Diana Vishneva was born in Leningrad (now St Petersburg). She began to study dance at the age of six. At the age of eleven she entered the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, from which she graduated in 1995 (class of Professor Lyudmila Kovaleva). In 1994 Vishneva won her first victory at the International Young Ballet Dancers’ Competition in Lausanne where she took both the Gold Medal and the Grand Prix. This feat has never been repeated by any other competitor since that day. In 1995, while still a student at the Academy of Russian ballet, Diana Vishneva became a trainee at the Mariinsky Theatre and performed the title role in Cinderella as well as the roles of Kitri in Don Quixote and Masha in The Nutcracker. Ever since, she has performed lead roles in the international ballet repertoire including works by Petipa and Fokine, Balanchine and Neumeier, Ashton and MacMillan, Alonso and Grigorovich, Béjart and Petit and Preljocaj and Ratmansky at the world’s great theatres in addition to Nureyev, Makarova, Malakhov and Bart’s versions of classical ballets.
In 1996 Diana Vishneva made her debut at the Bolshoi Theatre of Russia as Kitri and she continues to appear there in lead roles in the ballets Swan Lake, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, Lost Illusions.
In 1999, together with the Mariinsky Ballet Company she gave her first performance at the Metropolitan Opera, while in 2000 she made her debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, as Aurora (The Sleeping Beauty).
Diana Vishneva’s international career as a guest soloist began in 2001 with her performance together with the Bayerisches Staatsballett in Manon and at the Teatro alla Scala with the ballet The Sleeping Beauty. In 2002 she made her debut at the Berliner Staatsballett (Giselle and La Bayadère). The same year witnessed her Opéra de Paris debut in Don Quixote, where she later went on to give highly acclaimed portrayals of lead roles in the ballets Rubies (from Jewels), Manon and Swan Lake. Since 2003 Vishneva has been a Principal Dancer at American Ballet Theatre. Her repertoire at ABT includes Giselle, La Bayadère, Swan Lake, Romeo and Juliet, Don Quixote, The Sleeping Beauty, Manon, Sylvia, The Dream and The Lady of the Camellias among other works. In the 2010-2011 season she appeared in works presented by the companies of Édouard Lock (Canada) and Martha Graham (USA).
Diana Vishneva’s work has brought the ballerina numerous awards and prizes, among them the title of People’s Artist of Russia, the State Prize of Russia, the Divine prize, the Benois de la danse award, a Golden Sofit, the Spirit of Dance prize in the category in the category “Queen of Dance,” the prize as best dancer of Europe, six Golden Masks and the Ballerina of the Decade prize.
On Diana’s initiative, 2010 saw the establishment of the Diana Vishneva Foundation, a cultural and charitable organisation that works in Russia, the USA and Japan. The main tasks of the foundation are to increase access to ballet for all social classes, to promote it, establish new dance projects and assist young performers and retired performers.
Diana Vishneva was born in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) on 13 July 1976 to a family of chemical engineers. At the age of six, Diana began to attend a dance class at the Palace of Pioneers and in 1987 she entered the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet. Her first teacher was Lyudmila Vasilievna Belskaya, while her graduation class teacher was Lyudmila Valentinovna Kovaleva.
In 1994 the promising student set out for Lausanne in Switzerland to perform at the world-famous Prix de Lausanne competition. This international competition is run on an annual basis and to this day is considered to be the most prestigious young ballet dancers’ competition in the world. The participants are all between the ages of fifteen and seventeen. Prize-winners are given the right to train with one of the State ballet schools connected with Lausanne (including the Royal Ballet School in London and the New York Ballet School). In the “freestyle” category Diana performed the miniature Carmen, specially staged for her by Igor Belsky, Artistic Director of the Vaganova Academy, and she took the top prize – the Gold Medal. The severity of the judges at this competition can be seen by taking even a fleeting glance at the list of names of its prize-winners: for fourteen years beforehand the award had been presented exclusively to boys, and since then the top prize has not been awarded at all.
The meteoric rise of Diana Vishneva’s career began with her victory at that competition. During her final year of studies she also trained at the Mariinsky Theatre where she was immediately offered solo roles. While still a trainee, in 1995 she danced the role of Kitri in the ballet Don Quixote. The image she portrayed as the young Kitri remains unforgettable to this very day: angularly childlike, youthfully fresh, astringent with her own unique style... Diana received the Benois de la danse award in 1996 for this role.
