ARTS & CULTURE
02/02/2017 04:33 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2017

Bolshoi Prima Ballerina Describes The Emotional Intensity Of Dancing 'Swan Lake'

"Every ballerina that’s danced this ballet, and has danced it well, can say she’s made it."

For Bolshoi Ballet prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova, dancing the roles of both Odette and Odile in “Swan Lake” was one of the most technically challenging experiences of her life. Aside from mastering the proper way to move her body like a hybrid creature ― part woman, part bird ― Zakharova had to communicate a complex range of emotions without ever saying a word. 

“Every ballerina that’s danced this ballet, and has danced it well, can say she’s made it,” Zakharova explains in the interview above. “Because this ballet is so difficult, not just technically, but also on an emotional level. It’s so complex. You need to be 100 percent sure that you have the full technique, that you will be interesting to the audience, that during the White Adagio, people won’t be able to tear their eyes away from you.”

In Bolshoi in Cinema’s production of “Swan Lake,” Zakharova stars as both Odette, a princess turned into a swan by an evil sorcerer’s curse, and Odile, the princess’ dark mirror image, a tempting chimera born of the prince’s wicked imagination. The ballerina has performed in 12 different versions of the legendary Tchaikovsky ballet around the world; this round will feature choreography by Yuri Grigorovich.

For Zakharova, Odette ― or the White Swan ― is the more difficult role to dance. “The clean movements, the openness, the defenselessness is so much harder to perform than the drive, the kind of aggression, the vivacity of the black swan, where all the emotions are immediately clear,” she said. 

“But the White Swan ... there’s a constant quest. You’re always searching for the position of the arms, head. It’s always a duet with your partner, so many nuances, especially in the White Swan. And being so exposed, so that it really looks beautiful ― so that it touches the audience ― is the hardest thing to interpret.”

See Zakharova dance “Swan Lake” on Sunday, Feb. 5, at cinemas around North America. Find a theater near you here.  

  • Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema
  • Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema
  • Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema
  • Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema
  • Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema
  • Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema
  • Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema
  • Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema

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