Star of St. Petersburg: The Mariinsky Ballet's Viktoria Tereshkina Relishes Life in the Theater

Tereshkina in Le Corsaire. N. Razina, Courtesy Mariinsky Ballet.

You started out in gymnastics—did it have an effect on your dancing?
It helps immensely. My father was a gymnastics coach, and I think that if my daughter wanted to become a dancer, I would send her to gymnastics classes first, and only after that to ballet. Gymnastics builds character and coordination. It gives you a strong foundation.

What do you enjoy more: performing or being in the studio?
Performing. Some dancers, like Diana Vishneva, love the rehearsal process, but I prefer the result. For me, it's about more than the performance itself: It's getting ready in the dressing room, doing my makeup, fixing my eyelashes, the emotion when it's about to start…


To whom or to what would you attribute your success?
Dancers couldn't exist without coaches. Trust is the most important thing. If there is even a shred of doubt, you should work with someone else. There is 100 percent trust with my coach, Lyubov Kunakova—I'm lucky that we found each other.

Tereshkina in "Le Corsaire" N. Razina, Courtesy Mariinsky Ballet.

Do you have any pre-performance rituals?
Yes, and I can't hide it! Before every performance, I go onstage and I lie on it like a starfish, with my arms and legs stretched. People sometimes ask what I'm doing, but it helps me absorb all the energy, all the positivity and greatness of this particular theater and stage.

How nervous do you get before a performance?

It's very important for me to control my nerves. My second season with the Mariinsky, I danced Swan Lake on tour in London, and I was literally trembling. Now I start feeling a little anxious two or three days before a performance, but I try to remain controlled and quiet, to avoid showing it.

What's the hardest part of being a dancer?
The scariest thing for me is slippery floors. When we tour, the floor is the first thing I ask about. If it's slippery, it's horrible, but it happens very often. You have to work hard to control everything, your feet tend to cramp and you can't tell the audience “I'm sorry, I won't be that perfect today."

You have your own tiaras made for many roles you dance. How do you go about it?
I draw the design myself, and I have them made to order, either in the theater or outside. For Black Swan alone, I have five or six tiaras, although I bring only two on tour.

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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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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