How old were you when you first started to dance ballet?
I was five. My mother enrolled me into a rhythmic gymnastics club. Four years later I was accepted into formal ballet school. It was very hard work and even as a nine-year-old, you are expected to be very serious about your commitment. The reality is much tougher than a small child expects. But if you are passionate, you love the experience too.
What’s your favourite scene from The Nutcracker?
I really like the scene where the Drosselmeir makes the Nutcracker alive and the little girl Clara sees a true Prince. The fairytale intertwines with the reality... On one side is the love Drosselmeir has for Clara, and on the other side is a fairytale that he creates for her... And of course the Pas De Deux of the second act, which is very vibrant, beautiful and harmonious. It’s a ballet with lots of childlike imagery. Father Christmas makes an appearance and the dancing toys are lovely. That’s also why it’s such a popular performance amoung families.
How energetic is The Nutcracker, compared to other classical ballets?
It’s a very dynamic performance because the tale itself is quite complicated and we need to express all the different aspects of the story through our dancing. But every ballet has it’s nuances. It’s rather difficult to compare one to another.
Dancing the prima role is extremely demanding. How do you keep your energy levels up?
The most important thing is the correct internal composure. You have to be focused and calm and let the performance carry you away with it – so you are the character you are dancing. Of course, maintaining a healthy diet and being dedicated to your training is also essential.
How many hours a day do you spend dancing and rehearsing?
During the tour it can easily be as much as 10 hours a day or more. It’s intense. You have to be extremely focused. There is no room for laziness at all!
That must burn up a lot of calories. Do ballerinas eat a lot of cake and chocolate?
Each ballerina has her own diet. I can afford to eat some sweets, but not much because the demand on our bodies means we have to make sure we are properly nourished with good quality food that will keep our muscles strong. Thankfully, I really love meat, fish and seafood, which is perfect!
The Moscow City Ballet travels extensively. How do you manage training and performing in different time zones?
Sometimes it can be very, very hard - at times almost unbearable. But the outcome is always the same. Once you appear on the stage, you forget about your pain and fatigue. You live that time as your heroine, immersed in the character you are performing – and then, you feel unimaginable happiness.
You must spend a lot of time away from your family.
Yes, long separations are definitely one of the downsides of touring, and this is a very hard topic for me personally. I am a homely person and I don’t find it easy being away from my loved ones. We are lucky in this day and age that technology can ease pangs of homesickness. Regular phone calls on Skype do help a lot.
How many pairs of shoes do you get through in a season?
I use Gaynor pointe shoes, which are the type worn by over 200 professional ballet companies. They fit really well and are quiet when you are dancing. Nobody wants to hear the thumping of feet during a tricky and graceful performance. They are quite expensive – more than $100 a pair. I usually go through four to five pairs during a tour, which is pretty good considering how much wear they get!
Do your toes hurt a lot from going en pointe?
Yes, they do hurt, sometime quite a bit. It’s an occupational hazard unfortunately! I use various gels, baths to soothe them.
Name three key personality traits every successful ballerina must have
Love for what you do is essential. You cannot be a good ballerina unless you are passionate about it. You have to be prepared to work hard – and you also have to be determined.
What’s your advice for budding ballerinas out there?
Don’t let the hardship, disappointment, pain or exceptional physical stress deter you from your goal. Always believe in yourself, reach for your dreams and most importantly, enjoy the dance.
What are you most looking forward to during this latest trip to the UAE?
The same thing I look forward to during every performance – no matter where it may be; dancing for an engaged audience - and of course, lots of applause!
Tickets start from Dhs200-350. Performances on December 11 at 4.30pm and 8pm, December 12 and 13 at 3pm and 7.30pm at DUCTAC. December 15 and 16 at Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi. Tickets available from www.timeouttickets.com.