Watch: This Russian ballerina paints with her feet while dancing

Ilmira Bagautdinova, recently in Dubai, seamlessly merges these two art forms into captivating performances that mesmerise audiences worldwide

by

Somya Mehta

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Published: Thu 16 May 2024, 5:50 PM

Last updated: Fri 17 May 2024, 11:03 PM

In the world of dance and art, few individuals dare to tread uncharted territories where movement meets stillness, where a canvas becomes a stage, and where the brush is guided by the delicate steps of a ballerina. Ilmira Bagautdinova, a Russian ballerina, seamlessly merges these two art forms into captivating performances that mesmerise audiences worldwide.

Introducing a one-of-a-kind approach to artistry, Ilmira is among the world's first artists to craft a beautiful painting while gracefully dancing on pointe, a new technique that promises audiences an unforgettable journey of emotions. With each delicate movement, she effortlessly transfers her creativity onto canvas, painting with her fingertips in real time.


In 2021, the ballerina splashed news headlines across the globe with her brave feat of dancing on the frozen waters of Batareinaya Bay in Russia. Undeterred by the biting chill, she captured the hearts of netizens as she ventured into the icy expanse, in a bold and beautiful act of defiance against climate injustice.

Following her recent performances at World Art Dubai, Ilmira graciously shared insights into her pioneering artform, blending live ballet with painting, unveiling the inspirations, challenges, and triumphs that shape her artistic journey.


The genesis of Ilmira’s groundbreaking method can be traced back to a serendipitous moment in 2007 during a photoshoot, where she found herself adorned in paint while donning pointe shoes and a tutu. This encounter sparked a curiosity that would later evolve into the artistic fusion she’s known for today.

“Interestingly, even during my time at ballet academy, where I was training to become a choreographer, I chose the subject of ballet in painting for my thesis. It wasn't until the beginning of 2023 that this idea came to fruition, thanks to a series of fortunate circumstances,” says Ilmira.

Her artistic process, she explains, is a delicate dance between movement and stillness, creativity and discipline. “The essence of my performance lies in the simultaneous execution of ballet movements on pointe while painting on canvas in real time. It's a symbiotic relationship where each art form enhances and complements the other, creating a harmonious symphony of motion and colour.”

Drawing inspiration from luminaries such as Joseph Albers and Merce Cunningham, Ilmira embraces their teachings on performance and movement. Like Albers, she believes that art is concerned not just with what is depicted but with how it is performed.

“In one of the friendly conversations with the art historian Anna Voronkova, who has Sotheby’s Institute of Art Certificates and Master's degree in contemporary conceptual art practices we discussed my method. She drew a number of historical parallels between my art and the studies of Joseph Albers and Merce Cunningham,” she adds.

“Albers explained to his students at the experimental educational institution Black Mountain College that ‘Art is concerned with the HOW, not with the WHAT. Not with the literal content, but the performance of the content. The performance—how it is done—that is the content of Art’. My method is fully rooted in this idea,” says Ilmira.

From her admiration for architecture to her love for poetry, every brushstroke and pirouette tells a story. “Every performance and every painting contains meaning and emotion. Some convey my admiration for architecture, certain musical compositions, some reflect my love for poetry.”

“Why do I draw with pointe shoes? Because I think that, literally, my legs have gone on a long artistic journey. They have been to so many countries and on such stages that they deserve their own right to express in colours all that they have to go through,” says the artist.

Balancing the technical demands of ballet with the spontaneity of painting is no small feat, yet Ilmira approaches it with grace and determination. Her extensive experience as a ballerina, coupled with meticulous preparation in the studio, allows her to seamlessly transition between the two art forms, creating a Gesamtkunstwerk—a total work of art—that captivates and enthrals.

“Although this is a difficult and challenging task, it is an extraordinary opportunity to be creative. My extensive experience as a ballerina is of great help,” says Ilmira. “For my artistic soul, it's pure delight. Every performance is unique and in each performance, I strive to fully engage with the audience. And when you have given your all, you experience the incredible sight of smiles and joy.”

somya@khaleejtimes.com

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