Svetlana Zakharova
Principal dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet

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Svetlana Zakharova is one of the most discussed artists to emerge on the St. Petersburg ballet scene in the last five years of the 20th century. This is as much the result of her youthful talent and of her swift advancement in the company, as of her performance style and her at times challenging approach of the classics, dividing critics and ballet fans alike. Long-limbed and slim, physically gifted, ultra-supple and preferring extreme extensions and sinuous lines, Svetlana Zakharova is the epitome of the new breed of Petersburg ballerinas cherished by the Maryinsky Theatre at the outset of the 21st century.

Svetlana Zakharova was born in Lutsk, in the Ukraine on 10 June 1979. At the age of six her mother took Svetlana to a local dance studio, where she practised among others folk dancing, but no ballet. At the age of ten she went to audition for the Kiev Choreographic School. She was accepted, yet already after four months Svetlana had to leave the school, as her family moved to live in East Germany, following a new assignment of her father who was in the army.

When after six months she returned to the Ukraine, Svetlana once more auditioned for the Kiev Choreographic School. She was accepted again and could immediately join the second class. At the Kiev School she trained mainly with Valeria Sulegina.

In 1995, having finished six years at the Kiev School, Zakharova entered the International Young Dancers' Competition in St. Petersburg. She won second prize with her performance of Princess Florine in the Blue Bird Pas de Deux from Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty.

Following the competition Zakharova was allowed to continue her training at the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg. Instead of the expected second course, she was admitted directly to the third, the graduating course (class of Elena Evteyeva, the distinguished Kirov ballerina of the previous generation). While still a student at the Vaganova Academy Zakharova performed the Queen of the Dryads in Don Quixote with the Kirov Ballet.

In the beginning of June 1996 Svetlana Zakharova graduated from the Vaganova Academy, performing Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux (she and Daria Pavlenko were the first two graduates of Elena Evteyeva). She immediately joined the Kirov Ballet. On June 21 she danced Dying Swan in the gala evening of the Kirov at the Hermitage Theatre. She was just 17. A year later she was already promoted to principal dancer.

In the Kirov company Svetlana Zakharova was taken under the experienced wings of Olga Moiseyeva, with whom she would build a lasting rapport. Preparing all the new roles with her, Moiseyeva quickly became the key-figure in Zakharova's artistic development.

In her first season with the Kirov Ballet (1996-97) Zakharova started dancing Princess Florine in The Sleeping Beauty. However, her major debut followed already on October 27, 1996 when she appeared as Maria in Rostislav Zakharov's dram-ballet The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, partnered by Ruben Bobovnikov.

At that time she was also remarked by Vladimir Vasiliev, then Director of the Bolshoi Theatre, who wanted to cast her as the Swan in his planned new staging of Swan Lake. However, she preferred to decline Vasiliev's invitation to dance at the Bolshoi.

In December 1996-January 1997 Svetlana Zakharova took part in her first major tour with the Kirov Ballet. In London, at the Coliseum, she danced the role of Masha, as well as the trio in Vainonen's Nutcracker.

On 12 February 1997 Svetlana Zakharova danced Gulnara in Le Corsaire and on April 2 she performed Giselle for the first time. Her debut as Giselle received favourable reviews, one critic even compared her to the legendary Olga Spessivtseva.

On 23 June 1997 another debut followed, when she danced the Bride in the Maryinsky Theatre's new production of Les Noces by Alexei Miroshnichenko.

In June 1997 she also received a special prize "Our Hope" from the St. Petersburg brewery "Baltica".

On July 5 Zakharova appeared alongside established artists like Altynai Asylmuratova, Galina Mezentseva and Yulia Makhalina in the special gala performance to celebrate Olga Moiseyeva's 50 years as a dancer and teacher of the Kirov. She danced Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux with Andrian Fadeyev.

In the Summer of 1997 she toured with the Kirov company to London, where she danced Chopiniana, Princess Florine in The Sleeping Beauty, Maria in The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, and Giselle. Especially her performance of Giselle with Igor Zelensky brought about enthusiastic reviews by the London critics, who compared her to Galina Ulanova and Natalia Makarova. In January 1998, Zakharova was nominated for the Golden Mask Award for her interpretation of Giselle, although eventually she did not win the Award.

In her second season at the Kirov (1997-1998) Svetlana Zakharova was able to develop her repertoire considerably. She danced further performances of Giselle and Maria, and made her debut in The Sleeping Beauty and Serenade.

In January-February 1998 she took part in the Maryinsky's season at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, dancing Giselle with Farukh Ruzimatov. On March 13, 1998 she participated in the special gala dedicated to Rudolph Nureyev at the Hermitage Theatre. Later that same month, on March 26, she danced her first Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, partnered by Viktor Baranov.

