“I don't know about Chenchikova but she certainly had a high enough rank to help Vasiev obtain his position. So politically she had clout -- I can't say either way how most people then viewed her dancing (I simply don't know). I remember being impressed the first time I saw a recording of her. At the time it far surpassed what any dancer in the USA looked like - that was in the late 80s.”
In her heyday, Olga Chenchikova was considered one of the “indispensible ones” at the Kirov. Chenchikova was in a class by herself. She was a virtuosa. She had broad, full shoulders, a shortish neck, long legs, short arms, and a “strong” face, (like V. Tereshkina). She had a formidable stage presence that sometimes overpowered the corps (as in “Swan Lake Act 1 Scene 2), but had great impact. Chenchikova wasnt an aerial, nor lyrical/ethereal ballerina. She was a very physical mover. She was a special effects, technical sorceress, for whom no terre a terre combination was impossible. She was a natural and expert turner. Her pirouettes and fouttees, in particular were warp speed fast, dripped like honey when they needed to be slow, and were unfailingly sur place. Only Terekhova rivaled her in technical virtuosity. She excelled as O/O and she owned the lead ballerina role in “Paquita.”
Although Olga was an outsider, she had immediate and uproarious success when she made her debut with the Kirov in 1977. She graduated from Perm Academy and came from the Perm Ballet. Her teacher was the great Perm pedagogue Ludmilla Sakharova. Sakharova also produced Galina Ragozina-Panov and Nadezhda Pavlova. She danced in Perm from 1974-1977. While at Perm she haunted the competition circuit. She won the 1973 Moscow IBC silver medal. At Perm she danced O/O, Aurora, Kitri, etc. By 1977 she had made enough waves to be invited to guest at the Kirov. She made her1977 Kirov debut as O/O. She was coached for that debut by Alla Shelest. Reportedly, her O/O debut was so devastating, that she was “invited to join” the Kirov Ballet the next day. In those days that meant “drafted” or “reassigned.” She was one of two Perm ballerinas to be relocated to the Kirov, Lubov Kunakova, (the exact anti-thesis of Chenchikova), being the other. They were both medal winners. In 1969 Kunakova was the first ever gold medalist of the Moscow IBC, defeating Ludmilla Semenyaka who won the bronze. Both Chenchikova and Kunakova were able to fit in at the Kirov artistically, because Perm was a satellite theatre for the Kirov during WW 2. So, there wasn’t much of a difference in style and production presentation.
In 1977 Vinogradov assumed his post as AD of the Kirov, having left that post at the Maly. He came in and made what many considered at that time to be radical changes. Among the principal females he had Kolpakova who was still active, Mezentseva who emerged after Makarova’s defection, the young homegrown virtuosa Terekhova, Komleva who was in the late summer of her career, along with Kurgapkina and Sizova. The Kirov was the poor stepchild of the Kremlin, with the Bolshoi getting all the major world tours and government perks. When Vinogradov came in, he fired many dancers who were pension age. He focused on perfecting the corps de ballet and the level of performance and production, and tried to bring new works into the repertoire. He also nurtured
promising dancers, such as Ayupova, Lezhnina and Asylmuratova.
By the 80s Chenchikova was a Kirov superstar. During the late 80s she married a soloist named Makhar Vaziev the immediate past ballet Director at the Maryinsky. He can be seen dancing the Don Q pdd with Terekhova on the “Kirov in London” dvd (Kultur, 1988). Between 1992 – 1995, Vinogradov was losing favor fast and there were certain factions trying to assume the ballet directorship. Gergiev made the decision to appoint Vaziev over Ruzimatov, who was still active. In 1996 Chenchikova suffered a career ending injury and retired. She then began to concentrate on coaching, rubber stamping her husband’s decisions and taking on those dancers he wanted to push as her pupils. This perfectly segues into Cassandra’s point:
“Chenchikova dancing was always a class act. Chenchikova teaching is another matter.”
Precisely. Is there a notable ballerina that Chenchikova has produced? Let’s look at the "biggest" names that came from her stable. Chenchikova’s first project in 1995 was Vishneva, Vaziev’s first favorite. Whatever one thinks of Vishneva, she is the most famous of Chenchikova’s wards. IMO, for me, Vishneva is an acquired taste, who for all her theatrical unorthodoxy was never as technically pristine as Chenchikova. By the same token, Chenchikova was never as dramatic as Vishneva. Diana eventually returned to her graduating teacher Kovaleva and some outsiders for coaching. Today, Diana has exposed herself to, and availed herself of many different influences. She has become a hybrid - a dancer without category, having a highly individual style that is sometimes at odds with her home company’s performance tradition. Is Vishneva Chenchikova’s product, the way that Maximova was Ulanova’s? IMO no she isn’t. Looking at her today, I’d say that Vishneva has produced herself: She is her own product.
Maya Dumchenko is Vishneva’s contemporary and among the the most pristine classical purists in the company. She should have been a big name. In the beginning of her career, she was pushed by Vaziev until Vishneva’s advent in 1995 and then Zakharova’s in 1996. Today, in spite of all, she remains one of the Maryinsky’s true artists, a classicist who embodies the ideals of the St. Petersburg/Vaganova tradition, like Obratzova, Osmolkina, Kondaurova, Tereshkina, the Invisible Principal (Pavlenko), and the icon Lopatkina. Dumchenko gets the rare Giselle performance, the bi
-annual Aurora, the rare "Fountain of Bahkshiserai," and the occaisional Juliet. The last time I saw her live was last December in "Nutcracker," as a marzipan flutes in the pas de trois
) Maya is a high caliber ballerina, and in that very minor assignment, she looked like a stranger in the wrong paradise.
Zakharova, Vishneva’s and Dumchenko’s contemporary, doesn’t figure in this discussion because she was essentially a Kiev product, and was coached by Moiseyeva then and Semenyaka now.
1995 was a bellwether year in the history of the Maryinsky Ballet. Not only was it the beginning of the Vaziev era but the Vaziev Brand. This brand has been erroneously advertised as the epitome of Petersburg/Vaganova artistry and classicism. Chenchikova and her husband helped accelerate its devolution by 2003, the year you know who graduated. The travesty culminated with her promotion to Principal in October 2008. The travesty continues.