Dancer Nominees for the Prix Benois 2023


Prix Benois de la Danse

Bolshoi Theatre

Moscow, Russia

June 17, 2023

by Ilona Landgraf

Copyright © 2023 by Ilona Landgraf


Eleven dancers from five nations are nominated for this year’s Prix Benois. Of the six women and five men, one dances in South-Korea, four in Russia, and two each in China, France, and Kazakhstan. This Tuesday the laureates will be announced in an award ceremony at the Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow.

Here’s a short overview on the nominees:


Malika Elchibayeva, leading soloist of the Kazakh National Opera and Ballet Theatre after Abay in Almaty, Kazakhstan, is nominated for her performance as Queen Shamkhat in “Frescoes” by Zaurbek Raibayev. Gulzhan Tutkibayeva, artistic director of the company, describes Elchibayeva as having “an outstanding appearance, beautiful texture, a professional school, and acting skills. For 5 years in the theater, Elchibayeva has performed almost all the leading parts of the ballet repertoire. In the role of the Queen Shamkhat she is organic, expressive, and managed to fully convey the idea of the ballet master Raibaev.”


Elchibayeva’s colleague Bogdan Verbovoy, also a leading soloist of the Almaty company, excelled as Romeo in Yuri Grigorovich’s version of “Romeo and Juliet”. “Bogdan Verbovoy has a highly professional school, bright expressiveness, and good physique,” reveals Tutkibayeva. “He is very convincing in the role of Romeo and fully corresponds to this type of hero, revealing Romeo’s trepidation and impulsiveness towards Juliet.”


Two nominees dance with the National Ballet of China in Beijing. Qiu Yunting, who was promoted to Prima Ballerina at an impressive speed, is nominated for her interpretation of Tatiana in John Cranko’s “Onegin”.Li Wentao, a principal dancer of the Beijing company, has gained experience on international stages before joining the National Ballet of China in 2017. Among others, he danced with the Dutch National Ballet and the Bavarian State Ballet in Munich. Wentao’s performance as the title role in Cranko’s “Onegin” won him the nomination for the Prix Benois.


Nikita Ksenofontov, principal dancer of the Novosibirsk State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, Russia, won his ticket to the Prix Benois thanks to the role of Ivan in “The Little Humpbacked Horse” by Alexander Radunsky (revised version by Mikhail Messerer). Ksenofontov’s coach Roman Polkovnikov was unequivocal: “Nikita is a very talented and technically gifted dancer. And most importantly, a real artist! Add to that his pure smile and natural blonde hair. And here it is! An extraordinary and perfect Ivan from my point of view! Such a rare and unique coincidence cannot go unnoticed!”


Principal dancer Misun Kang has experience from a twenty-one-year long career with the Universal Ballet in Seoul, South-Korea. The company’s artistic director Bingxian Liu describes her as a ballerina who is “overwhelming the stage with her solid technique and powerful charisma; she is called ‘Gosh Misun’ among ballet fans and boasts a strong fandom. In addition, she is a ballerina who shows her best every moment drawing upon her rich expressiveness and unique acting skills. She captures the choreographer’s intention and – using her energy and sensibility – elaborates the role, resonates more beautifully with it, and expresses it warmly and sharply on stage. A dancer who you can fully trust on and off stage.” Kang dances “from the bottom of her heart”, he adds.Kang is nominated for her performance of the Widow in Liu’s “Mirinaegil”, where she portrays a woman who longs for her husband after he has left her.


The Bolshoi Ballet’s newly appointed principal Elizaveta Kokoreva is among the nominees for her interpretation of Perdita in Christopher Wheeldon’s “The Winter’s Tale”. “Liza and I prepared this part in a fairly short time,” her coach Maria Allash recalls. “The nature of Perdita suits Liza rather well, as she is just as cheerful, light, young, and impetuous. There are no trifles in working on the role for Elizabeth, everything is detailed, scrupulous, significant. And I have to add that while preparing for her role, she always tries to get as much information as possible; she is always interested in previous performers.”


Alexey Putintsev, first soloist of the Bolshoi Ballet, joined the candidates for the Prix Benois after his performance of the revolutionary Philippe in Vasily Vainonen’s “The Flames of Paris”. “The ballet sets very serious requirements,” his coach Andrei Bolotin commented laconically. Having seen it recently, I can only agree. You need to be on top of your game to lead and succeed in the French Revolution.


May Nagahisa, first soloist of the Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg, is nominated for her Princess Aurora in “The Sleeping Beauty” (Konstantin Sergeev’s version after Petipa). Dorothée Gilbert and Hugo Marchand, both etoiles of the Paris Opera Ballet, are nominated for their performances of Mary Vetsera and Crown Prince Rudolf in Kenneth MacMillan’s “Mayerling”. Sadly, neither company wanted to contribute to this article.(The comments have been edited for clarity.)


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Landgraf on Dance