In March 1995, still a student at the Vaganova Academy, Vishneva appeared in a gala concert in Toronto dedicated to the memory of Rudolf Nureyev. At that concert she performed together with Vladimir Malakhov. A principal dancer with three of the world’s leading ballet companies, Malakhov found a wonderful partner in this young ballerina, and their partnership was to last for many years.
In 1995 Diana graduated from the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet and joined the Mariinsky Ballet Company where Olga Chenchikova became her coach and teacher. At that time, George Balanchine’s ballets began to be staged at the Mariinsky Theatre, the productions mounted under the guidance of the George Balanchine Foundation. Vishneva was given a role in what was literally the first premiere since she joined the company.
In February 1996 at the first performance of Symphony in C Diana Vishneva danced a solo role in the third movement opposite Sergei Vikharev. It was for this role that Diana received St Petersburg’s Golden Sofit theater prize.
Two prizes at the start of her career at the Mariinsky Theatre – the Benois de la danse and the Golden Sofit – and the young dancer was not yet a prima ballerina! That, however, came soon – in 1996 Diana was made a soloist of the Mariinsky Theatre and the next year she was awarded the Divine prize.
In 1996 Diana Vishneva took part in the following performances and tours: February – the lead role in the Moscow Bolshoi Theatre’s production of Don Quixote (with Farukh Ruzimatov), following which Diana was awarded the Divine prize. The same month saw a solo role in the first part of Jerome Robbins’ ballet In the Night (with Viktor Baranov).
April saw Diana’s debut as Juliet (partnered by Viktor Baranov) in a performance of the ballet Romeo and Juliet which was dedicated to Galina Ulanova. In June at the Hermitage Theatre Vishneva performed as Fanny Cerrito in Anton Dolin’s Pas de Quatre for the first time.
September saw Diana Vishneva make her debut as Aurora in the ballet The Sleeping Beauty. Diana Vishneva’s first appearance in London took place during the Mariinsky Theatre’s “Nutcracker season” at the Coliseum (December 1996 – January 1997). At the opening of the tour Diana performed the role of Masha opposite Farukh Ruzimatov.
In 1997 Diana Vishneva returned to Lausanne, the place of her first triumph, though now as a guest star to appear in a gala concert. There she danced the pas de deux from the ballet Le Corsaire together with Carlos Acosta.
1997 brought the young ballerina a new role – she danced as the Firebird in Michel Fokine’s eponymous ballet for the first time. Diana also once again took part in the Mariinsky Theatre’s summer tour to the Coliseum in London. Her repertoire for that tour included lead roles in the ballets Don Quixote, Symphony in C, The Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet, The Firebird and Le Spectre de la rose.
By the Mariinsky Theatre’s two hundred and fifteenth ballet season Diana Vishneva had emerged as an acclaimed star, one of the few prima ballerinas of the fabled company who define the theater’s public image. Temperamental and vivid, Diana Vishneva belongs to the new generation of charismatic actress-ballerinas who have the ability to bring their own inimitable style to any classical role. The Mariinsky Theatre opened its new season in 1997 on 12 October with a performance of Romeo and Juliet. Diana Vishneva and Igor Zelensky dazzled the audience on opening night.
November 1997 saw a concert of stars in New Jersey at which Vishneva danced the pas de deux from Romeo and Juliet with Viktor Baranov, the solo Carmen choreographed by Igor Belsky and the pas de deux from Le Corsaire with Farukh Ruzimatov. In November came a gala concert in New York at the Lincoln Center which was dedicated to Sergei Diaghilev. There Diana danced Le Spectre de la rose with Vladimir Malakhov and Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux with Vyacheslav Samodurov. In January-February 1998 links were revived between the Mariinsky and the Bolshoi Theatres, Russia’s two great opera houses. Diana took part in the exchange tour, appearing as Kitri in Don Quixote with Farukh Ruzimatov, in the first duet in the ballet In the Night as part of the program An Evening of American Choreography and the variation in Paquita “Grand pas” at the gala concert.
In June 1998 Roland Petit staged his ballets Le Jeune homme et la mort and Carmen at the Mariinsky Theatre. In Carmen Diana Vishneva and Farukh Ruzimatov performed the lead roles in the second performance on 26 June. Vishneva’s tempting and teasing interpretation of the role of Carmen plays and shines across the stage like light reflected in the facets of a precious stone. It is not just Diana’s legs and arms that dance – her entire being dances, her eyes, her ringlets and the unique lines of her each and every movement.
