A fantastic show is coming to Symphony Hall. Marina Medvetskaya’s Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet will be performing Tchaikovsky’s classic Swan Lake on Saturday 7th January accompanied by a live orchestra. Tickets can be bought here: www.thsh.co.uk/event/st-petersburg-classic-ballet-swan-lake
We have an interview with one of the company’s principal dancers Natalia Romanova.
Natalia Romanova Q&A
Natalia is a graduate of the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet and studied under the tutelage of the legendary ballerina Natalya Dudinskaya. After graduation she joined the Yakobson State Ballet Company as a soloist. In 1994 she joined the State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre (The Maly). In 1998 she joined the Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet. Her performances include Don Quixote, Swan Lake, The Flames of Paris, Diana and Actaeon, La Bayadère, Le Corsaire, Esmeralda and Venetian Carnival. She has toured extensively inside Russia, as well as in Japan, South Korea, Finland, Norway, Greece, Germany and the United States.
Why did you decide to become a professional ballerina?
“I have always wanted to be a dancer ever since I can remember. Dance, particularly ballet is a huge part of our culture, dating back to 17th Century so we all learn about it in school and it’s a big part of our lives.”
How difficult is it to be accepted by Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet? What is expected from dancers at the rehearsal process?
“Competition is fierce with all ballet companies, but Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet is more like a family, a team. Compared with some of the companies in Russia we’re a new, young and fresh ballet company. Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet was form in 1996 by Marina Medvetskaya.
Marina Medvetskaya is the Artistic Director a disciple of the legendary Vakhtang Chaboukiani, and Prima Ballerina of the Tbilisi State Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, where she danced all the leading roles in classical and contemporary works, as well as working with Alexander Plesetsky and Mikhael Lavrovsky. With her experience and reputation she expects a lot from us, but we have all graduated from excellent dance school and want to be the best we can be.”
How long do dancers prepare for a big production like The Nutcracker/Swan Lake? How many hours training are involved?
“We are constantly training, performing and fine turning our dancing and acting skills throughout the year. We tour all over the world so it’s not like we have to prepare for a one off production, it is just a way of life. Each time we dance The Nutcracker or Swan Lake or another ballet from the companies repertories we just try and make it that little bit better for the audience.”
There is a slight exception as we’re premiering a new version on The Nutcracker so we have spent several months getting that right and working with the new set. On a performance day we have dance class all morning and afternoon, then the performance. It’s important to be warmed up properly. It’s certainly way of life rather than a 9 to 5 job”
Do dancers have to adhere to a strict diet while touring? If so, what’s included?
“Yes, again it’s not just on tour when you’re a dancer you have to be careful what you eat. Obviously nutrient is very important, dancing is physically demanding but as a dancer remaining a constant weight for the lifts etc. is important. It’s a balance and we have people within the company to help keep us health and advise on diets”
While on tour, what is a typical day like? (typical schedule – what time do dancers wake up, when do they rehearse?)
“If it’s not a travel day we usually stay in a local hotel, we have a light breakfast and them head to the theatre for warm up class with the dance mistress usually starting at 10am. A break for lunch, sometimes meet local school children for photo calls. Then it’s back to warm up class usually on the barres in the afternoon.
We don’t tend to do dress rehearsals unless something has changed dramatically as we know the performance well. So break for tea, and then get hair and makeup ready for showtime. If we don’t have a matinee shows start at 7.30pm and finish at 11ish, so change and sleep!”
What do most of the dancers do to relax? What do they do in their spare time?
“If on tour we try and take in a bit of the city we’re staying in but usually we don’t get much time. At home any free time is a great opportunity to catch up with family and friends, go to the cinema and yes even go and watch a ballet. I still try every day to train though.
In movies like Black Swan, we see dancers under extreme pressure? Is this type of pressure typical in real life?
Not at the companies I have worked for. You hear stories about the competitive nature of the business and fighting for roles but Im not sure. I think it’s down the individually dancer and artistic director and how they want that particular part to be performed.”
How old is your oldest dancer? What is the typical retirement age?
“Our company is fairly young, I don’t think age is really relevant, it’s more down to what your body is telling you. Dancing puts a lot of pressure on your joints so I suppose when my body tells me to stop I will have to. But not for a long while.”
What is your favourite dance in The Nutcracker / Swan Lake? What do you think will impress Irish audiences the most?
“I think The Black Swan Pas de deux is a particular favourite of mine for Swan Lake, and I know audiences love The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and The Waltz of the Flowers in The Nutcracker. I’m looking forward to showcasing our new Nutcracker for the first time in Ireland.”
What do you think of ballet in Ireland? It seems to be treated as a ‘hobby’ instead of a potential profession in this country – what could we do to change that?
“Ballet is a huge part of our culture it goes back generations. We have an infrastructure of dance schools and ballet companies and there’s pathway for young dancers to follow. So I think it will take a few years for Ireland to development that, hopefully the country and the people will want it one day.”
What is your favourite thing about being a ballerina?
“Performing to audience all over the world. It’s great to see and hear the reaction that the ballet has on people. The live orchestra always adds a special buzz to the performance and it’s magically to take people on a story-telling journey with you.”
When this tour ends, what’s next?
“We finish in March and then we’ll go back home, maybe have a week off and then back to class.”