Ballet Stars

The Mariinsky Ballet's Uliana Lopatkina: Purity and Power

Lopatkina and Danila Korsuntsev in Balanchine's "Symphony in C." Photo by N. Razina, Courtesy Mariinsky Theater.

Last weekend, the Mariinsky Ballet announced on its website that one of its most revered prima ballerinas, Uliana Lopatkina, has retired from the stage. A principal dancer since 1995, Lopatkina's interpretation of Odette/Odile and "The Dying Swan", among other roles, was legendary. To honor her dance career, we're re-visiting this interview from the February/March 2013 issue.


What's the toughest part of being a dancer?

More than most professions, ballet erodes the private sphere. You don't fulfill yourself in this career: You serve it; you're a slave to it.


What ballet makes you most nervous?

Swan Lake. Even if it's not the most difficult ballet to perform, it's difficult in another way, a mystical way.



You've been dancing Swan Lake for nearly 20 years. Are you still discovering new things in it?

Yes, but the choreography and the traditions behind it are limiting. All you can bring to it is nuances, and not everyone can see them. I also have my limits. Odile can be very evil, brutal, and I could try that, but I don't want the audience to see me that way.



Of which accomplishment are you most proud?

Perhaps the birth of my daughter, but it's not an accomplishment; it's a gift for me to have been able to have a child.


Who is your toughest critic?

My mother. She comes to all my performances in St. Petersburg. I don't even want to call her afterwards, but she calls me!


What do you do to stay injury-free?

I try to be very reasonable with rehearsals, to warm up well and be precise in the studio. You have to treat your body like a child: Don't indulge its whims, but know the limits of what it can endure.


When you're offstage, are you more sneakers and sweatpants or high heels?

Neither. I like wearing ballet flats, jeans and a lace top or something made of natural fibers.


What do you do on your days off?

I try to think of ways I can keep my figure!


What would you take with you to a desert island?

My faith in God.


How would you like to be remembered?

With very simple words: She was a good person.

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Karina González in Ben Stevenson's Coppélia. Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

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I love the time in the studio. The process of starting from zero to getting better each day is so rewarding. My favorite phrase in rehearsals is "Let's do it again, so I can sleep in peace tonight." I need to feel so comfortable in the studio so that when I am onstage there are no bad surprises.

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