You danced John Cranko’s Onegin for the first time last year. How did you find your inner Tatiana?
Eugene Onegin is my favorite book. As a child, I wanted to become an opera singer. I performed in the opera as one of the little kids onstage. I knew Tatiana’s part by heart; I would sing it all the time. It was easy to translate her into ballet.

You’re engaged to a sculptor, Andrei Korobtsev. When will we see the first sculpture of you?
It’s almost ready. It’s a bust of me, and the plaster cast is done, but the final sculpture will be in marble. He’s also working on a commission for the Paveletsky train station in Moscow, a couple saying good-bye as the man leaves for war. I’ll be the woman.

What do you do to stay injury-free?
I have a doctor I completely trust in St. Petersburg. She comes to see me in Moscow, and I also call her for advice. She practices cupping therapy—it’s not for everyone, but it really helps me.

Of which accomplishment are you most proud?

I can’t say I take pride in anything I did, because in the Orthodox tradition you don’t achieve things by yourself: It’s God who gives it all to you.

What advice do you have for students wanting to be professional dancers?

Explore other forms of art, and absorb as much as you can—it will always find its way onto the stage. Sometimes I discover new things in me, and I realize it comes from films or performances I’ve seen, even if they didn’t strike me at the time.
 
Who is your toughest critic?
My mother. She lives in St. Petersburg but travels to see my performances. She was a ballerina herself, and I trust her opinion. She wouldn’t say it was a good job simply because she is my mother. She is always honest.

What’s the toughest part of being a dancer?
Denying yourself things and trying to achieve your goals no matter what. Ballet is not just hard work, it’s unusually hard work, and a lot of talented ballerinas fail because they can’t face all the hardship that comes their way. Sometimes everything goes against you, and you still have to keep fighting.

Ballet Stars

For many a bunhead, "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" is not just a holiday tradition, but a rite of passage. The variation, with its tinkling celesta, bourrées and petit battus, is one that all ballet dancers are familiar with, and getting the opportunity to perform it often represents moving into new realms in your training or career. Such was the case for Soviet ballerina Ekaterina Maximova. In this 1957 clip, the 18-year-old aspirant performed the Sugar Plum variation at a ballet competition, where she represented the Bolshoi Ballet Academy.

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Sponsored by Ballet Arizona
Tzu Chia Huang, Courtesy Ballet Arizona

These days, ballet dancers are asked to do more than they ever have—whether that's tackling versatile rep, taking on intense cross-training regimens or managing everything from their Instagram pages to their summer layoff gigs.

Without proper training, these demands can take a toll on both the mind and the body. But students can start preparing for them early—with the right summer intensive program.

The School of Ballet Arizona's summer intensive takes a well-rounded approach to training—not just focusing on technique and facility but nurturing overall dancer growth. "You cannot make a dancer just by screaming at them like they used to," says master ballet teacher Roberto Muñoz, who guests at the program every summer. "You have to take care of the person as well."

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Getty Images

For any young dancer performing in The Nutcracker, Marie (aka Clara, depending on the production) is a dream role. But Charlotte Nebres, who will be playing Marie in New York City Ballet's Nutcracker this year isn't just bringing her own dream to life—she's also making history.

Charlotte is the first black dancer to ever perform the role of Marie in NYCB's production of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, which dates all the way back to 1954. Charlotte was, of course, hugely excited to perform the role of Marie, but, according to the New York Times, when her mother told her that she was the first black dancer cast in the role, she said "Wow. That seems a little late."

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Courtesy School of Pennsylvania Ballet

While many of us are deep in Nutcracker duties, The School of Pennsylvania Ballet director James Payne has been looking further ahead, finalizing preparations for the school's summer intensive programs. In January, he and his staff will embark on a 24-city audition tour to scour the country for the best young dancers, deciding whether or not to offer them a spot—maybe even a scholarship—in the school's rigorous 5-week intensive focused on high-caliber ballet instruction. Though he'll be evaluating aspirants, he urges that as a student, you should be equally selective in choosing programs that could galvanize your training—and possibly even your career.

We got Payne's advice on strategizing your summer intensive plan before the audition cycle kicks in:

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