Born and raised in Bulgaria, Vio graduated with honors from the National School of Dance Art and the Vienna State Opera Ballet School in Austria. She has represented Bulgaria at the Royal Festival of Arts in Jordan and many international ballet events. She has toured the United States extensively, dancing as a guest artist or as part of a company, and was invited to dance at the International Festivals in Edinburgh and St.Petersburg. Companies she has performed with include The Vienna State Opera Ballet, Volksoper-Vienna, Ballet Internationale, The New Jersey Ballet, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, as guest with the Eglevsky Ballet, Ballet Austin, Cincinnati Ballet, Ballet Metropolitan and others. Her repertoire includes title and leading roles in classics such as The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, Don Quixote, one act and miniature ballets by choreographers such as M.Fokine and G.Balanchine and many works by contemporary choreographers. Vio is the only Bulgarian ballerina in America.
Q. What is it about the culture and history of Bulgaria that makes the performing arts so important to its people?
We have character and temperament – I guess those traits play a role. We have spectacular folk music and dance that make your heart sing – it must be in the blood.
Q. Your mother is a ballet teacher. Looking back on growing up, was it an advantage or disadvantage? When did you realize you wanted to be a professional dancer?
There is an old tradition – various items are placed in front of a toddler and what the child chooses is believed to show their future. I am told I chose a 3-inch thick book Notes on the Bulgarian Revolts and a pair of pointe shoes. When I entered the National School of Dance Art, my classmates gave me hard time about my Mom being a dance professional. We were 10 years old! They thought I was in the school because of her despite the rigorous selection process.
Q. How did you end up with the Vienna State Opera?
When I was sixteen I was thinking between Stuttgart, Vienna and some other place and just intuitively liked Vienna. It sounds so romantic!
Q. Was this the first time you were away from home for an extended time? What kind of living quarters did you have? What was your routine like?
Yes, it was right then when I left home and it was hard. I wanted to talk to my Mom everyday. I was still in school, so I was going to classes and studying to simultaneously graduate in Bulgaria. I lived in a student dorm.
Q. Were you able to see and enjoy much of Vienna? Did you get to travel throughout Austria?
Yes and yes.
Q. What were the teachers like at the Vienna State Opera and did they have a particular style of instruction?
A lot of them had a certain calm and I liked that. Many were international – from Great Britain, Russia, Hungary, Cuba, Romania, France.
Q. Who were some of your best teachers and what was it about them that you liked?
Oh, hard question!! I have been lucky to work with many great professionals in all the companies. I enjoy learning and understanding their views and values! If talking about my senior years in school – the work of Silvia Tzankova, Valentin Onoshko, Fani Cherneva I owe a lot to.
Q. Do you prefer classical or modern dance and why?
I go through phases of preference. Performing different works and roles allows different parts of ones personality to come forward.
Q. Where did you go from Vienna?
To the United States. I couldn’t wait. I left few months before the end of the season.
Q. What are the differences between American and European companies?
Generally in America there are separate rehearsal and performance periods. In Europe mostly it is all together, also there are state funded companies.
Q. Do you have a special routine before you perform?
Q. What do you like in a partner?
I like a friendly manner. Having fun dancing together is always nice.
Q. Ballet is a never ending quest for perfection. What parts of your technique are you most satisfied with? What parts are you least satisfied with and how do you work on your technique to improve it?
Also hard question! On a good day I enjoy my jumps, on a bad day – hardly anything. Practice and rest help with improvement.
Q. Do you workout in a gym?
Q. You’ve danced with companies as a guest artist and as a member of the company. Is it more difficult as a guest artist? Is it easier? How do you relate with the other dancers?
It is interesting to experience the different dynamics. Sometimes it is easier, sometimes- harder. I like when there is enough time to rehearse with the rest of the cast to make friends.
Q. You were involved in a project called Through the Eyes. What was that performance? How did it come about? In general, tell us about it?
That was a solo performance of sorts. I hadn’t danced in Bulgaria in a while and really wanted to! The Ministry of Culture provided a lot of the funding. I had a lot of artistic liberty and had many things going on. I only had 10 days to get it together.
Q. As part of that show you had a long solo part called Peace. What was that like working with the choreographer?
The original idea was mine and I wanted to do more of a conceptual piece than a traditional dance solo. I involved a painter and another dancer and together we discussed and decided on the choreography. The hard part was doing it blinded by the spot-light in complete darkness. I later danced it on tour.
Q Most dance pieces are with other dancers. Do you have to change your technique in anyway when you are on stage alone?
It’s the other way around. When in a group you have a collective look and everyone serves that. When alone you can lift your leg as high or low as you like – just to give a very simple example.
Q. You also like working with photographers modeling. Is it in any way similar to dance?
I do like photography. I did some for the movies played in my show. I enjoy collaborating with photographers in creating something interesting and beautiful. It doesn’t have the rush of live show, but has an excitement all its own. To me it is performing as well. Different medium, similar joy.
Q. What kind of photo work have you been involved in? Is it something you want to continue to do?
I have worked quite a bit with Dane Shitagi. One of the things we collaborate on is called Ballerina Project – it is still evolving. Continue – yes. I have few things coming up.
Q. Where are you now? What will you be doing over the next year? Do you have other similar projects like Through the Eyes planned?
I will continue my work with Suzanne Farrell. We’ll be at the Kennedy Center and we’ll tour in the United States. I guest with the Eglevsky and New Jersey Ballets and I’ll start working with Morphoses-The Wheeldon Company. I look forward to all that! Also I was invited to collaborate with Quixotic Ensemble and two new projects starting in London; I teach when I can and choreograph too; I’ll absolutely do something of mine and I’m open to new works. And I hope to receive more offers like that cool-sounding play coming out this fall I had to turn down.
Q. What advice do you have for younger dancers?
Q. Do you have any favorite movies, books that have meant something to you?
It is always difficult to narrow those things down. Bulgarian authors like Vazov and Botev are geniuses of the written word that move me deeply; History books – stories about Bulgarian revolutionaries during the 18th and 19th centuries and our Khans during the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries; The Three Musketeers; Also books by Kevyn Aucoin and Madeline Albright. I like watching European movies.
To see Violeta perform in an excerpt from her ballet, Peace, please click the URL below. To return to this site, click your browsers back button.
To see Violeta in excerpts from Don Quixote, please click the URL below. To return to this site, click your browsers back button.