Ksenia, you’ve became a Prima ballerina a week ago. What were your feelings when Laurent Hilaire announced it after the performance?
In reality, I was totally shocked. At the beginning I didn’t even understand what was happening. Very strange and awkward…
There was no such a tradition in the theatre to announce about new assignments from the stage, Laurent discovered it for Russia.
That moment I thought – “It is so pompous around me again”. When I was graduating my teacher Sitnikova Irina Alexandrovna told me – “While going to the theatre don’t show off yourself. Dress on modestly”. And I came with the almost shaved head and remembered her words. Such a story is on the repeat with me every time, I try not to show off, but anyhow everything is very pompous.
We had an interview a year ago and I think this year has become very enchanting and rich for you. Then you told about your premiere in The Swan Lake.
Oh, it was already a year ago?
And now you are finally a Prima-ballerina. Haven’t you been thinking on the fact that you are Prima now?
No, I haven’t been thinking on it yet and totally don’t feel it. It seems, I haven’t realized yet.
During this year you’ve had really successful new leading parts – The Swan Lake, Manon, Suite en Blanc… A year ago, you probably didn’t think that you would manage to dance so many roles in one season?
This is my job I have to do. In the beginning I didn’t have a plan to become a Prima ballerina or to dance one or another performance. I am just coming and doing my job. And the director decides to give a new role or to appoint for the upper position according to the professional results.
Of course, since now it is more difficult, because all further performances and stage appearances will be judged like the dance of Prima. It is another edge of responsibility… But me, I am still the same… I don’t know, we’ll see.
I don’t dream, I have the reality to exist here and now.
What was the reaction of your teacher? What did Margarita Sergeyevna tell you? (Margarita Drozdova, Ksenia’s teacher in the theatre)
She hasn’t expected too. I asked her – “Margarita Sergeyevna, did you know?” – and she answered – “No, I didn’t know anything”. Speaking the truth, there is so much attention towards it now, although I came through all the steps in the theatre, starting from the moment when I was sitting at the bench during the performance. I had even those parts. I was dancing deuces, threes, I was in corps de ballet, nobody noticed me. But maybe that occasion in Munich switched the situation. Although I was dancing in Mayerling starting from the first year. In reality, many of the dancers in theatre are not noticed, it is all by act of Chance. Of course, I was lucky, by still I haven’t appeared from nowhere to dance solos immediately.
So the good luck played a big role in your life?
Yes. When I entered the theatre, the first part I’ve danced was the deuce of girlfriends in Don Quixote, because one of the girls was ill and I’ve performed instead. The choreographer who was staging Mayerling saw that performance and she noticed me. As a result, I got into the Mayerling cast. It is like the chain of chances. In Munich it was also by chance. And since it is kept rolling in a same manner.
But you use these chances, you come and do, in spite of there were rapid replacement, for example…
My mother told me when I was a child – “You don’t do your home task well. If I do my job badly, I would be dismissed. You should also do your job well, your home task is your job”. I remembered this, everyone should be at his place and do his job high-qualitatively.
I know that you are a realist, you treat yourself with critics, but at the same time you are very open and communicative, and your colleagues appreciate these qualities. Don’t you think there is too much self-criticism in you?
I try not to treat myself with total critics, ballet people often do this – “Oh, I do everything badly, I am ugly, I have no coordination”. I try to look at myself adequately. I know what I can do well or badly. The director who gives you that job supposes you can do it, and you must do, must achieve the impossible and improve yourself. Of course, I don’t have all physical abilities, something I never may get. But I can try to hide it.
Have you already learned how to hide your weaknesses behind your strengths in the leading roles?
Yes, I’ve always tried, even in corps de ballet. Here is not so important if you lead the performance or not. Hope I can do my best in it – to hide what I don’t get, I hope so much.
Do you have a fear while leading the performance?
I was never afraid of leading the ballets, I have my own view how it should be. Maybe, someone doesn’t agree with my point of view, but anyhow I get it and I am glad for it. I always have a very evident idea for one or another part and it makes me absolute fearless.
When you are preparing a part, do you think if the audience is going to like it or just doing it for yourself?
No, I don’t think about it at all. I think about what I should carry to the audience. The Art shouldn’t cause the absolute love, it can be unpleasant, ugly, disgusting. And our roles can be unpleasant. There is a wish to make your hero a good one, but negative heroes always exist and there is no need to justify them. This is also in life, it is real.
That’s why I think only about how it could be in reality, but not how it could be over-sugared. I don’t want to have a narrow look into this part of creative process.
For example, Manon… Many people say – “Manon has to act like this…” No, she hasn’t. Today she is one, tomorrow she is another. This is theatre, neither cinema, nor photography, every time something new, absolutely different. It seems, this is what develops and fulfils us. Everything may happen on stage, you rehearse with one emotion and on stage feel totally different.
You can’t pre-feel these emotions, the performance is an alive essence, and your part is alive, you are alive on stage, and then it is interesting. But audience may not always love. That’s why I am not going to make them always love it, let but receive them all kind of emotions – negative or positive, but to receive them!
The Art shouldn’t cause the absolute love, it can be unpleasant, ugly, disgusting.
Your relationships with Margarita Sergeyevna in the rehearsal studio are rather informal. She is very responsive to you and your feelings…
But she can say something strictly. If she realizes that something is bad for me or doesn’t match me she just comes and says – “No, you won’t do it. This is bad, and you don’t understand it is bad”. I totally believe her in this case. And it is really surprising that all the ballerinas she is tutoring are absolutely different. She never imposes her interpretation.
