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Spotlight Saturday: Svetlana Zakharova

This week's Spotlight Saturday focuses on Russian prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova.

As Kitri in 'Don Quixote'

Svetlana Yuryevna Zakharova was born 10 June, 1979 in Lutsk, Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union. At the age of 6, she was taken by her mother to learn folk dancing. At 10, she auditioned for the Kiev Choreographic School and was accepted. She spent six years there in the class of Valeria Sulegina. At the age of 15, she entered the international 'Vaganova Prix' contest in St. Petersburg, as the youngest dancer. She won second prize.

In 'Carmen'

She was then invited to study at the Vaganova Ballet Academy. in St. Petersburg. Without precedent, she was allowed to skip the second class and move straight into the graduating class. Six months later, she was invited to perform a solo role in Don Quixote by the Mariinsky Theatre. She danced 'Queen of the Dryads' at only 16. At the age of 17, she graduated from Vaganova in the class of Elena Evteeva, and was immediately accepted into the Mariinsky company.

As Nikiya in 'La Bayadere'

Under the guidance of her mentor Olga Moiseeva, Zakharova debuted as Maria in The Fountain of Bakhchisarai. This was followed by performances as Gulnara in Le Corsaire, and of the '7th Waltz' and 'Mazurka' in Les Sylphides. She was critically acclaimed for her performance in Giselle.

Above and below: In 'Giselle'

She achieved her official 'prima' status at only 18. She continued to perform to great success in ballet such as The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, La Bayadere, and Don Quixote, as well as works by Balanchine including the Tchaikovsky pas de deux, Apollo, Serenade, Symphony in C, and Jewels. She also worked with choreographer John Neumeier in his work Now and Then.

As Medora in 'Le Corsaire'

At the same time, she was achieving national recognition. In 2001, she performed La Bayadere with the Paris Opera Ballet, the first time in thirty years a Russian ballerina had danced on the Parisian stage. She has performed on numerous other famous stages, including the New York Metropolitan Opera, London's Covent Garden, the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Teatro di san Carlo in Naples, the Vienna Opera, the National Theatre in Tokyo, and many others.

As Princess Aurora in the Rose Adagio of 'The Sleeping Beauty'

She has a long-term contract with Teatro alla Scala (La Scala Theatre) in Milan, were she has etoile status. No Russian ballerina had previously been awarded this. In 2003, Zakharova moved to the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Ludmilla Semeniaka became her mentor. Her first performance with the company was in Pierre Lacotte's reconstruction of Petipa's The Pharaoh's Daughter. She has since danced almost every role available to the ballerina, including in new work by choreographer Yuri Grigorovich.

Above: As Odile in 'Swan Lake'; Below: As Odette in 'Swan Lake'

In 2014, Zakharova took part in the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics, in a piece called Natasha Rostova's First Ball. She has been awarded numerous prizes and even served a term in Russian Parliament. She is considered one of the greatest ballerinas of recent times, along with Sylvie Guillam and Diana Vishneva.

As Aegina in 'Spartacus'

Here she is in the Rose Adagio from The Sleeping Beauty:

And in Giselle's Act I variation:

(there's plenty more on YouTube!)

Thanks for reading! Next week the Spotlight will be on Natalia Osipova.

- Selene

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