In April 1998 the Kirov staged Balanchine's Serenade (revived by Francia Russell). Zakharova danced in the premiere cast on April 30. The following year, on 5 April 1999, she would receive the Golden Mask Award for her performance in Serenade.

In 1998 Zakharova danced Vasiliev's Giselle with the Bolshoi Ballet.

In her third season (1998-1999) Svetlana Zakharova danced her first Odette-Odile on November 16, partnered by Danila Korsuntsev. On November 24 she equally performed a leading role in Poem of Ecstasy, a creation by Alexei Ratmansky. In April 1999 she appeared in the first movement of Balanchine's Symphony in C.

Later in this season Zakharova also danced Aurora in the Maryinsky's reconstruction of Marius Petipa's The Sleeping Beauty and made her debut as Medora in Le Corsaire (June 1999).

In the important Kirov Ballet tour to New York, June 28-July 7, 1999, Svetlana Zakharova was granted opening night at the Met in the new production of Sleeping Beauty. During that engagement in New York Zakharova would also appear in The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, Serenade, Apollo, and Symphony in C. While her performance in the new/old Beauty received a rather lukewarm reception by the American critics, she was nominated and later won her second Golden Mask Award in Moscow for her interpretation of Princess Aurora (March 27, 2000).

Makhar Vaziev, director of the Kirov Ballet, assisted by ballet masters Yelena Vorontsova and Vyacheslav Khomiakov staged the Kirov's production of Le Corsaire for Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The premiere on October 5, 1999 was danced by Svetlana Zakharova, Evgeny Ivanchenko and Farukh Ruzimatov.

Zakharova's fourth season at the Kirov (1999-2000) was again marked by a string of important debuts, starting with Nikiya in La Bayadere on December 16, 1999, partnered by Igor Zelensky. In February 2000 she first danced the lead in Diamonds, the final section of Balanchine's triptych Jewels which became one of the Kirov Ballet's most successful new productions of recent years. Her partner was again Igor Zelensky.

On April 1, 2000 Svetlana Zakharova and Evgeny Ivanchenko danced the leading roles in the Maryinsky's newly acquired production of Kenneth MacMillan's Manon. The premiere of the ballet itself in the Maryinsky Theatre took place on March 30.

In the Summer of 2000 the Maryinsky embarked on a large-scale tour to London, presenting several weeks of ballet and opera at Covent Garden. The ballet company performed from June 12 to 27, and again from July 31 to August 19. Zakharova danced leading roles in The Sleeping Beauty, Chopiniana, La Bayadere, Swan Lake, Diamonds and Don Quixote. Her performance of Kitri on August 18 was another debut (her first Kitri at the Maryinsky Theatre followed in October).

In December 2000 Zakharova and Igor Zelensky were invited to dance Balanchine's Nutcracker with New York City Ballet.

During the Maryinsky's First International Ballet Festival in February 2001, Zakharova danced La Bayadere with Jose Manuel Carreño and Apollo with Ethan Stiefel, both guest stars from American Ballet Theatre.

Svetlana Zakharova and Igor Zelensky danced Manon in Munich (Bayerisches Staatsballett) on 17 April 2001.

On April 28, 2001 the Maryinsky Theatre premiered a triptych of ballets by John Neumeier. Svetlana Zakharova and Ilya Kuznetsov performed the leading roles in Now and Then. Zakharova was nominated for the Golden Mask Award for her interpretation of the part, although eventually she did not win the Award

During the Kirov Ballet's tour to London in the Summer of 2001 (12 June-21 July), Zakharova could be seen in almost every ballet of the run, dancing notably in The Sleeping Beauty, Manon, Le Corsaire, Chopiniana, Apollo, Serenade, and Diamonds.

In a new Maryinsky/Bolshoi exchange in November 2001, the Kirov Ballet appeared at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. Svetlana Zakharova and Igor Kolb danced the leading roles in the second performance of The Sleeping Beauty at the Bolshoi.

On November 10, 2001 Zakharova made her debut as Zobeide in Fokine's Scheherazade, with Farukh Ruzimatov as the Golden Slave. On January 16, 2002 followed her first Juliet in Lavrovsky's Romeo and Juliet.

In February 2002 Svetlana Zakharova toured with the Kirov Ballet to Washington DC (Kennedy Center, February 12-17), where she danced Aurora and the leading role in Diamonds.

In the 2nd International Ballet Festival at the Maryinsky (March 9-18, 2002) Zakharova danced Le Corsaire and Diamonds. For the latter performance she was partnered by guest star Vladimir Malakhov.

