’The very incarnation of femininity and nobility’
by Juan Giuliano
26 June 2010
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December 17th 2003
It was in 1956 or 1957 I believe, when I danced with the Marquis de Cuevas troupe. I went up to Denmark to work with her for a week.
She is amongst those who remain with me (although at the time, technique was not, perhaps, as cleanly as it is today). She was the very incarnation of femininity, nobility, and how rich her gestures were ! Gratuitous gesture was out of the question. One never left her class without having learnt something.
The environment in Russia from which she sprang was a very dense one - painting, music... What she taught was highly theatrical, without ever being excessive: it grew from the need to convey an idea.
Depending on the dynamics of a given movement, she would become quite another person. Bearing in mind that the purpose of academic technique is to allow the dancer to develop an all-embracing sensitivity, a vast palette of dynamics, that on stage will deploy so as to convey something to everyone in the room, and not just things that would readily accord with our own natural bent.
As for Bartholin, with whom I worked at the same time, I must have been too young, but I never felt that we were on the same wavelength, to the degree that I did with Vera Volkova.
In the United States, I believe that there are still living a few, perhaps three, old Russians, who have the same generosity, the same incredible, sunlit personality, that radiated from Vera Volkova.
Juan Giuliano is former principal dancer with the Theatre of Rio de Janeiro, the Ballets du Marquis de Cuevas, and the Opéra Comique.