Nikolay Tsiskaridze PAR (Russian: Николай Максимович Цискаридзе) is current most famous and decorated ballet artist and a superstar in Russia. He was a premier dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet for 21 years (1992-2013), his performances have delighted audiences around the globe.
Ethnically Georgian, he was born in Tbilisi on 31 December 1973 in the evening as a son of Lamara Nikolayevna Tsiskaridze (Ламара Николаевна Цискаридзе). He was a miracle to her - she was 43 when Nikolay was born and he was her only child. He has never met his father and he does not know much about him and his family - it is known that Nikolay´s father Maxim Nikolayevich (Максим Николаевич; his surname is unknown) was a Georgian violin player (his mother was a French actress but after she got married she did not continue her career) and he already died. Nikolay had a stepfather but he was brought up by his mother and a nanny who as he explains did not lose an opportunity to train and educate him to turn him into an all-round man. As a child Nikolay was supposed to become a lawyer as all men in his mother´s family or a physics teacher as his mother. Tsiskaridze says he chose classical dance at the age of three when he first saw Giselle – much to the despair of his mother, a teacher of math and physics. For a time there was still hope that the boy would give up his crazy dream. But he insisted he should enter the ballet school and his mother had to give up. “But you have to be the best,” his mother told him. “Otherwise, I will pull you out.” He began his studies at the Tbilisi ballet School in 1984 and joined the Moscow Ballet School in 1987 where he studied under the guidance of Pyotr Pestov, one of the leading and most experienced classical dance teachers. Pestov was known for his strict rules and perfectionism. If he was displeased with a student during class the pupil can find himself out the door in no time. That often happened to Nikolay. But oddly enough, he was told that this was a good sign and that he was going to be a star. Indeed, years later Pestov said of Tsiskaridze: “The boy grasped everything so quickly that by the middle of the class he started looking through the window, and that distracted the others.” Then, Nikolay lived in a 14-square-metre room in a Moscow communal apartment which he shared with his seriously ill mother and as he sometimes says they were a door next to starving. Nikolay worked very hard but his mother did not feel pity of him - she thought that being of blue blood he couldn´t complain. She also trained him to refuse to discuss three things - nationality and faith, earnings and privat life. This graceful, refined, diligent and dedicated young student continued to perfect his professional skills throughout his school years. A unique combination of natural abilities such as flexibility, musicality, charisma and superlative lyrical expressiveness distinguished the young dancer as a rare talent, and in 1992 he graduated at the top of his class and he directly joined the ballet company of the Bolshoi Theater. The then artistic director Yuri Grigorovich saw Nikolay at the graduation exam and as he could not pronounce his surname, he said: “The Georgian gets an A. He’s got the job.”
At the theater he had the good fortune to enter the class of prominent ballerina Marina Semyonova, and as Nikolai says, she became his second mother after his much-loved mother died in 1994 when Nikolay was just 20. The legendary Galina Ulanova also assisted him. She taught him to give meaning to every single movement and gesture and to fill the dance with emotion. “Don’t shout with your hands when dancing a prince.”, she used to say. “A noble man only needs to bow his head to make his wish fulfilled immediately.” Young Tsiskaridze soon earned a reputation for his nobility, stage presence and perfect technique.
After a brief period in the corps de ballet, he became a Principal in 1995. Since 1997 Tsiskaridze has regularly performed with the Mariinsky Ballet and in December 2001 he made his début at the Paris Opera as Solor in La Bayadère (by Rudolf Nureyev), having repeated his appearance with the Paris Opera Ballet as Drosselmeyer/Prince in The Nutcracker (by Rudolf Nureyev) in 2009. He also participated in most of the foreign tours of the Bolshoi Ballet, “Kings of the Dance” international project, Les Saisons Russes du XXI Siecle as well as in various international ballet galas.
Over the course of his dance career he performed over 70 roles in major classical works as well as in ballets by Yury Grigorovich, Leonid Lavrovsky, Mikhail Fokine, Kasian Goleyzovsky, Roland Petit, John Neumeier, Pierre Lacotte, Rudolf Nureyev, George Balanchine, William Forsythe, Kenneth MacMillan, Boris Eifman, Fleming Flindt, Christopher Wheeldon, Nacho Duato. His most prominent roles include Mercutio (Romeo and Juliet), The Master of Ceremonies (The Golden Age), the Nutcracker Prince (The Nutcracker), Prince Siegfried and Rothbart (Swan Lake), James (La Sylphide), the title role in Paganini (by L.Lavrovsky), Ferkhad (The Legend of Love), Solor and the Bronze Idol (La Bayadère), Prince Desire, the Blue Bird and Carabosse (The Sleeping Beauty), Albrecht (Giselle), Jean de Brienne (Raymonda), Lord Wilson/Taor (The Pharaoh´s Daughter), Theseus/Oberon (A Midsummer Night's Dream), Quasimodo (Notre-Dame de Paris), Chevalier des Grieux (Manon), Conrad (Le Corsaire), Teacher (The Lesson), Lucien d'Hervilly (Paquita), Le Jeune Homme (Le Jeune Homme et la Mort) as well the title roles in Les Sylphides, Le Spectre de la Rose, Afternoon of a Faun, Symphony in C, Rubies (from Jewels by G. Balanchine), Narcissus, In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated and Fallen Angel.
Being one of the best ballet princes, he was equally convincing in modern choreographies. Roland Petit, who staged The Queen of Spades in 2001, created the role of Hermann especially for Tsiskaridze.