Since 2001 Zakharova has been appearing as a guest artist with various companies all over the world. In October 2001 she danced in Natalia Makarova's production of Swan Lake in Rio de Janeiro. In December of that year she was invited to perform with the Paris Opera Ballet, dancing three performances of Nikiya with Jean-Guillaume Bart in Rudolph Nureyev's La Bayadere. For that role she received a nomination for the Benois de la Danse Award. In February 2002 she danced Swan Lake with the New National Theatre Ballet in Tokyo (Petipa-Ivanov, staged by K. Sergeyev) and The Sleeping Beauty with the Opera of Rome (Petipa, staged by Paul Chalmer).

On April 1, during the Golden Mask Festival at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, the Kirov Ballet performed the triptych of ballets by John Neumeier. Zakharova danced the leading part in Now and Then, for which she had received a nomination for the Golden Mask for the best female role in ballet (the award eventually went to fellow Kirov-soloist Natalia Sologub).

On April 26 Zakharova took part in the Benois de la Danse Gala in the Bolshoi Theatre. She danced Middle Duet by Alexei Ratmansky with Andrei Merkuriev. She was nominated for the Benois de la Danse Award for her interpretation of Nikiya with the Paris Opera Ballet, yet she did not win the Award.

In June she guested with the English National Ballet in Derek Deane's "in the round" production of Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall in London. Her partner was Sergei Filin from the Bolshoi Ballet.

In July 2002 Zakharova appeared with the company in New York at the Met (July 8-20). Again, as in 1999, she was granted opening night, dancing Nikiya in the new/old La Bayadere. Later in that season she also performed the first night of Swan Lake and could be seen in Diamonds.

On September 5, 2002 Svetlana Zakharova danced Le Corsaire pas de deux with Jose Manuel Carreno in the 19th Gala des Etoiles at the Place des Arts in Montreal, Canada.

Svetlana Zakharova was invited to dance with the Paris Opera Ballet a second time in October 2002. She danced two performances of Nureyev's Swan Lake at the Opera Bastille (October 24 and 26), partnered by Jean-Guillaume Bart with whom she also danced La Bayadere the previous winter.

At the same time the Kirov Ballet could be seen at the Chatelet Theatre in Paris (October 16-31, 2002). Zakharova performed Zobeide in Scheherazade and Nikiya in the new/old La Bayadere.

On 21 November Svetlana Zakharova danced Giselle at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, in a special performance open to American City Bank only. Her partner was Vladimir Neporozhny.

On 19 December 2002 Svetlana Zakharova appeared with a host of international ballet stars in the gala dedicated to Rudolf Nureyev at the Scala in Milan. She danced the pas de deux from Giselle with the Bolshoi's Nikolai Tsiskaridze.

In December 2002 Svetlana Zakharova performed Giselle at the Megaron Concert Hall in Athens, Greece with the corps de Ballet of the State Theatre of Sofia. Her partner was Igor Zelensky. The role of Myrtha was danced by the Bolshoi Ballet's Maria Alexandrova.

In February 2003 Svetlana Zakharova and Igor Zelensky performed La Bayadere (choreography by Asami, after Petipa) with the New National Theatre Ballet in Tokyo.

In the 3nd International Ballet Festival at the Maryinsky (February 21 - March 2, 2003) Svetlana Zakharova danced Manon (with Ilya Kuznetsov) and Le Corsaire pas de deux with Igor Zelensky.

In March 2003, as part of the Golden Mask Festival an exchange tour between the Bolshoi and Maryinsky Theatres took place. At the Bolshoi, Zakharova danced Ratmansky's Middle Duet with Andrei Merkuriev on March 14, and Manon with Ilya Kuznetsov on March 16.

At the end of March 2003 Svetlana Zakharova was invited again by the Opera of Rome to dance Swan Lake in a new staging with choreography by Galina Samsova. Her partner was Evgeni Ivanchenko.

On April 18 Zakharova danced the premiere of the newly acquired Etudes at the Mariinsky. Her partners were Adrian Fadeyev and Leonid Sarafanov.

On May 14, the Maryinsky Theatre honoured the distinguished teacher Olga Moiseyeva with a special gala. On that occasion Zakharova danced the Dying Swan and Scheherazade with Nikolai Tsiskaridze. Three days later Zakharova and Tsiskaridze danced Giselle with the Bolshoi Ballet.

On June 12 during the Gala at the Bolshoi Theatre in honour of Marina Semyonova, Zakharova and Tsiskaridze danced the principal roles in the 3rd Act from La Bayadere.

