Spotlight: Zenaida Yanowsky

Today's Spotlight Saturday focuses on ballerina Zenaida Yanowsky, who will retire in July after 22 years at the Royal Ballet.

In 'The Invitation'

Zenaida Yanowsky was born in Lyon, France, on December 23, 1975. Her parents, Russian dancer Anatol Yanowsky and Spanish ballerina Carmen Robles, were dancing with the Lyon Opera Ballet at the time. Her sister Nadia Yanowsky is now a soloist at the Dutch National Ballet, and her brother Yury Yanowsky is a former principal dancer with the Boston Ballet. The family settled in Las Palmas in Spain, where Yanowsky's parents set up a dance school. Yanowsky took classes at her parents' school, but did not decide to pursue dance professionally until she was 14.

A curtain call for 'Swan Lake'

After winning a silver medal at the Varna International Ballet Competition in 1991, Yanowsky joined the Paris Opera Ballet. In 1993, she won the gold medal at the Eurovision Young Dancers Competition, and in 1994, took the gold medal at the Jackson International Ballet Competition. She joined the Royal Ballet as a First Artist in 1994, and was promoted to Soloist in 1996, First Soloist in 1999, and Principal Dancer in 2001.

In 'A Month in the Country'

Yanowsky has performed many roles over her time at the Royal Ballet, including Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, Lilac Fairy & Carabosse in The Sleeping Beauty, Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker, Nikiya & Gamzatti in La Bayadere, and Myrtha in Giselle. Her roles in Sir Frederick Ashton's ballets include the title role in Sylvia, Lady Elgar in Enigma Variations, Natalia Petrovna in A Month in the Country, Marguerite in Marguerite and Armand, and Josephine in Wedding Bouquet. Her roles in Sir Kenneth MacMillan's ballets include the title role in Manon, Empress Elisabeth in Mayerling, The Chosen One in The Rite of Spring, and First Sister in My Brother, My Sisters. She has also performed in Balanchine's works, including as Siren in Prodigal Son, as Terpsichore in Apollo, and in Jewels, Agon, Symphony in C, Serenade, The Four Temperaments, and Stravinsky Violin Concerto. She has also performed in Nijinska's Les Noces and Les Biches, and in Ninette de Valois' Checkmate.

In Wheeldon's 'The Winter's Tale'

She has also worked with contemporary choreographers, including Will Tuckett and Christopher Wheeldon. Her role as the Queen of Hearts in Christopher Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has been greatly celebrated by audiences and critics alike. She has been featured in the Tuckett brothers' short dance films Duet and the Sandman, and in 2005 starred in BBC2's film Riot at the Rite, where she portrayed Maria Plitz, who danced as The Chosen One at the premiere of The Rite of Spring in 1913. In 2002, as part of Queen Elizabeth II's Golden Jubilee, she and Roberto Bolle danced the Black Swan pas de deux from Swan Lake at Buckingham Palace. She has received many awards, including Outstanding Female Performance (Classical) at the 2016 National Dance Awards for Elizabeth, a full-length ballet by Will Tuckett following the life of Elizabeth I.

As the Queen of Hearts

Yanowsky's last performance will be as Paulina in Christopher Wheeldon's The Winter's Tale, while on tour to Australia. She will be greatly missed at the Royal Ballet.

A curtain call for 'Sylvia'

Here she is being interviewed by Darcey Bussell:

And with Roberto Bolle in the Black Swan pas de deux at Buckingham Palace, 2002:

And as the Queen of Hearts in Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (a very clever and humorous ballet which the Australian Ballet is putting on later this year):

Thanks for reading!

- Selene

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