While dancing, Tsiskaridze continued his education and in 1996, he completed his studies at the Pedagogical faculty of the Institute of Choreography (today College and Institute have been amalgamated into the Moscow Choreographic Academy) and was awarded a diploma with the classification of first-rank soloist, as well as teaching credentials. Since 2003 he was teaching a daily ballet class at the Bolshoi Theatre. Besides, since 2004 he was also teaching at the Moscow Ballet Academy.
In October 2003 Tsiskaridze had to face his first major injury which threatened to end his career - the devastating knee injury sustained during his rehearsal at Opera de Paris. After the very first operation when doctors changed the ligament in his knee he got staphylococci infection into his body and for some period he was in a critical state. With further 9 operations doctors succeeded to save not only his life, but his leg as well. Finally, he started learning to walk. He entered the stage after 9-month intermission.
Tsiskarizde has received many honours: he became the youngest person to be named a People's Artist of Russia (2001). He received the State Prize of the Russian Federation (2001, 2003), the Prix Benois de la Danse (1999), Silver medal at the Osaka Ballet Competition (1995), Golden medal at the Moscow Ballet Competition (1997), Honoured Artist of Russia (1997), Russian Golden Mask theatrical prize (1998, 2000, 2003), Order of Honour of the Republic of Georgia (2003), Danza&Danza award as best dancer of the year 2003, Triumph prize (2004), Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres de la République Française (2006), People's Artist of North Osetia — Alania Republic (2013) etc.
As a dancer, Tsiskaridze possessed the purity of Russian dance training and the regality and mystery of royalty. His extremely long legs moved with masculine power, yet also with feminine grace. His arms could at one moment be strong and forceful, and at the next soft and elegant. His feet were well arched for a man and his beats were pristine. As a product of the Russian ballet school, which emphasizes dramatic expression hand in hand with technique from a very early stage in training, Tsiskaridze was an effortless actor with the ability to mesmerize the audience. There were no small parts for Tsiskaridze where his profession was concerned. Preparation for any role was very important for him. The dancer says, “It is desirable to know everything about the ballet, about the character, the composer, the choreographer – everything.” There is a huge collection of videos and books about ballet in his house and some ballet critics envy his knowledge of this art. He doesn't get tired of studying and researching something new in the subjects that have already been well explored by him.
As Tsiskaridze says: “I believe that the fate of a person depends on his or her temper. If I had been more mild and base person, I would have become a worshipped hero! I was to have been on the cushion long ago! But disliking stupidity and imbecility, I don’t manage to keep my mouth shut. Moreover, I don’t care for it and feel good. All that I achieved in my life was achieved by my talent and industry. Ballet is a rough labor, all are working hard, but results differ. I had more luck because of my parents`genes.”
Being a ballet dancer, Tsiskaridze has become a real superstar in Russia, having appeared in many reality shows and being a judge on Russia's version of Dancing with the Stars for several years.
Since July 2011, Tsiskaridze is a member of the President´s Council for Culture and Arts.
Following months of legal disputes and scandals, Tsiskaridze left the Bolshoi when his contracts (as a premier dancer and as a ballet teacher) expired on 30 June 2013 and the theater´s management decided not to prolong any of them. His relationship with the directors of the theater was rocky long time ago - he openly criticized the theater’s management for soiling the Bolshoi’s repertoire of classics with contemporary works from abroad, for shoddy work during a recent renovation, for favoritism and bad taste. As a result of his endless criticism, Tsiskaridze claimed he and his students were denied roles, docked pay and prevented from advancing their careers.
In October 2013, Tsiskaridze was appointed as an acting Rector of the prestigious Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet in Saint Petersburg (est. in 1738), on the order of the Culture Minister. He stopped being "acting" and started to work hard as the full Rector of the institution.
In 2014, Tsiskaridze graduated as a Master of Law at Kutafin Moscow State Law University.
On 29 Nov, 2014 Tsiskaridze was formally confirmed as a Rector of the Vaganova Academy in unopposed election, winning 227 of the 244 possible votes which include professors, students and even school canteen workers. Even though his appointment a year ago caused a scandal, Tsiskaridze won the support of the staff with his hard work and significant results - improving the quality of education at the Academy, raising the funds for the school equipment and furnishing, negotiating various collaborations with other well-known schools and theatres, bringing the new repertoire broadening the range of opportunities for graduates etc.
- Nutcracker Suite : Prince, Poupée Française
- La Belle au bois dormant : Prince Désiré, l'Oiseau Bleu, Fée Carabosse, Prince Fortune
- Romeo and Juliet : Mercutio, a troubadour
- La Sylphide : James
- Swan Lake : Prince Siegfried, Rothbart, the King
- La Bayadere : Solor, Bronze Idol
- The Legend of Love : Ferkhad
- Giselle : Albrecht
- The Spectre of the Rose : Le Spectre
- Raymonda : Jean de Brienne
- La Fille du pharaon : Taor
- La Dame de pique : Hermann
- Notre-Dame de Paris : Quasimodo
- Le Clair Ruisseau : Danseur classique
- Le Songe d'une nuit d'été : Thésée
- Le Corsaire : Conrad
- Page on the Bolshoi Theater official website
- Biography of Nikolay Tsiskaridze @ Russiapedia
- Photographs with Ulanova, Grigorovich and Roland Petit
- A propos de... Tsiskaridze
- Informal site
- Photo Tsiskaridze's in "Photo gallery of masters of musical theatre"