An Interview with Yulia Makhalina of the Mariinsky/Kirov Ballet

by Petra Tschiene

London, 10 May 2003 -- The delicate young  woman sitting next to me on the sofa in the hotel  lobby seemed far removed from the powerful  characters I had seen her portray on stage. Yulia  Makhalina had been patiently waiting for our  interview to begin and appeared very much like  the down to earth girl next door.

PT: Yulia you are going to appear in an  excerpt from ‘Manon’ at the RAH. How do do you like the role and what was it like to  get used to ‘western’ choreography?

YM: I like that role very much. Manon is an interesting challenge. MacMillan’s style is very English and at first it was difficult for all of us to adapt. 2 years ago Monica Parker came to St. Petersburg  to rehearse with us and her input was a great help. I am nervous about dancing ‘Manon’ in London. People here know the ballet so well and so they are a very special audience. It is very different from doing for example Don Quixote or Swan Lake where I feel secure in the knowledge that I have a lot of experience in the role and can do it very well.

PT: Which roles do you enjoy most? I assume every young dancer dreams about dancing ‘Swan Lake’when starting out. Has your taste in roles changed during the course of your career?

YM: I prefer dramatic roles that show the whole life of the character, like Anna Karenina. It is rewarding to be able to slowly develop your character through the course of her life and to show all her experiences. I also like doing classical roles. The second excerpt I am going to appear in at the RAH is from ‘Raymonda’. It is a real shame that this ballet is not performed more often. There are even 2 versions in the repertory, one by Konstantin Sergeyev and one by Yuri Grigorovitch. I guess the Pas de Deux just lend themselves less naturally to being done as gala excerpts. Overall I think it is very important to have changes and a variety of roles in your work. Giselle, Kitri, Anna Karenina,… each role gives you something different so it is important to keep your work varied. I have currently 40 roles in my repertory which keeps me happy and busy.

PT: How do you like touring. When reading the press it seems to me that the Kirov Ballet is constantly here, there and everywhere. Is it not hard to always have to live out of a suitcase?

YM: But that is our way of life. After doing this for a while is becomes difficult to settle down anywhere for a while. After a week or so you inevitably get the urge to pack your suitcase and go.

PT: What do you do outside of work?

YM: I am interested in nature and architecture. Yesterday night when I arrived I took a little walk just to breath the London air which is very different from Russia. Life today is so demanding so it is really important to keep your connection to nature and to feel it giving strength back to you.

Unfortunately at this point we had to cut our conversation short because the press briefing that had been scheduled for 5.30 p.m. was about to start. I hope that there will be another opportunity in the future to learn a bit more about Yulia Makhalina’s plans and hopes for the future.

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