The Mariinsky Ballet's Maria Khoreva. Svetlana Avvakum, Courtesy Kennedy Center.

Get to Know 18-Year Old Maria Khoreva, the Mariinsky Ballet's Rising Star

Before Maria Khoreva danced her first performance as a member of the Mariinsky Ballet, she was already a superstar, with devoted Instagram fans following her life as a pupil in the Vaganova Academy (follow her @marachok). Her talent was already obvious—as were her exceptionally long lines, elegant technique and charisma—and when she joined the company's corps de ballet last summer, it was apparent that her artistry was also far beyond her 18 years.

Khoreva didn't last long in the corps: in November artistic director Yuri Fateev promoted her to first soloist, the Mariinsky's second-highest rank. Not even one year into Khoreva's professional career, her repertoire already includes the title role in Paquita, the lead in Balanchine's "Diamonds" and Terpsichore in his Apollo, plus Medora in Le Corsaire, which she is performing this week during the Mariinsky's annual tour to the Kennedy Center. Between performances in Washington, D.C., we spoke to Khoreva via Skype about her life in ballet, overcoming injuries and keeping in touch with 300,000 friends on Instagram.


You've had two major debuts in the U.S.—last November in the Balanchine: The City Center Years festival in New York City, and now in Le Corsaire at the Kennedy Center. What do you think of American audiences?

Just amazing. To see people enjoying ballet here, and to see people enjoying Russian ballet—it's uplifting and really satisfying. For me ballet is everything, it's my life, my profession. It's quite rare to see people loving it so much. For me it's very special.

You're 18, and you're already dancing Medora, Paquita, the lead in "Diamonds," Terpsichore—giant roles with a big responsibility onstage. Do you feel like you have the freedom to make mistakes and grow into them, or do you feel pressure to be perfect?

I think I have freedom. Dancing, on the whole, is about the experience. You cannot be perfect right away. The growth in ballet is all about trying different ways, and only by trying and experiencing them, and dancing and going onstage, can you find your way to grow. And I have amazing coaches, I have an amazing director, an amazing teacher that I am working with, and amazing partners.

And that would be true for any dancer, at any age.

Yeah. And in terms of pressure, I wouldn't call it pressure. To be dancing at the Mariinsky Ballet is such a great honor…it's more a pressure on the inside. When I am dancing for the Mariinsky, I feel that I have to be responsible for that, and I have to represent the company to the audience.

How do you get that confidence at such an early stage of your career?

When I was still a student at Vaganova, there was pressure to be feeling confident onstage, because it was the thing that mattered at the Academy. The more confident you look, the greater the impression that you will make on the audience and on your teachers. I think I'm making myself look confident rather than feeling confident, because before going onstage I'm terrified and really, really nervous. But the second I step onstage, I submerge myself in the atmosphere of the performance. You're inside of the story, and you feel a part of the ballet, to be a character. That's what carries me.

At the Vaganova Academy you were in the class of Lyudmila Kovaleva, who taught Diana Vishneva and Olga Smirnova. How did she help mold you as an artist?

She's one of the most important people in my life. She taught me how to dance. She taught us how to make our dancing powerful and not just movements, but really bring the energy and the soul into them. It was about using your physical abilities to show your emotional state. I'm eternally grateful for that.

Khoreva in Le Corsaire.

Natasha Razina, Courtesy Kennedy Center.

During your schooling you were sidelined for six months by an Achilles injury. How did you cope with that?

I had the greatest support from my family; I can't emphasize how grateful and lucky I am for that. During the injury I did a lot of useful things. I tried to learn a bit more English; my mom helped me because she is an English teacher by profession. Also, I learned how to touch-type. We were baking a lot and cooking, and reading quite a lot of literature. And I was thinking about how to improve, too. Sometimes it's very good to step back and think about how you dance. Not to always dance, dance, dance, but to step back and look at the process. I also did a lot of fitness workouts, like abs and some Pilates. When I got back from that injury, my teacher said, "Masha, you look different. It's made you better in certain aspects." I guess I just took my time thinking about what was wrong and what to do after I finally came back. Nevertheless, coping with the injury and not being able to dance was one of the hardest times of my life.

You perform often with Xander Parish, and you seem to have a special partnership with him.

