July 13 was a magical day, celebrated by ballet lovers worldwide as the great Diana Vishneva's birthday. Regarded as the icon of dance by international audiences, Diana is a true prima ballerina - she has it all, from technique and lines to artistry and musicality. She is a living legend, as well as a genuine, kind, and good-hearted person with a warm and generous personality. I was lucky enough to experience this level of perfection personally, and meet the great Diana Vishneva on her birthday, as well as dance next to her and learn from her expertise.
In 2018, Diana opened a dance studio in St. Petersburg called Context PRO, a place for people of all social classes and skill levels to develop their love and interest in ballet. It is located near the center of St. Petersburg in an artistic district, a very pleasant area with a positive, radiant energy similar to the glowing radiance that Diana herself possesses and emits.
The masterclass began at 11:30 AM. It was part of a larger summer intensive program organised by Diana and held at her studio, which I wasn't able to attend as I only came to the city for a few days. During this summer intensive, Diana invited several important principal dancers to hold master classes for the students, further following her noble goal of enabling the pursuit of ballet to all people. Her dedication to this Studio is a direct reflection of Diana's big and giving heart and spirit. Participants of the masterclass were recommended to arrive around half an hour before the start of the lesson. There was time to check in, register, and change before entering the studio. Around 11:15, Diana entered the room and everyone froze. Even the simple act of being near such a legend can be nerve-wracking, and certainly unforgettable!
The Studio itself was beautiful, a large, airy space with room for audience members (parents, ballet enthusiasts) to watch the lesson live. The people working at the Studio were welcoming and helpful, making the atmosphere extremely professional and pleasant. There were 24 people attending the masterclass, plus the audience members.
Diana began the lesson with a warm welcome, and soon began strengthening warmups (abdominal exercises, stretches). I was right next to Diana during the start of the class, an emotion I will always cherish and never forget! It was shocking to see just how amazing she is in real life, a degree of perfection that is unimaginable even to someone like me who has been admiring her for years. Not only is she beautiful, she is so skilled, strong, and flexible, the definition of what it means to be the ideal dancer. After the warmup, the participants took their places at the barre and the masterclass itself began.
Diana chose to begin with regular barre exercises - plié, battement tendu, adage, etc. She conducted the class with extreme care, always looking around to correct her students, giving helpful advice and tips that could only come from a dancer as incredible as her. It was an honour to get corrections from the queen of dance herself!
One of the things that I noticed when listening to her advice was that Diana does not only focus on technique - she focuses on the music, on the artistry, and on the beautiful, delicate side of dance. I specifically remember when she said (the class was in the Russian language) that when you are a ballet student, you must always do MORE. More than what the teacher asks of you, more than the exercise requires. You must always push yourself beyond what you think the limit is, and that is what makes a beautiful dancer. I will cherish this advice forever!
After the barre exercises, which were all thought out and designed with care and professionalism, we moved to the center, where we did exercises such as adage, battement tendu, jeté, etc. divided into two or three groups. Diana demonstrated each combination with such beauty and such care, that her passion for dance shone through completely. Even in the Studio, she looks like she is performing on stage. Finally, we did diagonal turns and combinations, and, in the end, jumps.
What amazed me most about Diana was not just what an amazing dancer she is, but also how kind and real she was. She gave such open comments and advice, maintaining a relaxed and warm atmosphere throughout the whole class. It was a true testament to herself as a dancer and as a person - she is an example to be followed in all the ways that someone can be an example, as a force of character and as a force of art.
Diana was so professionally motivated throughout the class. My mother, for example, has been a fan of Diana for a while now, always referring to her as her favourite dancer. She was also amazed by how engaged Diana was, doing the maximum number of exercises that she could, exploiting each minute to the very end, really trying to give the participants everything that they could possibly gain from the class. She even made the class a bit longer, genuinely willing to make the participants learn and benefit from her guidance.
In the end, a huge crowd gathered around Diana, begging her for photos and autographs. Each participant wanted to talk to Diana, hug her, and have the honor of being near such an exceptional human being.
I myself got her autograph both on a piece of paper and on my pointe shoe. I also got to take two pictures with her, and gave her a small birthday gift.
It was heart-warming to see that my perception of Diana as a fantastic dancer and a wonderful person was not at all different from reality. She is one of a kind, and meeting her as well as learning next to her was something that I will hold close in my heart for the rest of my life.
Thank you, Diana, for your dedication to dance, for your noble goals, for having the motivation and kindness in your heart to change ballet for the better. I strongly recommend coming to Context PRO Studio to learn with Diana and her staff. I flew to St. Petersburg all the way from Switzerland in order to see her and be near her, and I must say that every single moment was worth it.
Happy Birthday, Diana! Thank you for giving your fans and your audiences life-changing memories!!!
Alexia Dochnal, 15 years old.