Maria Khoreva in "The Sleeping Beauty" © Svetlana Avvakum

MARIA KHOREVA – Digging into characters

That’s what the First soloist of the Mariinsky Ballet is really interested in, as what counts the most to her are the roles she is given. The rising star of Russian ballet talks about her life and her artistic belief, about her future projects, and even about COVID-19 and a phone call that is yet to come.

Interview by Alessandro Bizzotto

As we are talking on the phone on a Sunday afternoon, Maria Khoreva sounds both professional and amicable. It is the first time we speak – she is 20 and she is already a First soloist at the Mariinsky Ballet, yet in some ways her voice suggests she doesn’t pay much attention to it.  Born in Saint Petersburg, Maria graduated with an honors diploma from the Vaganova Ballet Academy. She joined the Mariinsky Ballet three years ago. Her repertoire includes world-famous roles such as Kitri, Raymonda, princess Aurora and Nikiya. In addition, she can be considered a sort of a cultural-pop phenomenon: she won a television ballet competition (“Grand Ballet”, filmed in Russia last year), she wrote a book and her official Instagram account has nearly 500.000 follower.  Somehow, she is the proof that elegance, hard work and culture can all be ingredients for success.

© Daryan Volkova

First of all, how are you in this crazy time?

Just one year ago my family and I used to walk on the streets wearing masks and trying to avoid all the people, staying home as much as possible and being afraid of this virus. Now things have completely changed – at the Mariinsky we are back rehearsing, we can work. My whole family already had COVID-19. We are now fine, luckily. I don’t know what’s the best way of dealing with this new virus… I really don’t. Some people are still very afraid, some try to live their lives normally. Yet I feel lucky we are back working and rehearsing: we have an audience that comes to see us, even though of course everyone has to wear masks and always tries to stay socially distant. Performing again was the most amazing feeling after the lockdown, last year! In addition, at the Mariinsky not a single person was fired during the pandemic – it is amazing to work in a theatre that really cares about its employees.

Maria Khoreva in “Diamonds” with Xander Parish © Svetlana Avvakum

How has the pandemic affected your professional life in 2020? Was it difficult to try and stay in shape?

I have a little piece of ballet floor and a barre at home… I spent several hours every day doing the barre and training, during the first lockdown. In any case, it was not easy – we had no chance to jump nor to do pointe work… nor to perform. Nothing can be compared to going on stage, as far as keeping in shape is concerned: performing is what really keeps a dancer in shape. I can tell you that, after being sick with COVID-19, recovering and being back training, I felt in full shape only after having the chance to dance on stage. Last year, however, I also tried something new, such as filming new videos for my YouTube channel and starting writing a book, which was published last December, whose title is “Teach Me Ballet”. Then I took part in a tv competition called “Grand Ballet”. I had not time to feel bored!

Maria Khoreva in “Paquita” © Svetlana Avvakum
Maria Khoreva in “Raymonda” © Svetlana Avvakum

Will your book be translated and available to buy in Western Europe too?

I am working on it, I really hope it will happen.

Being 20 and being already a First soloist at the Mariinsky – a thrill or a huge responsibility? Or maybe both…?

I don’t think ranks are something that should be valued that much in a ballet company. What counts the most are the roles – I’ve been lucky to be given many opportunities to play fantastic characters so far. I keep living my life, I never think about my age or about my rank at the Mariinsky. I continue my work, which is still incredibly interesting…

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