An interview with award-winning ballerina Oksana Bondareva, who has performed in 47 countries and continues her professional career with the world's leading ballet company Mariinsky.
The Mariinsky Ballet, also known as the Russian Imperial Ballet, has its roots in the 18th century and is one of the leading ballet companies in the world. What is it like to be a part of this deep-rooted family?
I am happy to be in Mariinsky. Within the walls of this place is the great history of ballet and talented artists. I am glad to be together with legendary names such as Komleva, Selyutsky, Terekhova and Makhalina. They are privileged teachers and artists. Every scene I buy here is a gift from my destiny.
I still remember the answer that the famous ballerina Alexandra Ansanelli gave during her interview with Elle magazine: “The dream of being a ballerina is a temporary pleasure for many - it's not even more serious than the dream of being a princess” So how did you decide to become a ballerina? Almost every girl has a tutu (ballerina costume) at a young age. However, it takes great dedication to follow this dream and conclude it.
This is quite an interesting question. I started taking artistic gymnastics training at the age of four and the idea of becoming a ballerina never crossed my mind. I even found ballet boring! It was my mother's big dream to be a ballerina, and it seems she made that dream come true with me. My love for ballet started the first day I stepped on the stage. My connection with this wonderful art had turned into love.
Your dance is quite fluid and dazzling. I guess this is possible with a rigorous training program that takes hours and days.?
We work between 5 and 7 hours a day. Some days even more. Warm-up and classical ballet lessons in the morning, then rehearsals. After spending the whole day in dance halls, we perform on stage in the evening.
How is your relationship with choreographers?
I love learning. Replays and choreography give me energy to work and improve my skills. My relationship with the choreographers is good. Another thing I am lucky about is that many works are suitable for my body structure and emotions. We danced the Nutcracker Ballet, choreographed by Nacho Duato, with Leonid Sarafanov. We also danced Orpheus and Eurydice Ballet staged by Mariinsky Theater choreographer Yuri Smekalov with Mariinsky Principal Ballet Vladimir Shklyarov. I also had the opportunity to work with distinguished choreographers such as Ivan Vasiliev, Mikhail Venshchikov and Oleg Gabyshev.
All works have their own unique structures and subtleties, but which works are in your favorite repertoire? What are the most challenging works for you?
I like to try different roles. First of all, I am trying to be a female artist who does classical ballet. I love Juliet and Carmen, Kitri and Lisa from La Fille mal gardée… Many colorful characters and short durations.
Contests are inevitable for classical music artists. We see that Bale is also included in this circle. So why all the rush? Is it important to get into a prestigious institution? What is your comment on the realities of the industry?
I was a little girl from Dnepropetrovsk, a small Ukrainian town, who dreamed of entering a big ballet institution. My response to the competitions was just to show off my skills. Being a little better than other ballerinas earns you nothing, but if you can do five more pirouettes (spinning on one leg) than others, you'll be on the winners' podium. We need competitions to show ourselves.
You have a very large fan base on social media, but I still think there should be more because there are great pictures that are difficult to produce and require effort. No post is ordinary, aesthetic and artistic. Nowadays, most ballet artists take pictures with their dance and positions at the center of daily life, outside the stage. Do you think a ballerina is a more interesting object at the bus stop or on the street rather than on stage?
Thanks for your compliments about my account. I share my posts with love and for myself. Although many users prefer posts that contain nudity, I do not forget that I am a ballerina. I think it's quite impressive that ballerinas appear on stage under that magical light, appearing in the subway or other areas. Artists and people love it.
There are 6 State Opera and Ballet Directorates in our country. According to the exam results announced in March 2021, the total number of students who will register for ballet is 17. If the interest in ballet continues to decline in this way, we will not be able to find an artist to perform in 20 years. What's your situation? Is interest in this fine art decreasing or increasing?
I feel sorry for your country and I share this feeling with all artists and readers. I am also ready to come to your country and dance. I think that Russia appreciates and encourages ballet and art. Stages were briefly closed during the pandemic; That's a pretty short time compared to the rest of the world. I am happy to be in Russia and wish the epidemic to end as soon as possible.
Does your art make a living? Do you need private lessons or work in different fields for financial support?
As long as I dance, I am financially free. We have our own group and we strive to show ourselves in the international arena. We need investors who love and support art.
Is starting a family dangerous for a ballerina in terms of career? What are your future plans?
I think the opposite. Family will not hinder you but will help you move forward. A family is like your shelter. You can see a bright life only when you have a family. In this way, you gain strength to work harder.
Your contribution is very valuable to us, thank you. What would be your advice to young ballerinas? If there is anything else you would like to mention here, please share your views with us.
I would like to remind those who will be interested in ballet professionally… This branch of art will take all your time and life from you. You won't have weekends or long vacations anymore, you will feel pain all the time, along with all this, you will have rehearsals and stages. You must have succeeded by the age of 40. After this point, you will no longer be able to dance with your old flexibility. Ballet requires great dedication. Thank you for asking my opinion and for this nice interview.