We set up this site to support and encourage young men who do ballet
and demystify the world of ballet for those who don't.

Quick navigation

Profile: Ilya Kuznetsov

Ilya Kuznetsov is one of the boys' teachers at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow. He trained at the academy himself and graduated into the Bolshoi Ballet under Grigorovich. He subsequently performed around the world for companies including the San Diego Ballet, Imperial Russian Ballet and Moscow Classical Ballet and won acclaim and prizes at a number of international ballet competitions.

In 2002 he returned to the Bolshoi Academy to teach, graduating from the Bolshoi Academy's own pedagogical facility. Besides his class work, he lectures and writes about the methodology of ballet teaching. He also runs a highly successful YouTube channel and ballet blog (in Russian). He kindly agreed to answer some questions for BoysDoBallet.com.

Why did you start dancing?

When I was 6 months old, my grandma saw me dancing in my cot. Then they always made me dance in kindergarten. Later my mother did not want me to spend my free time on the streets so signed me up to a kids dancing group. The teacher told her to try the Bolshoi Ballet Academy... and no one ever asked me: Do you want to dance?!

Ilya with his first ballet teacher, Elena Barsheva.

Were you ever teased for dancing?


Was your training tough emotionally as well as physically?

No. Just physical.

Why did you move into teaching?

It just happened.

Ilya teaching Henry Perkins, one of the first British boys
to attend the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.

What is the hardest thing about your job?

Being patient. It is for me.

What is your proudest moment?

My boys final exam! It makes me very proud.

What age do you think ballet training should begin? What should those interested in dance do before that age?

Around 10 is fine. Always be interested in music, drawing, art...

Do you think some kind of dancing should be taught in all schools?

No. Grace in movement is a god's gift. You cannot teach this to everyone.

Ilya contemplates

Is the current style of teaching at the Bolshoi Academy the same as when you were a student?


How would you say the style of teaching in Russia differs to elsewhere?

I don't know... I can only say about myself. I make every lesson simple, small goals and will not leave the studio without achieving these goals. There are givers - who give classes; and there are teachers - who teach. I really wanted to be the second one.

How important are different methods in ballet these days? Is Vaganova still the pinnacle?

I can't really answer. I know only one way of teaching - the way my teacher taught me.

Ilya dancing a variation from Paquita.

As a teacher, do you become aware that some pupils in your class are showing star potential while others are lagging? How do you deal with this?

The theatre is a small model of the world. Theatre needs everyone, not just a stars. I teach everyone in my class. Only God knows who will be stars, choreographers or teachers...

Is it possible to teach artistry in ballet or only technique?

Only technique. If someone has artistry already, then you can work with it.

Ilya in Le Corsaire.

What do you feel makes the Bolshoi different to other major ballet companies?

Style. Character. Traditions.

And one final question: what is ballet?

The most amazing art. You can't save it for the future. Compared to other arts, it is alive when you are dancing and only then.

Ilya at the 1996 Maya International Ballet
Competition. He won the prize for best
performance of modern choreography.

Many thanks to Ilya for taking the time to respond to our questions.


  1. Good read. I like the idea of a ballet company being a small model of the world.

    Do people agree about being unable to teach artistry? I have to say I feel the same way but I have heard arguments to the contrary.

  2. Excellent article. I do enjoy seeing his videos and reading his comments on Twitter, so it's nice to know more about his career.
    Re the previous comment, I imagine one can suggest pointers to dancers to help improve their artistry. After all, an observer sees the shapes from the outside, which the dancer doesn't.

  3. Thanks for the comments, Geoffrey and Anne- I'm glad you enjoyed reading.

    I suppose it depends what it is you mean by artistry. I think aspects of performance beyond pure ballet technique can certainly be taught (such as stagecraft) - but maybe that ineffable quality which makes a great artist in any discipline is beyond our control.