Does Svetlana Zakharova find it easier to express her emotions on stage than in life?
Without a doubt. In life I don’t like to reveal them.
Why? Is it a Russian thing?
No, it’s how I was brought up.
But maybe she can be a little romantic offstage, like some of her characters?
No. Well, it depends on the situation… at work, never: I can be calm, but also tense or angry.
So she does lose control then?
Certainly, like everybody. But it is almost always because I’m angry with myself, when I can’t manage to do something. After the birth of my daughter however I am less fixed on negative things and I force myself to find the positive side. Nervousness soon goes.
She’s more complex than she seems. The glacial Russian superstar who says she doesn’t reveal her emotions, a few breaths later she says that she is often tense and loses control. This dichotomy seems to be present on the stage too: reviewing the Bolshoi’s Swan Lake in London in 2013, David Dougill in The Sunday Times wrote,
Svetlana Zakharova has perfect line and academic exactitude as Odette, and pyrotechnical dazzlement as Odile, but fails to communicate soul.
While the Observer’s Luke Jennings in 2003 said,
Zakharova’s fluid, hyper-extended style is spectacular, certainly, but there is nothing empty about her icy, anguished Odette… or her glittering, sexually exultant Odile.
Although Dougill’s review was written after she became a mother four years ago, Zakharova says,
I’ve begun to ‘feel’ more after the birth, to live emotions in a stronger way, even though my basic attitude remains the same: that of a student who learns a little every day and tries every day to improve.
Zakharova’s daughter is now four; she’s called Anna.
It is part of the Orthodox tradition to choose a child’s name from the names of the saints whose saint’s day is near the date of birth. My husband – the violinist Vadim Repin – and my mother and I all came up with the name ‘Anna’, independently.
She already dances! She has several tutus and recently, in Paris, I bought her a pair of ballet slippers.
And if she wanted to become a dancer?
The important thing is that she’s happy. I would help her, if she wanted, and pass on what I know.
Zakharova’s mother, a dance teacher, sent her to Kiev to study when she was just ten as there was no ballet academy in her home town, Lutsk in north-western Ukraine.
To find yourself alone at ten is hard; that was the most difficult thing to overcome. I cried a lot, wanting to return home. I didn’t want to dance. When I observed my daughter on her fourth birthday I thought, “I’m not going to let you ever be too far away from me.” When I asked my mother, who loves me immensely, how she could have let me go, she replied, “I don’t know, maybe it was God’s guiding hand.”
I’m grateful to her now. She decided my destiny. If it hadn’t been for her, today there wouldn’t be a ballerina called Zakharova.
Zakharova was talking to Maria Laura Giovagnini for the magazine Io, Donna.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano’) about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman’s Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia’ column for Dancing Times magazine.