Reverence: Brilliant Bravura

Dazzling Bolshoi-turned-Mikhailovsky principal Ivan Vasiliev reveals his superhero dreams.
Published in the April/May 2012 issue.

Vasiliev soars in "Spartacus." Photo by Damir Yusupov.

Why did you leave the Bolshoi for the Mikhailovsky?
It’s one of the only companies led by a major choreographer today. I worked with Nacho Duato for Kings of the Dance, and had been dreaming of collaborating with him again. I also value the freedom I have now to expand my repertoire and perform with other companies.

What inspires you?

What’s helped me lately is that I got a pair of Nureyev’s shoes as a present. I visited his grave while we were on tour in Paris, and I thanked him for his contribution to ballet.

What quality do you admire the most in other dancers?
Sincerity. I’ve seen a lot of phenomenal technicians, but what I really like is when someone brings true emotion to the stage.

How nervous do you get before performing?
Incredibly nervous. But I think it should be that way—otherwise you can become robotic. It’s the best drug in the world, and it creates magic onstage.

Did you feel different once you were named principal?

Not really: I’m dancing, and that’s what’s important. I’m just flying business class now!

You and Natalia Osipova are offstage partners. How do you feel onstage with her?
Dancing together has become so natural for us. We can change any movement without even discussing it beforehand. We understand each other.

What music do you listen to when you’re not dancing?
Opera, Russian and foreign rock bands. I love Queen—Freddie Mercury for me is like Nureyev in ballet; he has the same kind of energy.

What’s your favorite dish?
Oysters and escargots. Meat also, with blood!

What’s your biggest indulgence?

If I really want something, I can be pretty stubborn. Once I bought this huge remote-control helicopter I could operate from my iPhone. It’s on a shelf now, but at the time it was a lot of fun.

What skill would you most like to have?
I would love to speak English. I try when I’m traveling, but I never learned it in school. And of course I’d love to be tall, blond and have blue eyes…and to have Wolverine claws!