The occasion was a part of the school's "Meet the Stars" series. Previous stars featured include Prima Ballerina Maria Kochetkova.
Gennadi began his introduction with select excerpts from his dance career that included rare footage from his childhood. He shared his memories of growing up in Russia, his training at the Bolshoi Ballet School in Moscow, horizon-expanding touring trips outside of Russia and professional company experiences in Moscow and Paris, all of which helped pave the way for his joining and succeeding at the SFB.
The highlight of the fireside chat-style event was the Q & A session. Here are excerpts from the discussion:
Q. What was the extent of your family influence in shaping your career in ballet?
A. I've always had a very close relationship with my older brother who started ballet training at a young age. I basically followed his footsteps. Like many Russian mothers, our mother always dreamed of becoming a ballerina and encouraged us to pursue ballet. We took gymnastics and then gravitated more and more toward ballet.
Q. What was it like to begin training at the Bolshoi when you were only 10?
A. I missed home. A lot. But then I got used to it. All the students did. The teachers and other students all formed a community. The teachers were super strict. We worked very hard. In addition to technique classes, we were required to take classes in areas that complemented classical ballet such as music appreciation. We also had to take academic classes. I really treasure my years of training at the Bolshoi. The rigorous training equipped me with the skills to adapt to the different ballet styles of world-renowned choreographers at different companies later on. Among the strengths that make SFB outstanding are its diverse repertoire and the international composition of its company.
Q. When you were a young dancer in training, who inspired you the most?
A. Baryshnikov was my idol for a long time. As I gained more experience, my appreciation for Nureyev grew.
Q. What do you see yourself doing after you retire from performing?
A. I think I would enjoy teaching very much. One of the things I really enjoy is helping the younger SFB dancers whenever I can. I don't like for all the attention to be on the principals and soloists — the corps de ballet makes us look good in any ballet performance. It's a whole package. We must strive to enable everyone in the company to excel and shine. Only then do we all shine, even brighter, on stage.
Q. What words of wisdom would you like to impart to the young students here tonight?
A. Pay attention to your teachers. But don't be shackled by all the strict rules. Listen to your own heart. If you dance with your heart, you will enjoy it. If you enjoy it, everything will be great.
After Gennadi's talk, eager students surrounded him to ask more questions. Among these was Jordan Lian, whom Inna Bayer (founder and artistic director of the BBA) introduced as an outstanding student who, after attending the Bolshoi Ballet School's 2011 summer program in New York City, accepted the school's invitation to study year-round in Moscow beginning this fall.
"We are so proud of Jordan and her accomplishments. It has been an absolute pleasure to work with such a talented, focused, and motivated student. We are gratified to see her rigorous training bear fruit," Bayer said.
Oriana Li Halevy's daughter is a student at the academy.