Svetlana Zakharova

Svetlana Zakharova (born 1979), principal dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet and the Teatro alla Scala, is widely considered among the greatest living ballerinas today and reportedly commands among the highest fees of any ballet dancer, after Sylvie Guillem and Diana Vishneva...Today, Zakharova tours and guests with the world's great ballet companies. She is highly regarded for her technical expertise and for her exceptionally high extensions, which invite comparisons with gymnasts.

Zakharova was awarded the State Prize of the Russian Federation in 2006.

Don Quixote

Svetlana Zakharova - official website


A Young Ballerina Learns to Walk Through Open Doors
WHEN Svetlana Zakharova was 10, her mother took her to an audition at a Kiev ballet school. Ms. Zakharova wanted none of it. She had no taste for ballet, positive or negative; her dread had more to do with the prospect of leaving her family, who lived in Lutsk, a town in western Ukraine.

"I remember that there were so many kids; they were all nervous and so were their parents," she recalled through an interpreter at the Metropolitan Opera House. "I said to my mom: 'I don't want to live in a dormitory; I want to live with my family. That's why even if they will accept me in the school, I won't be studying here.' My mom said, 'Just try to get through the competition first.' "

By the time Ms. Zakharova reached the final round, she fell in love, if not with ballet itself, then at least with the idea of what it might be like to be a ballerina. "There were girls and boys who were already students there, and they were so beautiful," she said. "I decided that I really liked it very much. Finally, when I was accepted, my mom asked me, 'So would you stay and study there?' I told her, 'Yes!' " [...]

NATURALLY supple, with long legs and a luxurious line, Ms. Zakharova possesses the kind of onstage beauty that practically leaves you woozy. With waist-length dark hair framing an alabaster face, she's just as radiant in person, but she's also a bit of a clown. After a photographer reminded her to stand up straight, she giggled and slumped to a grotesque extreme, eerily resembling a drawing by the artist and balletomane Edward Gorey, who might have used one of his favorite words to describe her - "zippy." [...]

FOR all her innate ability, however, Ms. Zakharova has been criticized for doing too much; while her footwork is bracingly sharp, she is so flexible that when she unfolds her leg in a fluid extension to the side, she has been known to graze her ear. Yet Ms. Zakharova is not a vulgar dancer; there's something instinctively casual, even naïve about her performance style.

"People reject things that are new, especially in the ballet," she said. "Standards of beauty change through the ages. I try to push it out of my mind. Why should ballet be as it was 20 years ago? Of course you can lift your leg, but you can also put it up very, very beautifully. As people like to say in ballet jargon, 'make it tasty.' " [...]

MS. ZAKHAROVA has learned that in ballet, success is connected to power. "A very important moment in my professional career came when I was invited to the Paris Opera," she said. "I was 21 or 22. It is now my fourth season performing there. That was the moment when I became a world star. I became independent. It was like my name, my brand. Now, if I don't like something, I can reject it. I can choose a partner with whom I want to dance, I can choose the repertory. So this is like growing up inside myself and growing up with my parts as well." [...]

Svetlana Zakharova on Leaving the Kirov
Svetlana Zakharova, the illustrious 24-year-old Kirov Ballet star who almost single handedly carried this London season by dancing in the first casts of "Le Corsaire", "Swan Lake", "Scheherezade" and "Etudes", has unexpectedly decided to join the Bolshoi Ballet at the end of August.

I spoke to Zakharova after one of her performances last weekend, to find out why she is leaving the Kirov Ballet. I would like to thank Coda for her kindness in translating for me during this interview.
Can you describe about the negative aspects which you've experienced?
IN THE theatre you always have to prove yourself. I constantly have to prove to everyone that I want to do something, and are capable of doing it. And I had to keep it to myself. The only people who knew about it was myself, my beloved teacher Olga Moiseeva (whom I'll greatly miss), and my mother. And I have this drive inside me telling me that you have to be the best, you have to be number 1. This drive was difficult. [...]

Swan Lake