Fairy-like and technically flawless, Larissa Ponomarenko is a ballerina’s ballerina. She began her studies at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia, winning third prize at the first Vaganova Ballet Competition in 1988, and went on to join the Donetsk Ballet Company in her native Ukraine. After brief stints as a guest artist with Tulsa Ballet and Ballet Mississippi, Larissa landed at Boston Ballet in 1993. Since then she has become one of Boston’s most beloved ballerinas, dancing nearly every principal role in the company’s repertoire. Her nuanced interpretation of Marguerite in Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias even won her a nomination for the International Ballet Prize at Benois de la Danse in 2005. —Margaret Fuhrer
I would like to start by saying, “Thank you.”
Though I consider myself a modest person, I must admit you are a very good student (the kind of student I would wish to work with if I were to move into the field of teaching). You are obedient and self-disciplined, absorbing details and attentive to corrections. You never miss class, and you take good care of your body. You spend a lot of time in the theater watching all the classical ballets in the Kirov repertory. Your analysis of the interpretations of different dancers has helped me become the artist I am today.
All of it, in combination, I believe, allows you to get the most out of the great training your ballet school [the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg, Russia] has to offer. This is why I would like to express my gratitude to you, my student self.
But I do wish that you would be more daring and confident in everything. It wouldn’t hurt to be more curious about different genres and forms of art—to explore more outside of the ballet. And find the time to continue your piano lessons! You don’t have much interest in it now, but you have talent and that is precious.
Finally, I want you to add more of a sense of humor and laughter to all your hard work, to love yourself, and to live every minute of your life to the fullest.
16-year-old Larissa performing the Bluebird variation from The Sleeping Beauty at the Vaganova Academy. Photo: courtesy of Boston Ballet
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
Dance Spirit's 2019 Cover Model Search finalists: Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland! One of them will win a spot on Dance Spirit's Fall 2019 cover. Learn more about the dancers on their profile pages, and then vote for your favorite below. You can vote once a day now through July 15.
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?