Viktoria Tereshkina: "... I would like to have in my repertoire something created specially for me".
Starting the new, 239th season at the Mariinsky Theatre, we cannot skip the magnificent performances of one of the main modern Russian ballet stars, prima ballerina Viktoria Tereshkina.
Quivering, but bright and possessing enormous inner strength, Juliet appeared on stage in the very first ballet performance of the season 21/22, and recently Viktoria once again amazed the audience with the depth and femininity of one of the most beloved heroines of Russian classical literature - Anna Karenina in the ballet of the same name by Alexei Ratmansky. Viktoria's magnificent technique and strong emotional involvement, a full of sincerity duet with Xander Parish, who absolutely naturally embodied the image of a young Russian nobleman, all this allowed the audience to “live” the performance with its characters.
Moreover, we have talked with Viktoria about her career and life, experience and interesting stories, difficulties and joys brought by the profession. There's the English version and a video bonus.
Viktoria, this year the Mariinsky Theatre made an artistic evening dedicated to the twentieth anniversary of your dancing. Can you believe that there is already so much behind, when there is still much to come?
I remember very well the first days in the theatre. And it all was really different inside, its atmosphere, we recently recalled the fact that in 2001, when we started to work, both teachers and artists were allowed to smoke in the theatre. The teachers smoked in the auditoriums, dancers - in the corridors, and now it is unthinkable if you see a person with a cigarette passing along the corridor. Immediately you will be indignant: that’s wrong!
If we talk about my way, it has been very interesting and really fast. I am very pleased with how everything has turned out: I have danced the entire classical repertoire, each ballerina dreams about it. I am very lucky, but I know what ballet is and I respect this work, because it is really very difficult. Being a ballerina is hyperresponsible. I always say that for me a ballerina is a real ballerina as long as she can perform the classical repertoire, because there is nothing more complicated than the classics and it’s needed to be danced as much as possible. Then you will be really in shape. I just thought, there are these 32 fouettés that the audience really loves and always waits for, you know, with them you can understand is the ballerina still able or not. And it's not even a matter of what she does these fouettés or not, it is clear from the shape: whether the foot is dropped, the shape may seem to be lost a little. And you understand that this is the end.
You have said more than once that the family is the main thing in your life. Very often your family, especially your daughter, come to your performances. Do you feel the difference when you perform in front of your relatives?
I do my best in always the same way. Whether it's an ordinary performance, or it's just a duet in a concert, or it's an elementary, seemingly not very serious performance, but I don't know how to juggle, I always do my best. And the fact that my relatives are attending the performances... I just know about it. It's in my head. Of course, such evenings I dance mostly for them, but this does not affect my performance in any way.
You "light up" the audience. Often at your performances, the reaction of the spectators resembles the delight of football fans, does it help to catch courage in such roles as Kitri, Odile, even Juliet, or does it distract you from the performance a little?
Yes, you know, the feedback helps me. I will never forget that moment, my surprise, my crux of the biscuit of the artistic evening, as I call it, when the curtain opened after the "Diamonds", the audience saw Sasha Sergeev and me, and the auditorium exploded like at a football match. It was an incomparable moment, I can't even describe my feelings...
I catch the courage when the auditorium is excited, this is really important to me. I feel the feedback and understand that everything that I give, I receive in return. The viewer can express emotions with applauses, so I am never embarrassed by applause during a fouette or something else.
This is a great gift for me. I love when the audience stays at the end, I understand that everyone needs to go home, but when the performance is successful, the spectators will never leave, they will stay until the very end. And this is insane happiness, this is what I dance for.
Do you get scared before going on stage?
You know, “scared” is not the right word, but there is always a kind of worrying: sometimes strong, sometimes not so, and you never understand what it depends on.
I know for sure that the performance will be the way it should be. There are different days, it happens, for example, you are in a good mood or not. By the way, on the day of my artistic evening, I was in a very good mood, I had such a mood that nothing bothered me, I was absolutely not nervous. I was not distracted by the people who were around, I knew that there had to be a photographer, a journalist, a lot of people. This was the moment when you cannot insert the headphones when you make up for the performance, because they all constantly pull you, ask something, but this did not bother me at all.
Many colleagues can say that I stay calm, I'm glad it looks like that, of course. But inside, especially before the performance of Aurora, where you hear the music and understand that everything starts immediately, or before the black pas de deux, when the mazurka dance is going on, you are warming up, in warming up pants, it’s the same thing. I already know at what moment in the music I should start to undress, and to be honest, this is also a not very pleasant thrill. But as soon as you burst onto the stage, during the action, you don't worry. But every appearance on the stage, for the next variation or pas de deux, is accompanied by this kind of excitement, you cannot know what can happen.
