The Ballet Company of La Scala in Milan boasts a group of six young dancers who have rapidly risen through the ranks to become principals – the highest level aside from the rarely appointed ‘étoile’. Several are starting to make waves outside Italy’s borders, while others, surely, are just about to, and all are dancing in the opera house’s lavish new production of La Bayadère.
he undisputed queen is Nicoletta Manni with her prestigious technique and regal attitude. After completing her training at La Scala’s famous dancing school, she danced with the Berlin State Ballet before returning to Milan to be promoted quickly to the top echelon of dancers. A particular characteristic of the principal dancers at La Scala is that most are also offstage partners, and Nicoletta and Timofej Andrijashenko have been a couple for several years. Timofej was born in Riga in Latvia, which is also the hometown of Mikhail Baryshnikov, and became a principal dancer with the company in 2018. He is blessed with a danseur noble figure, having elegant proportions and innate grace.
Other onstage and offstage couples are Virna Toppi and Nicola Del Freo. Virna became a principal in 2018 and is known for playing strong characters like Myrtha in Giselle, which was recorded and broadcast during the closure of the theatre due to Covid-19, and she danced the imperious role of Aegina in Spartacus when she was guest principal with the Bavarian State Ballet in Munich. She plays the forceful Gamzatti in La Bayadère at La Scala. Nicola studied at the Hamburg Ballet School and has recently been promoted as a leading dancer with the company. His physical prowess and meticulous control are thrilling, and he is an exciting new addition to the roster of La Scala talent.
Martina Arduino – whose partner, Marco Agostino, will be promoted to principal during 2022 – rose to the upper rank when she was just 21. The great choreographer Alexei Ratmansky chose the bubbly teenager in the corps de ballet to play the leading roles of Odette and Odile in his Swan Lake, and she consolidated her position two years later with a magnificent Kitri in Don Quixote, with Marco in the leading male role. Claudio Coviello is another prodigy who also was only 21 when promoted. This took place soon after he had stepped in at the very last minute for the injured Russian star Ivan Vasiliev as Quasimodo in Roland Petit’s ballet Notre-Dame de Paris. The unknown Claudio had learnt the role for a single matinée performance, yet in the evening he found himself back on stage. He’s proved his worth with a string of beautifully danced roles.
La Scala’s sensational group of young talent is lighting the way to a bright future.