In July 2003 Svetlana Zakharova and Nikolai Tsiskaridze received the "Danza&Danza" magazine prizes in the "Etoile" category for 2002 (Bolzano, Italy). At the opening gala concert on the 12 July Zakharova danced The Dying Swan and Tsiskaridze Narcissus.

In July-August 2003 Svetlana Zakharova toured with the Mariinsky to Graz, Austria and to London. On July 2, she opened the season in Graz (July 2-14) with Romeo and Juliet, followed by leading roles Swan Lake and Jewels (Diamonds). On July 21 she opened the London season (July 21-August 9) at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as Medora in Le Corsaire. At later dates she could be seen as Odette-Odile, Nikiya, Zobeide and as the leading ballerina in Etudes. While the Mariinsky was in London, news was out that Svetlana Zakharova would join the Bolshoi Ballet next season.

On August 30 at the Bolshoi Theatre during the closing gala of the Grand Pas Festival, Zakharova and Tsiskaridze could be seen in the pas de deux from Sheherezade.

Starting with the season 2003-2004 Svetlana Zakharova joined the Bolshoi Ballet. On October 5 she danced her first performance as a regular member of the Moscow company in Vladimir Vasiliev's Giselle, with Nikolai Tsiskaridze as Albrecht and Maria Alexandrova as Myrtha. Former Bolshoi ballerina Ludmila Semenyaka, who like Zakharova also started her career at the Kirov, acts as her coach.

On 27 October 2003 Zakharova made her debut as Aspiccia in Pierre Lacotte's adaptation of La Fille du Pharaon. Her Taor was Sergei Filin, while the role of Ramze was danced by Maria Alexandrova. This and the following two performances at the Bolshoi Theatre on October 29 and 31 were filmed by the French Bel Air Company for future DVD release.

On December 7 followed Zakharova's debut in Grigorovich's revamped production of Swan Lake. Her Siegfried was Andrei Uvarov."

Svetlana Zakharova appeared as the company's major star for the Bolshoi tour to Paris, January 7-24, 2004. In Paris she danced opening nights of Swan Lake and La Fille du Pharaon. At the special gala performance in the Royal Opera in the chateau de Versailles on January 12, to mark the Bolshoi Ballet's return to Paris, Zakharova danced The Dying Swan. With these performances she confirmed her place as one of the best loved Russian ballerinas in Paris, cheered by audiences and praised by critics.

On 25 January Zakharova returned for the first time since joining the Bolshoi to the Mariinsky in St. Petersburg, where she danced the leading role in La Bayadere with Igor Zelensky and Irina Zhelonkina, as part of a tribute to Zakharova's former coach at the Mariinsky, Olga Moiseyeva.

At the end of January Zakharova guested with the Leningrad State Ballet in Tokyo. She performed La Bayadere and Giselle, both with Farukh Ruzimatov.

On February 18 Zakharova debuted in Grigorovich's production of The Sleeping Beauty with Alexander Volchkov as Prince Desire and Maria Alexandrova as the Lilac Fairy. On March 12 she danced the 2nd movement in Symphony in C (with Alexander Volchkov), followed by her debut as Nikiya in Grigorovich's staging of La Bayadere on March 31st (with Andrei Uvarov as Solor and Maria Alexandrova as Gamzatti).

In the meantime, (February 25, March 2 and 4), Zakharova completed her third stint at the Paris Opera with three performances of Giselle. Her Albrecht was Laurent Hilaire.

On 14, 16 and 21 of April 2004 Svetlana Zakharova and Italian star Roberto Bolle danced 'Swan Lake' (version by Vladimir Bourmeister) with the Ballet of La Scala in Milan.

On 26 April, Igor Zelensky performed with a company of his own at London's Royal Albert Hall, including Svetlana Zakharova, Uliana Lopatkina and Maria Kowroski. Zakharova danced Zobeide to Zelensky's Golden Slave in 'Scheherazade'.

In the beginning of May Zakharova made her debut at the San Carlo Opera House in Naples, performing a fragment of 'La Bayadere' (version by Derek Deane) with Roberto Bolle.

On May 17, 19 Zakharova guested with American Ballet Theatre, performing Nikiya in Natalia Makarova's version of 'La Bayadere'. Her partner was Jose Manuel Carreño.

On 4 and 6 June Zakharova and Igor Zelensky guested with the New National Theatre Ballet in Tokyo, in Konstantin Sergeyev's production of The Sleeping Beauty.

In the Bolshoi season at London's Covent Garden (July 19-August 7) Zakharova performed leading roles in Don Quixote, Swan Lake and The Pharaoh's Daughter.