The same month Vishneva and Ruzimatov won the BALTIKA prize as “Best Duet.” Within the strict confines of classical ballet is it possible to express one’s own ego? These two dancers succeeded in doing exactly that. The restrictive borders of classical dance did not affect their individuality; rather, it helped reveal their talent. Standard and typical roles took on new content and truly made the performers shine.
Despite this, the ballerina dreamed of trying contemporary choreography. This occurred in 1999 when Diana Vishneva danced a solo role in Alexei Ratmansky’s Le Poème de l’extase. In 2000 Ratmansky staged a new work at the Mariinsky Theatre – Prokofiev’s ballet Cinderella, with Diana specifically in mind. But more about that later on.
Keeping things in chronological order, we should note Vishneva’s participation in the Mariinsky Theatre’s summer tour in 1998 to Graz (Austria), where she performed in The Sleeping Beauty at the opening of the tour.
In February 1999 Diana made her debut in the title role of the ballet Giselle. In the 1998–1999 season the Mariinsky Theatre began attempts to reconstruct previous productions from the past. 30 April 1999 witnessed the premiere of Sergei Vikharev’s revival of Marius Petipa’s The Sleeping Beauty. At the premiere Diana Vishneva danced as Princess Aurora, partnered by Andrian Fadeyev.
In the summer of 1999 the Mariinsky Ballet Company toured to New York. Vishneva danced in The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Symphony in C and Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.
The next season the Mariinsky Theatre continued to stage ballets by Balanchine. The premiere of the triptych Jewels on 30 October 1999 had a wide resonance in the press. At the premiere Diana performed the solo role in Rubies, the second part of Jewels. In this role, she is a true “ruby” herself – her dazzling dance style, the fountain of her explosive energy and refined technique ideally match the spirit and choreographic outline of the role.
The next premiere of the season – Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon – brought Diana one of her favorite roles. Tender and passionate, sacrificing and devotedly in love, Manon was particularly heartfelt in the ballerina’s portrayal. In this role at the II International Ballet Festival MARIINSKY in 2002 she shone with Manuel Legris, the renowned étoile of the Opéra de Paris. She performed the same role in November 2001 and January 2002 with the Bayerische Staatsballett in Munich, where she was partnered by Alen Bottaini. For the role of Manon as well as her solo role in Rubies Vishneva was again nominated to receive a Golden Mask theater award.
In the summer of 2000 at London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Mariinsky Theatre undertook a major tour including eighteen ballet and sixteen opera performances. The Mariinsky Theatre was the first non-UK company to perform at the Royal Opera House following the complete reconstruction of the building. The first part of the tour opened with The Sleeping Beauty starring Diana Vishneva and Igor Zelensky, after which Diana performed the lead role in Rubies. During the second leg of the tour Diana performed lead roles in Don Quixote, The Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet and Schéhérazade. This tour was a veritable triumph.
In February 2001 at the I International Ballet Festival MARIINSKY Diana Vishneva danced Giselle opposite Vladimir Malakhov, Principal Dancer with the Staatsballett Berlin, while at the festival’s closing gala concert she performed the adagio from Manon (also with Malakhov) and a variation from Paquita.
In March 2001 Diana Vishneva received a Golden Mask for the solo role in George Balanchine’s Rubies. March 2001 also brought Vishneva’s debut as Nikia in the ballet La Bayadère. On 28 April 2001 the Mariinsky Theatre staged a premiere of three ballets by John Neumeier – Spring and Fall, Now and Then and Sounds of Empty Pages, the last of which was produced especially for the Mariinsky Ballet Company. At the premiere, Diana Vishneva danced the solo in the ballet Spring and Fall and the role of the Muse in Sounds of Empty Pages.
In May 2001 in line with a Russian Presidential Decree Diana Vishneva was awarded the State Prize for Literature and the Arts for lead roles in Mariinsky Theatre productions of The Sleeping Beauty, Manon, Le Jeune homme et la mort and Schéhérazade.
In the summer of 2001 the Mariinsky Ballet Company returned on tour to London to appear at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. Diana Vishneva danced lead roles in The Sleeping Beauty, Rubies, Manon, Symphony in C and Schéhérazade. At several performances of Rubies she was partnered by Nikolai Tsiskaridze, Principal Dancer with the Bolshoi Theatre. The documentary film The Kirov Ballet. People and Dancing was made about this tour.
