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

The Mariinsky Ballet's Uliana Lopatkina: Purity and Power

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.

Latest Posts


James Barkley, Courtesy Dance for Change

Take Class From Celebrated Black Dancers and Raise Money for the NAACP Through Dance for Change

Since the nationwide fight against racial inequality took center stage in May, organizations across the dance world have been looking for meaningful ways to show their support, rather than fall back on empty social media signifiers. July 10-11, Diamante Ballet Dancewear is taking action with Dance for Change, a two-day event dedicated to fundraising for the NAACP, and amplifying the voices of Black professional dancers.

Organized by Diamante Ballet Dancewear's founder, Nashville Ballet 2 dancer Isichel Perez, and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre teacher Elise Gillum, Dance for Change makes it easy to participate. Dancers need only to make a donation to the NAACP (in any amount) and email proof to diamante.ballet@gmail.com to be given online access to a full schedule of Zoom master classes taught by Black pros artists. Teachers include Ballet Memphis' George Sanders, Boston Ballet's Daniel Durrett, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre's Corey Bourbonniere, and more. "It's important that we amplify BIPOC voices during this time, and it's also important that we're conscious of where we're putting our dollars," says Bourbonniere. "Diamante is doing both with Dance for Change, and I'm honored to be in this talented group of melanated dancers."

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Houston Ballet's "Dancing With Myself" Captures How We All Feel Right Now

What are dancers to do when they're still stuck at home in isolation? After all, there's only so much time you can spend taking barre, tackling your reading list (or Netflix queue) or ticking items off your to-do list. Even wistfully looking out the window has lost its appeal after a few months.

That's when you need a dance party—even it's for a party of one.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

"Our Studio Is Failing Its Students of Color": One Dancer's Experience of Racism and Microaggressions

I recently spent a Saturday night with my husband and my 17-year-old dancing daughter, who sobbed at the foot of our bed. My daughter revealed her experiences with implicit bias and overt racism in school, and especially in the dance studio.

For six years, she has danced at a classical ballet school tied to the city's ballet company. The previous six years were spent at a mid-sized recreational/competition studio. I want to recount a few examples of the racism that my daughter shared that night.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks