stage successes with individual talent. She was one of the last direct links to Vaganova herself -- having received training from the great pedagogue directly. While I'm disappointed and disgusted that such discussion as her "value" took place on this forum -- which underlines to me the lack of knowledge and manners by the posters involved -- I am grateful that I met her and spoke with her at length about her art while she was still alive.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Tue May 12, 2009 11:23 am ]
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For those interested, Kurgapkina's funeral events will begin at 10 am on the 14th of May. At noon there will be a service at St. Nicholas' Cathedral near the theatre, followed by a cremation ceremony.

Author:  NataliaN [ Tue May 12, 2009 1:45 pm ]
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A terrible loss indeed. Mme Kurgapkina will be sorely missed.

The ballet world has lost three -- not two -- great ballerinas in the span of two months. Let's not forget Eva Evdokimova, the beautiful American of Bulgarian ancestry who was trained by Vera Volkova in Copenhagen...and one of the greatest Sylphides and Giselles in living memory.

Author:  Catherine Pawlick [ Wed May 13, 2009 10:09 am ]
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Oh dear. Natalia, I had not heard of Eva's passing as well. Something must be in the air this spring, this is too unreal to have so many big names leaving us at once. Very sad indeed. An era is ending.

Author:  Cassandra [ Tue Aug 18, 2009 6:04 am ]
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I must have missed this obituary when it was first published - my apologies. The very attractive picture with the text shows something of Kugapkina's allure in her younger days. ... 360475.ece

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