Svetlana Zakharova

My mother sent me away to train when I was ten years old to Kiev Ballet School, but I had to leave soon because of my dad’s new assignment in the army and we moved to East-Germany. When the Soviet Union collapsed, we returned home and I went back to school. I was 13 or 14 years old when realised that I wanted to a ballerina. My mother dreamt of becoming a ballerina, but couldn’t, and all her life she regretted it. It took me years to get used to ballet.

"My child's body was not ready to handle such loads, and the legs that were used to walk upright had to be twisted and the back always had to be held straight. It was a huge strain and I did not have the strength." I would often find myself crying because of my hectic exam and rehearsal schedule. I used to practice every day and sometimes, even up to 8 hours. I did not miss a single class irrespective of the fact that I was ill or had pain in some part of my body. I wanted to learn everything and miss nothing. It never felt like I was sacrificing anything, not even as a child.

Before the performance, I try not to talk to anyone so that I can contain my emotions. “When I’m waiting to perform, I cannot describe my feelings; I feel courage on one hand and wild nervousness on the other.”When I’m rehearsing, I feel like a pupil and not a ballerina, but for some reason when I get out on stage I feel completely opposite. This transformation is quite unique. Something from within takes place and you understand sometimes that human abilities are limitless.

I graduated from Varganova Academy in 1996, when I was 17, and immediately joined the Mariinsky in Russia. I worked there for 7 years until one day I realised that I wasn’t developing anymore, it all felt the same to me and that’s when I decided to take charge and change things. I moved on to the Bolshoi ballet company and haven’t looked back since.