Reverence: The Transcendent Svetlana Zakharova

Zakharova in Yuri Possokhov's Cinderella. Photo by Marc Haegeman.

You’re coming back from maternity leave. How does it feel?

It’s not easy! But as soon as I stepped back in the studio, I told myself: Svetlana, you have time to get back in shape. There used to be days when, if something went wrong in class, I wouldn’t leave until I got it right. I tried to take it easier this time.

What are the pluses—and minuses—of being a tall dancer?

Long lines, long hands I think are very beautiful. But it can be difficult to find a partner. I often have to decline offers to dance abroad because the partner wouldn’t suit me heightwise.

You always change a detail of your costume to make it yours. Why?

It’s great to have something that no one else has. Whenever possible, I like to work with costume designers, because they know how to tailor a costume to my body, how to emphasize my personality and also how to hide some things.

Who is your toughest critic?

My mom. She attends most of my performances, and if she likes something, it means it really was good.

What’s the first thing you do in the morning?

I stretch a bit for my back, my legs. And now, of course, I check how my daughter, Anna, is doing. She is usually also “stretching” in her sleep, but for different reasons!

What’s your biggest indulgence?

Taking a day off when I’m really exhausted. I’ll cancel class, rehearsals, and just rest.

You’re a member of parliament in Russia. What does that bring you?

It broadens my horizons because ballet is a very closed world. It allows me to be more in touch with what’s happening in Russia and abroad, and if people come to talk to me about their problems, I try to help them as much as I can.

Of which accomplishment are you the most proud?

I still see mistakes every day in the mirror, so I’m only really proud of the birth of my daughter. It’s my biggest achievement.

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After 25 Years, Victoria Morgan to Step Down as Cincinnati Ballet's Artistic Director

Last month, Victoria Morgan announced that she will step down as Cincinnati Ballet's artistic director at the conclusion of the 2021-22 season. The organization's board of trustees has formed a committee to conduct a national search for her replacement.

Prior to coming to Cincinnati Ballet in 1997, the Salt Lake City native was a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet and Ballet West, as well as resident choreographer for the San Francisco Opera. She graduated magna cum laude from University of Utah, where she also earned her MFA, and has judged several international ballet competitions.

Entering her 25th and final season as director, Morgan has accomplished a lot at Cincinnati Ballet, not the least erasing the $800,000 in company debt she inherited at the outset of her tenure. To right the organization's financial ship she had to make tough choices early on—the first task the company's executive committee gave her was to release a third of the company's dancers. In her continuing effort to overhaul how the organization did business, in 2008 she became both the artistic director and CEO and set about building the company's now $14.5 million endowment. For the 2016–17 season, with the arrival of new company president and CEO Scott Altman, Morgan returned to being full-time artistic director and helped lead the realization of the organization's new $31 million home, the Margaret and Michael Valentine Center for Dance.

A champion of female choreographers, Morgan has also choreographed numerous ballets for the company, including world premieres of King Arthur's Camelot and The Nutcracker. She has also helped orchestrate several company collaborations, including 2013's Frampton and Cincinnati Ballet Live and joint productions with BalletMet.

Pointe caught up with Morgan to talk about her recent announcement.

Victoria Morgan is shown from the side standing on stage right, turning to smile at a line of costumed dancers to her left during bows. She wears a patterned green dress with chunky green high heels and holds a red rose in her hand.

Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

Why leave Cincinnati Ballet now?

It's been an amazing run and I have seen it all. I am not sure where I would go from here. I also feel there is a required stimulus and infusion of new ideas and energy that always needs to be a part of a growing, evolving and exciting arts organization.

What made you happiest at Cincinnati Ballet?

The people, from the devotion of patrons and donors to learning from and feeling the pride in work from the staff. It has also been so satisfying for me to choreograph on and watch so many dancers evolve in their dance careers and lives.

Were there things you wanted to do for the company that you weren't able to?

There were other collaborations I wanted us to explore and choreographers I wanted us to work with. It takes quite an investment to make those happen.

Your legacy includes actively creating opportunities for female choreographers. What motivated that?

I started realizing, in a profound way, the gender inequities in our art form. Because I was in a leadership position, I thought I could do something about this and try to get to a 50-50 balance of male and female choreographers. It took a little time to find women to step forward, but it happened. Now there are many more prominent female choreographers, including our resident choreographer Jennifer Archibald, and I am proud of that.

If you could handpick your successor, what qualities would you look for?

Somebody creative, charged up, and who can be visionary. Someone who has had a high-level experience in our art form. A leader who is demanding but also kind and supportive, and who opens doors to find new ideas while still embracing Cincinnati Ballet's philosophies.

What do you feel will be one of the biggest challenges for the new artistic director?

The important cause of DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility). Whoever steps into that position has to have awareness of the culture of today's conversation.

Do you plan to keep choreographing?

I am not being proactive about it, but if the opportunity presents itself, it would be fun.

What's next?

I feel my next calling is bringing movement to the biggest segment of our population, baby boomers. I want to be part of an initiative that makes moving and wellness enjoyable and enlivens people.

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