In December 2001 Diana made her debut at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan as Aurora in Rudolf Nureyev’s version of The Sleeping Beauty. Her partner was Roberto Bolle.
In February 2002 the Mariinsky Ballet Company toured to the Kennedy Center in Washington. The tour opened with The Sleeping Beauty starring Diana Vishneva in the lead role.
On 5 March 2002 the Mariinsky Theatre hosted the world premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s production of the ballet Cinderella. A wonderful child, both fairytale and contemporary, Ratmansky and Vishneva’s Cinderella is no slob who is transformed into a princess, rather she is always a princess, though at times this is hidden and unseen. This production is about the little princess who lies hidden inside every woman, and in this ballet Diana Vishneva was the link that brought everything together. Diana Vishneva was nominated for a Golden Mask prize for this role. At the II International Ballet Festival MARIINSKY, in March 2002 Diana performed with étoile of the Opéra de Paris Manuel Legris for the first time (Manon and Rubies), with whom she continued to collaborate to great acclaim in subsequent years (highlight from Carmen at the III International Ballet Festival MARIINSKY, March 2003, and Kenneth MacMillan’s version of Manon at the Opéra de Paris, June 2003).
In April 2002 Diana performed the title role in Raymonda for the first time.
In May 2002 Diana made her Opéra de Paris debut in Rudolf Nureyev’s version of Don Quixote opposite José Martinez, one of the company’s étoiles.
July 2002 saw the Mariinsky Ballet Company on tour at the Metropolitan Opera in New York (lead roles in Marius Petipa’s La Bayadère (revival by Sergei Vikharev), Don Quixote and Rubies). 2002 was a particularly successful year for Diana Vishneva in terms of tours and invitations to the world’s greatest ballet companies. In the 2002–2003 season Vladimir Malakhov was appointed Artistic Director of the Staatsballett Berlin. On his initiative Diana Vishneva appeared as a “guest star” of the renowned German dance company. The new ballet season at the Berliner Staatsoper opened with Giselle starring Vishneva and Malakhov in the lead roles.
In October 2002 Vishneva and Malakhov danced at the annual ballet festival in Mikkeli (Finland), where they performed the lead roles in The Sleeping Beauty together for the first time as well as Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.
In December Malakhov staged his own version of the ballet La Bayadère and invited Diana to perform the role of Nikia (that of Solor to be performed by Vladimir Malakhov).
In December at the Megaron Theatre in Athens there were eight performances of the ballet Giselle featuring soloists from various companies. The roles of Giselle and Albrecht were performed by Diana Vishneva with Vladimir Malakhov and Svetlana Zakharova with Igor Zelensky.
In October 2002 during the Mariinsky Ballet Company’s tour to the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris Diana performed lead roles in Michel Fokine’s The Firebird, Mihail Chemiakin’s production of The Nutcracker and Sergei Vikharev’s revival of Marius Petipa’s La Bayadère.
Diana Vishneva’s name began to be well-known by the world’s leading ballet companies. In 2002 in line with a survey undertaken by Dance Europe magazine, Diana Vishneva was named “Best Dancer of Europe.”
In 2003 the ballerina had engagements literally by the day. In May she was at the Berliner Staatsoper for a premiere of Balanchine’s Piano Concerto No 2. June saw her appear at the Opéra de Paris with Manuel Legris in Manon.
In 2003 Diana made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in Kenneth MacMillan’s ballet Romeo and Juliet in addition to the long-awaited premiere of Swan Lake starring Vishneva at the Berliner Staatsoper.
At the end of 2003 Diana received the Spirit of Dance prize in the category “Queen of Dance,” awarded on an annual basis by Ballet magazine.
In 2004 Diana danced a great deal at the Berliner Staatsoper (Swan Lake, Giselle and Béjart’s Ring um den Ring). She toured with Vladimir Malakhov to Japan, Greece and Moscow (The Sleeping Beauty at the Bolshoi Theatre).
16 February 2005 marked ten years since Diana Vishneva’s debut at the Mariinsky Theatre in her first ballet (Don Quixote). This anniversary was commemorated by a performance of Giselle at the theater on 31 January, an Evening of Contemporary Choreography gala at the Conservatoire on 4 February and a gala at the Mariinsky Theatre on 26 March as part of the International Ballet Festival MARIINSKY.