You are great in the roles of expressive and bright, as well as lyrical heroines. What requires more acting?
Of course, bright, expressive, incendiary characters are easier to perform. Honestly, they are much easier to dance than characters such as Odette, Giselle, which are seemingly faceless.
This is the point: to colour a character that was not initially endowed with very bright features, musical accompaniment, or technique. Therefore, to be honest, I adore all the heroines, but lately lyric performances have moved me more. And I especially love characters with tragic fates: every time you look at a Hollywood movie you want a happy ending, I understand that as a spectator, but when you are in the shoes of an actor, you want the ending to be tragic, because it’s more interesting.
I might even like that in Swan Lake we had a different ending, because I danced a different version, when Odette climbs a rock and jumps off it, and after her the prince does the same, there was no happy ending. Because, although I believe that good triumphs over evil, life can be different.
Which of your characters is closest to your personality?
This question is perhaps the most difficult for me.
I cannot answer this for myself. All colleagues, teachers, relatives note my gentle personality, but, believe me, I would not be a prima ballerina, without having a very strong personal traits. I am one of those who, first of all, demand a lot from themselves, I do not demand from partners, because this is their lifes, their responsibilities.
I rather provoke my partner to work with my desire to dance: each person will immediately want to work, when you do not press, when you do not offend with anything, that case partners are ready to do everything for you. Because you treat them well. And this is not done on purpose, it happens, it leads me very well in some moments. My personality has changed a lot, I have become stronger, I have learned to defend boundaries, which was previously absent and hindered me. Believe me, there sould be steel in your personality.
As for the characters, I don't even know... I would say Mekhmene Banu - yes, I would say Giselle – and will also get there, I would say Nikia - and yes, too, I would tell Gamzatti - yes! This is all I am.
After the Anna Karenina performance we talked a little with Xander Parish, one of Viktoria's partners for many years:
You performed the role of Nikia in Natalia Makarova's La Bayadere at ABT in New York. Why was this experience interesting for you?
It was a very interesting experience. This was my first La Bayadere after I became a mother. I was already a different person. I came to The USA... I remember how hard it was because for the first time I left my daughter and no matter how I begged Natalia Romanovna to let me come five days in advance, when it was necessary to arrive at 10, she did not give me this opportunity and said : "You should come like everyone else in 10 days before and prepare this role with me."
I had to go, I cried so much, but what to do... I love New York. I remember I was walking so sad, crying and suddenly a woman just walking down the street said: "A beautiful skirt." In The USA this is normal, and I, as a Russian person, suddenly reacted in such a way... that I was unexpectedly pleased because they never say that in Russia. Although already a little bit, it seems to me, this has begun to appear in Russia too.
My luggage didn’t come in time. As luck would have it! For three days there was no luggage, I had to buy completely all ballet clothes. However I had two pairs of pointe shoes with me and, I think, thank God that I had these shoes in my carry-on luggage, because it's impossible to dance in someone else's shoes. I thought that if the luggage didn’t arrive during these 10 days, then I would at least have something to dance in, but I could not rehearse, because these shoes were supposed for the performance. I remember, Diana Vishneva gave me hers, she also dances in Grishko shoes. But when I put on her shoes, I could not even make a relevé, jump up, because this is a different last, this is a different style, everything is different. I thought: "God, what to do?" The first time I rehearsed in soft ones, I kind of learned the order, although I had already learned it from the video at home.
I remember, at the beginning they told me that if Natalia Romanovna Makarova dislikes someone, this means the end. I was a little afraid of this, but everything turned out unexpectedly: she was very surprised that I was ready, that I knew everything, she praised me very much, suggested some gestures instead those I had been used to do for years, she said: “What's the point in what are you doing?". I tried to explain and say how I feel, but she asked me to do it differently, I obeyed her, because it was very interesting. The luggage finally came, everything was fine, I danced with Volodya Shklyarov.
And by the way, I remember there was such an interesting story on the day of the performance, Makarova gave me a very beautiful bracelet of hers, I still keep it... She asked how I was doing, I said: “You know, everything is fine, but my stomach aches a little,” and she said something like "can you get a Coke?" I thought: "Does Coca-Cola heal the stomach?!" and indeed, I took two sips and everything was fine, it was amazing, but the whole story did not end there. The most interesting thing ahead, when I danced two, or rather the first act (the first and second parts in this edition are combined into the first act), and when it came time to change into the act of shadows, I discovered that my tutu, this was the only costume, which I was allowed to bring my own, was not in the dressing room. And Makarova herself went to all the ballerinas' dressing rooms, thinking that someone might have occasionally hidden it, but the tutu was never found. As a result, we, in a logical way, realized that the day before me Olga Smirnova danced the same role, and our tutus were lying together. When her husband was helping her, he accidentally put my tutu together with hers in a box, and they flew safely to Moscow, and we found out that the tutu was lost only before the last act. It was such a fuss, I was trying on other ballerinas’ costumes, nothing suited me, only a tutu of Veronika Part, a Russian ballerina, a former ballerina of the Mariinsky Theatre, was ok and I danced in it.