We started working together when I was still at the Vaganova Academy. Yuri Fateev, our director, invited me to start rehearsing Terpsichore from Apollo with the company. I started working alone, with Yuri. And then one rehearsal, I remember thinking, "Who will be my Apollo?" I go into the studio and Xander is there. I was completely astonished—I was like, "What? Really? Xander Parish? How is that possible?" He was so supportive and kind, and so open to me, that it really helped me with the rehearsal process. To explore the choreography together was pretty much priceless. What's special about Xander is his kindness, and that he really takes care. He always helps me with making decisions and dealing with people in the company. And dancing with him onstage, I really felt like he would not let me down. Onstage you can really feel when your partner is more thinking about himself than about you. And with Xander, I always feel like he is valuing me more than his dancing, and that he would do everything to make me feel beautiful.

Khoreva and Xander Parish rehearse Apollo during the Balanchine: The City Center Years festival in New York City last October.

Kyle Froman

What are the best and worst aspects of being a social-media star?

There are no bad aspects at all. I just love sharing with people. My audience is the kindest and the most amazing audience ever. They give me so much energy and so much motivation, it's the loveliest thing. It's such a captivating process in a way. By using social media, you can talk to people in all the different countries around the world. I just cannot believe this opportunity.

You were promoted from the corps to first soloist so quickly, and the next step is to become a principal dancer. In your mind, how do you need to grow in order to take that next step?

I'm not sure I've thought about that. The goals are very simple: to make a role that I'm preparing and dancing, to make it better and better every time. It's not about the rank in the future. It's about how you dance and how you execute the role, and your attitude to dancing. That's what I try to develop in myself—the right attitude. To know why am I dancing and how am I dancing, and what I have to do to make it more beautiful or more dramatic or more clean, technique-wise. Every role needs to be polished like that.

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Eighteen-year-old Sarah Patterson (foreground), with her classmates at New Ballet School. She's decided to stay home this summer to take advantage of outdoor, in-person classes. Courtesy New Ballet School.

Why Planning Summer Study This Year Is More Complicated Than Ever

When it comes to navigating summer intensives, 2021 may be more complicated for ballet students than last year. On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic's spring spike in 2020, summer programs went all-virtual or had very limited capacity. This year is more of a mixed bag, with regulations and restrictions varying widely across state and county lines and changing week by week.

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Chris Hardy, Courtesy LINES

Check Out These 2021 Summer Intensives Especially for Adults

After a year of shuttered studios, virtual-only classes, and waving to ballet buddies over Zoom, summer intensives are back. For adult students, packing up for a few days of intensive training might seem like a pipe dream, as many of us spent the last year trying to fit in ballet classes while juggling work and, for those of us with kids, remote learning. With the country opening up again, let's start planning (safely!) for workshops that allow us to jump into technique, conditioning and, of course, high-elbowing some new friends.

For in-person intensives, please check the studio's website for detailed health and safety guidelines, including policies on masks, cleaning/hygiene, social distancing, and the policy on having to cancel in-person programs due to COVID-19 restrictions.

CALIFORNIA

Alonzo King LINES Ballet Adult Dance Intensive (virtual only, via Zoom)

May 28–31, San Francisco

Immerse yourself in the celebrated home of Alonzo King, the artistic visionary who created LINES 39 years ago. Now in its second year as a virtual offering, this four-day workshop includes ballet, yoga, Pilates, choreography and contemporary. Students also have the option to drop in to class if they can't commit to all four days.

KENTUCKY

Lexington Ballet Adult Ballet Intensive

July 12–16, Lexington

Why should thoroughbreds have all the fun of training in the horse capital of the world? Reach new heights in your training at Lexington Ballet's Adult Ballet Intensive. Join school directors Luis and Nancy Dominguez and principal instructor Ayoko Lloyd for a five-day workshop that includes conditioning, Pilates, technique and repertoire. All classes are held in the evenings, and the program welcomes beginning through advanced students.

A group of eight smiling adult ballet students\u2014seven women and one man in the middle\u2014pose in a line and stand on their right leg in tendu crois\u00e9 devant.

A group of dancers pose at a past Lexington Ballet Adult Dance Intensive.

Ayoko Lloyd, Courtesy Lexington Ballet

Louisville Ballet Adult Summer Intensive

May 31–June 4, Louisville

Polish off a glass of sweet tea (or two), and then work up a sweet sweat at Louisville Ballet's Adult Summer Intensive. Geared towards beginning through advanced levels, students ages 18+ can take part in half- or full days of training. Classes offered include technique, pointe and jump strengthening, modern, Pilates and yoga. Students will also perform in a livestreamed performance on the final day.