On 24 May 2005 Diana was appointed a Principal Dancer with American Ballet Theatre (ABT) and enjoyed a stunning spring and summer season at the Metropolitan Opera.
On 21 September 2005 the Mariinsky Theatre opened its 223rd ballet season with the classical ballet Swan Lake. What was unusual about that performance was that the role of Odette-Odile was performed by Diana Vishneva for the very first time at her home theater.
9 and 11 January 2006 witnessed Diana’s triumphant performances with the Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris where she danced Rudolf Nureyev’s version of Swan Lake.
On 29 April 2006 at the new stage of the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow Diana appeared as a guest soloist in Yuri Grigorovich’s version of Swan Lake. Her performance resulted in extensive and lengthy discussions in the press and on ballet forums.
On 31 January 2007 in line with a Presidential Decree, Mariinsky Ballet Company soloist Diana Vishneva was awarded the honorary title of People’s Artist of the Russian Federation for her significant contribution to the arts.
The Mariinsky Theatre opened its 225th anniversary season on 17 September 2007 with the ballet Romeo and Juliet starring Diana Vishneva, while on 7 October 2007 the theater hosted the premiere of the ballet Silenzio. Diana Vishneva, staged by Andrei Moguchy and Alexei Kononov. On 23 November 2007 Diana made her long-anticipated debut in Yuri Grigorovich’s ballet The Legend of Love.
In California (USA) on 13 February 2008 there came the world premiere of Diana Vishneva: Beauty in Motion, a new three-part choreographic opus. The project was conceived and produced by Sergei Danilian, President of Ardani Artists Management, while the ballets themselves were staged by Alexei Ratmansky (Pierrot Lunaire), Moses Pendleton (F.L.O.W. For Love of Women) and Dwight Rhoden (Three Point Turn). The program was also premiered in New York (21-24 February) and Moscow (28 and 29 February). Ballet critics praised the project as unique and its lead performer as a universal ballerina and outstanding creative personality.
The production Diana Vishneva: Beauty in Motion received Russia’s national Golden Mask theater prize (2009) in three categories: “Best Ballet Production,” “Best Female Role in Ballet” and the “Critics’ Award.”
In 2009 at ABT Diana danced lead roles in Frederick Ashton’s ballet Sylvia and Alexei Ratmansky’s On the Dniepr.
2010 saw Diana feature in four ballet premieres – The Lady of the Camellias in New York, La Péri in Berlin and Anna Karenina and Carmen-Suite in St Petersburg. In September 2010 at the Venice Film Festival there came the premiere of Rustam Khamdamov’s film Diamonds, in which one of the lead roles was performed by Diana Vishneva.
In the 2010–2011 season Diana Vishneva performed works with the dance companies of Édouard Lock (New Work by Édouard Lock) and Martha Graham (Errand into the Maze). The Russian premiere of the ballet Errand into the Maze took place at the Mariinsky Theatre as part of Diana Vishneva’s gala commemorating fifteen years of her career onstage.
In October 2011 the Mariinsky Theatre hosted the premiere of the new ballet project Diana Vishneva: Dialogues, which brings together works by world class choreographers – Martha Graham (USA) Paul Lightfoot and Sol León (Netherlands) and John Neumeier (Germany). Dialogues is a joint project between the Diana Vishneva Foundation and the Mariinsky Theatre with the support of Ardani Artists (USA). The programme, which consists of three independent ballets, has since been performed to great acclaim in Moscow and New York.
The I International Diana Vishneva Ballet Festival took place from 13 to 15 April 2012 in Kazan, where it transpired that Diana has Tatar roots. During the festival, audiences had the opportunity to see a classical version of the ballet Giselle. The lead roles were performed by Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes, her onstage partner at American Ballet Theatre (АВТ). There was also a gala concert featuring contemporary choreography.
In 2012 at the Bolshoi Theatre Diana performed Alexei Ratmansky’s ballet Lost Illusions, while at ABT on 4 June came the premiere of a revival of John Cranko’s ballet Onegin which Diana had dreamed of dancing for a long time. As the New York press commented, Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes’ duet in Onegin not only demonstrated the beauty of dance but also conveyed the true drama of Pushkin’s novel.
On 17 February 2013 Diana Vishneva danced Béjart’s legendary ballet Boléro in Lausanne. Following Maya Plisetskaya, she became the first Russian ballerina in a quarter of a century to perform as a guest artist with the Béjart Ballet Lausanne.