I was so happy that everything went well, the next day I was coming back home, I had a birthday, I knew that my family and daughter were waiting for me. It was the happiest day of my life.
How do you feel on tour, when you need to get used to new conditions, a new stage?
I confess honestly, it's not a secret. I don’t like tours, I don’t like to leave my hometown, I don’t like to leave my family, therefore, if possible, I took my daughter a lot with me on tours, especially if they were long, to London for three weeks for example.
And I will say this, I have an Achilles heel: I dance in Grishko shoes, and they tend to slide. Only here, in the Mariinsky, there is such a genius linoleum "Harlequin Studio", this is not an advertisement (laughs), I have just learned the name, because this is the only linoleum that is so comfortable for me that I can not use a single gram of rosin outside, inside the shoes I use it, of course, because it is important for the foot not slip.
This linoleum is not slippery at all, and you feel free, you are sure you are responsible for yourself. What happens on tour: we arrive, and there is «a skating rink». And there’s a problem how to explain to the public that you are afraid to take a step, that your leg will fly out from under you, you think about how to make movements so as not to fall? It is distracting, it is inconvenience, you switch to some things that you should not switch to. Thanks a lot to Yuri Valerievich Fateev, who, for my sake, began to carry not only decorations, but also send linoleum along with the decorations to each tour. I come, and if the linoleum is ours, nothing else matters to me, everything will be fine.
Do you still have any “dream roles”?
No, I'm very happy now, I have danced everything I wanted and everything I even didn't want. The only thing I would like, of course, is to have something new in my repertoire, created specially for me. This is always very important for the dancer, it is very difficult for the choreographer to see, to catch it, so that the dancer likes it, so that it fits on the physics, so that the music is the one the dancer also likes. Therefore, anyway, I am very happy, and already, you know, all the dreams have come true, it would be great only if there is a bonus.
Which interesting repertoire did you skip to dance due to the rapid way from the corps de ballet to the main roles? Do you have any favorite secondary roles?
As for the secondary roles, you know, it was once I was preparing a trio of odalisques from Le Corsaire. All my life I have danced in the second variation, and I always dreamed of the third one, I liked the music, technique, it really suited me very much. And when I was finally assigned to the third variation, and I was preparing it with such a pleasure... it happened that I broke my leg during other rehearsals. It was an injury, a bone fracture, and so I was not able to dance the variation, because then, literally the next season, I was transferred to the status of a soloist.
What advice can you give to those who, albeit not at the beginning, but in the first part of their ballet way: dancing in the corps de ballet and solo, not knowing how everything will be further?
It is necessary, I would say, to hope, but it is better not to hope, it is better to work. Do not betray yourself, do not trade, you need to hit one point, if you are determined to be a soloist of the Mariinsky ballet, you need to put in a lot of effort. Because the Mariinsky is a very high level. Of course, I can think, looking at some dancers: “don't waste time, go somewhere else to another theatre, and you will have those roles that you want there”. Someone has a chance. And the main thing here is to work. No one can cancel such a factor as health. It is very important. It happens that health does not allow a person to achieve what he or she wants and is able to achieve. Probably another factor is personality, mental health: not to break down psychologically. This is also very important.
There are a lot of things that must coincide. Someone is wasting time because they cannot lose weight, this is a problem. I believe that if this is not the thyroid gland or other real health problem, you just need to concentrate and stop eating a lot. If you want to achieve something, there are many factors. But if you want, here is a living example - Diana Vishneva, a ballerina who was not taken to the ballet school because there were not enough abilities, but she wanted it and she did it the third time. And as her teacher Lyudmila Kovaleva used to say: “Here Diana comes to the class, well, not very good. The second day is better, and the third day she is the best one, because she wants to do it, because she works, because she burns with it, this is her life. " This is important. Don’t give up, the main thing is to monitor your health, where, like not in ballet, legs are strengthened, personality is tempered. So I wish you all good luck and health.
Interview: Julia Sumzina
Photos: Alexander Neff, Danil Yaroschuk, Lubov Ulaeva, Julia Sumzina, the personal archive of Viktoria Tereshkina