MASSACHUSETTS

Brookline Ballet School Adult Summer Ballet Intensive

June 23–27, Brookline

The Red Sox and New England Patriots may get a bulk of the glory in Beantown, but the city is also a mecca for ballet. At Brookline Ballet School's Adult Summer Ballet Intensive, students (beginner or intermediate level) will spend three weeknights and two weekend mornings in technique and repertoire classes, wrapping up with an informal performance on Sunday afternoon.

NEW YORK

Kat Wildish Presents (virtual, via Zoom)

June 14–25 and July 12–23

Join master ballet teacher Kat Wildish in a virtual intensive that aims to take your training to the next level. Each day, in one-hour classes, Kat will lead students of all levels from basic to advanced in various ballet exercises. The group will be limited to 20 dancers, so each person will get personal attention.

A group of older adult ballet students in leotards, tights or leggings, stand in two lines with their left foot in B+ position and holding hands, as if rehearsing a ballet.

Kat Wildish (far left) working with adult students at Peridance Capezio Center

Matthew Venanzi, Courtesy Kat Wildish

OHIO

artÉmotion Adult Ballet Summer Workshop

June 14–19, Cleveland

Head to the Buckeye State for a week of training under the tutelage of Ballet West first soloist Allison DeBona and principal Rex Tilton. In this Adult Ballet Summer Workshop, beginner and intermediate/advanced students will fine-tune their skills in two classes every morning: a 90-minute technique class followed by a one-hour class in one of the following disciplines: pointe/pre-pointe, acting, men's and women's variations, conditioning.

PENNSYLVANIA

Amy Novinski

May 24–28 and June 28–July 2, Philadelphia

Those interested in the Vaganova technique may want to check out Amy Novinski's Adult Workshops. For the five-day May workshop, newbie dancers can look forward to classes devoted to ballet, jazz and yoga. For those more advanced, the June workshop offers more rigorous technique, contemporary ballet, pre-pointe/beginner pointe and jazz.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Ballet Academy of Charleston Adult Summer Intensive

July 26–30 and August 2–6, Charleston

Embrace the low-country charm in historic Charleston, where a weeklong Adult Summer Intensive at the Ballet Academy of Charleston invites beginning through advanced students to take classes in technique, stretching/Pilates/yoga, pre-pointe or pointe (for advanced students), variations, jazz, modern, contemporary and choreography. You may choose the half-day or full-day program.

TEXAS

Houston Ballet Adult Intensive

June 1–5, Houston

For intermediate/advanced students with at least three years of ballet training, Houston Ballet's Adult Intensive might be the perfect place to hone your skills. The school has two-, three- or five-day options, and includes ballet technique, variations, yoga and Zumba.

UTAH

May 31–June 5, Salt Lake City

Ballet West welcomes students of all levels to artÉmotion's one-week Adult Ballet Summer Intensive. Classes include ballet, contemporary, pointe, jazz, modern, acting, and men and women's variations. Available in full-day or half-day options, those dancing only in the morning will take two 90-minute technique classes. The full-day experience offers the opportunity to be choreographed on for an in-studio performance on Saturday, June 5. All students will also have a professional dance photo shoot with Logan Sorenson.

A group of four men in dance practicewear face the right corner of the room and raise their arm as if beckoning someone. Three of the men stand in parallel, which the man in the middle sits in a wheelchair.

A men's class at artÉmotion Adult Summer Ballet Intensive

Logan Sorenson, Courtesy artÉmotion

INTERNATIONAL

The August Ballet Retreat in Leeds

August 28–30, Leeds, UK

The three-day August Ballet Retreat in Leeds offers classes for students of all abilities. The mornings are devoted to technique, and in the afternoon, students will focus on repertoire. In the past, The Ballet Retreat has taught solos from Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet and Giselle. One detail is still tentative: If the retreat is unable to take place in person due to the pandemic, it will be offered virtually over Zoom.

Morlaix International Adult Ballet Camp

July 2–10, Morlaix, France

The Morlaix International Adult Ballet Camp is in the heart of France's Brittany region. In this full-day intensive, intermediate through advanced-level students will be led by an international faculty. Dancers can look forward to morning ballet classes and rehearsals in the afternoon. The week of training wraps up with a performance of Bournonville's Napoli at a nearby theater. Please contact the school for information about room and board.

Still shot by cinematographer Benjamin Tarquin, Courtesy Post:ballet

10 Online Ballet Performances to Catch in April

Spring is in full bloom with another round of exciting digital dance offerings. This month, companies across the country are releasing world premieres, season finales, artistic collaborations and more. We've rounded up some highlights below.

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