(Photo: A 'snowflake' watches from the wings)
For ballet dancers all over the world, performing as a principal dancer within a company is the ultimate achievement. We caught up with soloist Natalia Romanova of Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet to ask her about her life as a young professional ballet dancer.
Q: Please tell me a little bit about yourself. Have you always wanted to be a dancer, how long have you been dancing, and how long have you been a member of Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet?
A: My name is Natalia Romanova, I studied at the Vaganova Ballet Academy and was fortunate to be trained by the legendary dancer Natalia Dudinskaya. In 2007 I joined Saint Petersburg Classic Ballet since when I have worked as a soloist under the tutelage of Marina Medvetskaya.
Q: How long do dancers prepare for a big production like The Nutcracker or Swan Lake? How many hours training are involved?
A: We are constantly training, performing and fine tuning 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. 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 not a 9 to 5 job.
Q: While on tour, what is a typical day like?
A: If it’s not a travel day we usually stay in a local hotel, we have breakfast and then head to the theatre for warm up class with the dance mistress usually starting at 10am. A break for lunch, 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. Then we break for tea and get hair and make-up ready for showtime. If we don’t have a matinee, shows start at 7.30pm and finish at 11’ish, so we change and sleep!
Q: What do most of the dancers do to relax? What do they do in their spare time?
A: 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.
Q: How old is your oldest dancer? What is the typical retirement age?
A: 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.
Q: What is your favourite dance, what do you think will impress audiences the most?
A: I think everyone looks forward to seeing the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, it’s technically very demanding but such a joy to perform. The dual role of Odette and Odile in Swan Lake is also challenging but adds to the magic of the production.
Q: What is your favourite thing about being a ballerina?
A: Performing to audiences all over the world. It’s wonderful 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 magical to take people on a story-telling journey with you.
Book tickets to The Nutcracker (Sat 29 - Mon 31 Dec) and Swan Lake (Tue 1 Jan 2019) HERE