Australian Dance Reviews

Book review: ‘From Small Steps to Big Leaps’ by Vadim Muntagirov

'From Small Steps to Big Leaps' by Vadim Muntagirov.
'From Small Steps to Big Leaps' by Vadim Muntagirov.

Book: From Small Steps to Big Leaps
Author: Vadim Muntagirov, Grosvenor House Publishing Limited, June 2023.

Vadim Muntagirov’s From Small Steps to Big Leaps is a fascinating, warmly written, intimate book that gives us an insight into the man and his work. It is divided into four parts with 16 chapters. Again, though, it is a book that needs an index but doesn’t have one. For us Aussies, there are mentions of Gary Norman, Gailene Stock and Maina Gielgud.

Vadim’s book is lengthy and provides an absorbing insight into the ballet world, examining his training and life with the English National Ballet and then The Royal Ballet. Muntagirov details various experiences that have formed him and working with assorted top-flight eminences in the ballet world and simultaneously letting readers know more about him as a person.

One of the most celebrated dancers of our era, Vadim was born in Chelyabinsk in the Urals. His parents, Alexander and Irena, were also dancers, along with his sister Eleanora. Both Vadim and his sister left home to study in Perm. Vadim won the Prix de Lausanne and with it a scholarship to The Royal Ballet School. Vadim writes about arriving in London aged 16 with a language barrier of no English, the rigorous training, being cast as Albrecht in English National Ballet’s Giselle aged 19, and dancing Siegfried in Swan Lake at The Royal Albert Hall to considerable acclaim less than a year after graduating. With the nickname Vadream, Vadim has had an exceptional career both in the UK and as an international guest and is treasured and venerated globally.

'From Small Steps to Big Leaps' by Vadim Muntagirov.

The book looks at the ferociously hard work and sense of Vocation required to become a Principal dancer and remain – how Vadim’s mind and body work, the draining effect of separation from his family, the encounters of a dance world other than his homeland, and the bounteous support he has received in his adopted country both as a student and during his years performing. (He is now a UK citizen.)

He tables the various roles and productions he has been in (e.g. The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, A Winter’s Tale, 19 different versions of Swan Lake, La Fille Mal Gardee, Symphonic Variations, Manon, Alice in Wonderland, The Two Pigeons, A Month in the Country, Romeo and Juliet, Raymonda, Jewels and Mayerling, and which works are filmed or not.

Vadim writes about his training, working with assorted partners (particularly Daria Klimentova), adapting and adjusting to roles, various choreographers, coaches and répétiteur, (e.g. Irek Mukhmadov and Christopher Wheeldon), how international travel can affect him and life in London, the interviews, casual moments, social streaming, and the many bits and pieces that come with the job. As well, he details how he prepares for a role and assorted possible hassles, and also since 2020 how Covid has affected everyone’s life with the Royal Opera House being closed for a while. Vadim has also done some coaching, mostly via Zoom but also some infrequently in person. To Vadim, almost everything is for his father.

This is a marvellous, insightful book.

By Lynne Lancaster of Dance Informa.

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