Yes, she told in the interview that the individuality is very important for her.
Yes, when we do class in relaxed manner, chatting or confusing the combinations, I understand that ballerinas should not probably behave like this. We should be collected; I have come for working in studio. And we are laughing, discussing dresses, me – sometimes sandwiches. She stops us, sometimes she becomes angry: “I’ll give you cross combination or just leave”. Of course it irritates her. But she gives freedom even for this and it is really surprising that we continue to work for self-improvements and do not become closed. I think she was like us, that’s why she lets us do it (smiling).
Ksyusha, did you have inner changes during this year?
Sometimes looking at the lives of your past classmates, you think that people have already changed the theatre, got married, made children, or just changed the profession and I am sitting at the kitchen and nothing is changing. But it comes out, that I also have changes – I am a Prima ballerina and I am preparing new roles. Maybe it is just restricted by work. Probably I have inner changes, but I don’t notice it. Saying this – I have inner changes, but I haven’t changed myself.
Sometimes Laurent is rehearsing with you. Does he add the new shades to your roles, which are unusual to our performing culture?
We started rehearsing Giselle. I re-watched the performing of Kolpakova, Tereshkina, Osipova and other Russian ballerinas trying to catch the manner, the spirit. Today Laurent came to the rehearsals and added the accents different from those we get. But it is normal, it is interesting.
So I will have totally different heroine, the language of my body will be different, I will speak other things. For creating my part, I have read different literature about Giselle to understand what my heroine will be like. But I would also like to make it different in a physical way, his comments will help me to do it in different style.
Not long ago you participated in The Big Ballet project, that would be soon translated on TV Channel Culture. Who prepared the repertoire for you?
All together. I think all the theatre helped me. I remember when Laurent offered me to participate in that project, I thought – “What I will show? Whom can I surprise? I can do nothing”. And I decided to make the emphasis on having seven programs, in which I could show different heroines and be absolutely different.
I know, you’ve told many times that you are not the ballerina of the competition and that you don’t like contests. But this is more than a competition with all this TV-shooting process that makes it more difficult.
Yes, but I didn’t think about it as of the contest, but more as of the show. It seems, I was very skeptic towards it.
The lack of audience and the presence of cameras – were they preventing you?
No, I didn’t care. While I am dancing on stage, I do not think if the spectators are looking at me. Because one is looking at me, the other – at a partner, the third – at the curtains. I can’t preview when people are watching exactly at me.
I think you put the tasks in a line in a very mathematical way – what, how and when you should do?
Of course, I may put them in a line, but the moment I am dancing, the thoughts can be stirred. It often happens last time, I am dancing, dancing… and forget the order. Simply a blank slate.
Behind the curtains of The Big Ballet you astonished everyone with your meticulousness in creating images – hair, make-up, costumes. Someone told you are capricious…
Really? They already say so?
This meticulousness about your hair, your make-up – is that also a part of the job that has to be done?
Yes, everyone must do his job, everyone must do it well, and I can’t do it well if I don’t like my hair style. The spectator perceives us in a first moment of our appearance. Like in life, good clothes open all doors. If I appear with a hair bunch hanging lower my neck and I am dancing Giselle, it is inappropriate, because every hero has the image. I think it is very important. More, you can’t appear being unpleasant to yourself. This is a part of the confidence. Maybe, I pay too much attention to details, but I suppose I am right.
The elder colleagues in the theatre learned me this. And now, when I see such imperfections among the younger artists – such as broken or dirty ribbons, or terrible dark blue shadows up to the brow line, I feel no shame to come and say that it breaks out the concept of the show, this is not good. Maybe, somebody will judge me as an arrogant girl with over self-conceit, but I think that I really want to help. To help making a performance comprehensive without distracting moments.
You are for traditions in the theatre, are you?
Probably, yes. I am for hazing!
You mentioned the confidence, are you confident woman and ballerina?
No, I am very unconfident and trying to hide it. I think, people see it. Of course, I have some inner complexes as all other people. When I am talking about them people say – “Oh, you.. No, you don’t have.” I simply know my weaknesses and trying to get rid of them, to hide them for other people don’t notice.
Are you vain?
I don’t know, difficult to answer this question.
For an artist?
Yes, for an artist. And for a person, I think. I do not have that burden of honours pupil, but maybe it should be. I always think – “I should do like this. Come on, nobody needs it.” You want to do well, but the result is the same.
What are the things inspiring you?
I think, when the water flows, it inspires me. You are looking at the water and lots of thoughts appear, it seems like they also start to flow. I am the water sign by horoscope, maybe because of this I feel well beside the water.
Are you living a present moment? Or you built your life approaching to something in future?
I am living the reality. I don’t dream, I have the reality to exist here and now. When I am dancing on stage, during the first appearance I am thinking just about it, not about coda, for example.
Why do you deny social media?
I think nobody is interested in my life at all, and for me it is even less interesting to show off. I have nothing to post, nothing to share, maybe. Hardly, anybody wants to know if I have danced the Swan Lake or not. Those who care, they already know it.
Imagine, in ten years you are reading this interview, what would be your message to yourself?
I would say – good girl (laughing)!
Interview Alisa Aslanova
Photo Karina Zhitkova
MUAH Nika Kostina