Dominic Stevenson interviews Anna Tsygankova, who dances as Cinderella in the upcoming Dutch National Ballet production at London Coliseum.
What attracted you to the ballet as a child?
It is something I always wanted to do since the moment I remember myself. It felt very natural even being a child to be dancing or imitating ballet pas and later in the ballet school, in spite of the very tough schedule, the study felt easy and joyful.
Which dancers, and shows, did you most admire when you were training?
To be trained in Russia and joining Bolshoi ballet after graduation means I absorbed the classical ballet in its purest form. Years before I actually went on stage portraying Odette, Aurora, Giselle and many other classical characters, I knew the choreography and the way I would develop the role because I had seen all those ballets hundreds of times performed by the most amazing Bolshoi stars.
Fame is pitched to the public as so easy to come by. Can you give us an idea as to how you, someone at the top of their art form, reached the position that you’re now in?
For me, to be famous and truly successful are two different things. Fame was never a goal for me. I believe success and recognition come when you choose the right path, when you are able to make the right decisions at the right time and always be ready for the opportunity and challenge to enter into your life. Obviously, you have to work on your body a lot. It is your instrument which you have to keep in tune. I think also successful artists have courage to be themselves, their inner voice is heard and it can make a difference. To be true to yourself and dare to be different, to be unique.
What do you believe to be the enduring appeal of the ballet, given that there are such wide ranging forms of physical art forms available in the contemporary world?
The body language is the first language we ever speak. For many centuries, ballet has appealed to so many people. It is one of the arts in its finest form with input of so many generations of artists, who perfected the way of expressing feelings without words.
Many children take ballet classes as a child, but many do not go on to attend the ballet as adults. Do you believe that ballet is accessible enough for the masses?
I guess now more so than before. Nowadays, they broadcast wonderful performances from the top artists and best theatres on the cinema screens, many TV art channels and also on the Internet. It is a good way for people to be involved and see how ballet develops as time goes on. But to become a ballet dancer yourself, it is all about your personal choice. This profession is tough on the body, the career is very short, the schedule is never consistent, so in order to do it, you have to really love it. On the other hand, and I am speaking for myself, ballet keeps me young, sharp, curious and nothing can compare to the stage when you feel like two wings are spread behind you.
Do you believe that the retelling of fairy tales, such as Cinderella, can introduce a new audience to the ballet?
For sure, Christopher Wheeldon appeals to all different types of audiences. He keeps the magic of the fairy tale but tells the story in a more modern way. This production is very visual and the scenery is extremely attractive. The choreography is beautiful and challenging for the dancers and as always, Chris found an amazing way to express the music with his unique language. It is full of humour, beauty and it has a wonderful message: trust your fate, be kind and be yourself no matter what.
What attracted you to this ballet, and your role as Cinderella?
In Christopher’s version, Cinderella she appears as a strong character, she is not a victim at all. Despite of the circumstances she keeps tall, her belief in a miracle remains and helps her to move forward. I actually learned from this character not to be objective, keep smiling even when times are tough and to keep on wondering how beautiful life is.
If you wave a magic wand and command it, which ballet, and which principle role, would you most like to play?
If Christopher every choreographs Romeo & Juliet, I would love to be his Juliet.
Russia is renowned for producing the highest quality ballet dancers, can you give us an insight as to why you think this could be?
I think first of all, Russia, being the largest country in the world, has a lot of people to choose from. From the kids who come to audition at the ballet schools, the best are chosen so there is a good chance that they might have a successful future. Secondly, traditions. For centuries, in Russia ballet was always considered as an elite art and attracted the best artists, choreographers and musicians. Amazing artists would become incredible coaches for the next generation and would pass their profound knowledge about the beautiful art of dance. As a result, the schools and methods on how to teach ballet was created become one of the strongest in the world. A strong basis provided by education from the young age, is for sure a necessary foundation for your rapid development.
You’ve performed in cities all over the world but where, if could only choose one location to perform in again, would it be and why?
The Royal Ballet was an unforgettable experience, so I would love to perform on that stage again.
When you decide that you will stop dancing, what do you envisage for your future?
I am interested in so many things, though I am sure that ballet will always stay a part of my life. I enjoy organising things, I have good understanding of people and I like to create a good atmosphere. So I guess one of the directions of a future study could be in the field of communication or psychology. And even if I do not become a pro in these disciplines, I always can use new knowledge when an opportunity arises. For me, I see people as most [intense] creative beings, if they combine their vision and effort united by one goal, the result can be amazing. But the process is most important and I love being part of such journeys which Christopher’s Cinderella for sure was.
Image credit: Anna Sterling