Svetlana Todinova was born in Yadrun, Russia just outside of Moscow and in 1997 completed formal training at the Ufimsky Choreography School, now named the Rudolph Nureyev Russian State Ballet Academy in honor of the legendary dancer who was also a graduate. Upon graduation, Todinova was invited to join the Krasnodarsky Musical Theater troupe of the Bashkiria Theater and there danced for Yuri Grigorovich, famous for his virtuosic productions at the Bolshoi Theater. In 1999, she joined Russia’s renowned National Academy of Theatrical Arts, or “GITIS,” founded in 1878 by theater pioneer and founder of the Stanislavsky acting method K. Stanislavsky, in Moscow with which she toured internationally. In 2006 Todinova was invited to join the Crown of Russia Ballet Company as a soloist again touring internationally. Her repertory includes Don Quixote, Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadere, Carmen, Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and more. She has also danced with Moscow Ballet since 2001 and is Moscow Ballet’s Audition Director. Svetlana visits nearly 20 American cities between the months of September and November annually, where she auditions and trains hundreds of young, aspiring dancers to perform in Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker. In 2011 Svetlana leads Moscow Ballet Summer Intensives, 6 week-long sessions of intense training for pre-professional dance students. Following this, Svetlana joins her colleagues for the 60 city North American tour of Romeo and Juliet and the Great Russian Nutcracker.
Q. How did you get interested in ballet?
I was studying ballet in my small home town and went to the big city audition with my cousin and was surprised to be accepted!
Q. Everyone in America has heard of the Bolshoi Ballet and the Mariinsky Ballet and the Vaganova Academy but we hear very little of other schools and ballet companies.
Like in America, the wonderful dancers in the New York City Ballet company come from all over the country. The top companies get the most press worldwide but other companies also have highly talented directors and dancers who sometimes then move on to work at the top 2 or 3 companies. It is a moving picture.
Q. Russia is bigger than the United States and just like there’s more to ballet in America than the New York City Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre, there must be many great schools and ballet companies in Russia. Maybe you could mention some of the top Russian ballet companies and schools.
(laugh) Well I am actually from Yadrun, a very small town just outside of Moscow so I am most familiar with the Bolshoi!
Q. Where did you train?
I trained at the Ufimsky Choreography School, now named the Rudolph Nureyev Russian State Ballet Academy in honor of the legendary dancer who was also a graduate.
Q. Again, in America we all hear of the Vaganova method and many of the schools in America teach that method. Are their many other methods of ballet instruction in Russia and what were you trained in?
The Vaganova method is what I am trained in and is still considered the most effective ballet training in the world, as far as I know. We do have “modern” dance methods and choreographers too but they are basically all based in the Vaganova style of training.
Q. What are the differences between Russian dancers and other European or American dancers?
I think there is not much difference! We love to dance, maybe we live to dance and want to be working all the time – whether we are traveling or in one place and whether we dance classic ballet of modern or experimental works.
Q. American companies have dancers from all over the world, including Russia. Do Russian companies have many American dancers or dancers from other European countries?
Not many at all that I have seen. As you mentioned, Russia is very big and ballet to us is sort of like baseball to Americans – we treasure dance and so many youngsters want to become dancers.
Q. Do you think dancers have changed physically or mentally in terms of flexibility and muscularity and just general ability? What do you think accounts for the advances?
Well, what I know is that my Russian ballet training was all inclusive. I went to academic school at the dance academy. I train daily and push myself to improve and so does every dancer I know. Here, dancing is a life style choice.
To learn more about Svetlana Todinova, click on the following URL:
To learn more about the Moscow Ballet and how to audition for its American performances, click on the following URL: www.nutcracker.com
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