Svetlana Zakharova is a recipient of:

* The second prize of the International Young Dancers' Competition in St. Petersburg.
* special prize "Our Hope" from the St. Petersburg brewery "Baltica" (1997).
* The Golden Mask Award for her performance in Serenade (1999)
* The Golden Mask Award for her performance in The Sleeping Beauty (2000).
* The special St. Petersburg prize "People of Our City" for her achievements in ballet (2001).
* The Etoile Prize from Italian "Danza&Danza" magazine (2002).

Her repertoire includes:

Don Quixote (Petipa, Gorsky), Queen of the Dryads (1996)
The Sleeping Beauty (Petipa, staged K. Sergeyev), Princess Florine (1996)
Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux (Balanchine), soloist (1996)
The Dying Swan (Fokine), (1996)
The Fountain of Bakhchisarai (Zakharov), Maria (1996)
The Nutcracker (Vainonen), Masha and trio (1996)
Le Corsaire (Gusev after Petipa), Gulnara (1997)
Giselle (Coralli-Perrot, Petipa), title role (1997)
Les Noces (Miroshnichenko), the bride (1997)
Chopiniana (Fokine), Waltz and Mazurka Girl (1997)
Romeo and Juliet (Lavrovsky), Juliet's friend (1997)
The Sleeping Beauty (Petipa, staged K. Sergeyev), Princess Aurora (1998)
Apollo (Balanchine), Terpsichore (1998)
Giselle (Coralli-Perrot, Petipa, staged V. Vasiliev), title role (1998)
Serenade (Balanchine), soloist (1998)
Swan Lake (Petipa-Ivanov, staged K. Sergeyev), Odette-Odile (1998)
Poem of Ecstasy (Ratmansky), soloist (1998)
Symphony in C (Balanchine), I part soloist (1999)
Le Corsaire (Gusev after Petipa), Medora (1999)
The Sleeping Beauty (Petipa, staged S. Vikharev), Princess Aurora (1999)
La Bayadere (Petipa, Chabukiani, Ponomarev), Nikiya (1999)
Diamonds (Jewels) (Balanchine), soloist (2000)
Manon (MacMillan), title role (2000)
The Nutcracker (Balanchine), Masha (2000)
Don Quixote (Petipa, Gorsky), Kitri (2000)
Now and Then (Neumeier), soloist (2001)
The Young Lady and The Hooligan (Boyarsky), Young Lady (2001)
Swan Lake (Petipa-Ivanov, staged N. Makarova), Odette-Odile (2001)
Scheherazade (Fokine), Zobeide (2001)
La Bayadere (Petipa, Chabukiani, Ponomarev, Nureyev), Nikiya (2001)
The Sleeping Beauty (Petipa, staged P. Chalmer), Princess Aurora (2002)
Romeo and Juliet (Lavrovsky), Juliet (2002)
Paquita - Grand Pas (Petipa), soloist
Middle Duo (Ratmansky), soloist
Swan Lake (Petipa-Ivanov, staged D. Deane), Odette-Odile (2002)
Swan Lake (Petipa-Ivanov, staged R.Nureyev), Odette-Odile (2002)
La Bayadere (Petipa, Chabukiani, Ponomarev, staged Asami), Nikiya (2003)
Swan Lake (Petipa-Ivanov, staged G. Samsova), Odette-Odile (2003)
Etudes (Lander), soloist (2003)
La Fille du Pharaon (Lacotte), Aspiccia (2003)
Swan Lake (Petipa-Ivanov, staged Y. Grigorovich), Odette-Odile (2003)
The Sleeping Beauty (Petipa, staged Y. Grigorovich), Princess Aurora (2004)
Symphony in C (Balanchine), II part soloist (2004)
Giselle (Coralli-Perrot, Petipa, staged P. Bart), title role (2004)
La Bayadere (Petipa, Chabukiani, Ponomarev, staged Grigorovich), Nikiya (2004)
Swan Lake (Petipa-Ivanov, staged V. Bourmeister), Odette-Odile (2004)
La Bayadere (Petipa, Chabukiani, Ponomarev, staged N. Makarova), Nikiya (2004)

Sources :

"Letter from St. Petersburg" - A monthly newsletter by Igor Stupnikov published in The Dancing Times (London).
"Interview with Svetlana Zakharova" by Margaret Willis in The Dancing Times, October 1997.
Interview with Svetlana Zakharova (Russian TV - Za kulise, 2000).

Marc Haegeman, 2002

A biography and additional information on Svetlana Zakharova can be found on FOR BALLET LOVERS ONLY

Last update - 18.09.2004
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