Interview with Ksenia Ovsyanick, Principal Ballerina with Staatsballett Berlin and Guest Star with Polish National Ballet
„… my language is DANCE. And my mission is to make people see, feel and relate, open their minds and to take their breath away…“Quote of Ksenia Ovsyanick on https://www.ksenia-ovsyanick.com/
You are an outstanding dancer and artist who is looking for new challenges. What inspires you?
I really believe in the art form of ballet and dance. Aesthetically, dramatically, physically, culturally it has so much to offer, so what drives me is the desire to tap into as much of its potential as possible and to share it with people, get others inspired from it and with that to appreciate it.
You did a lot of different projects in dancing, art, fashion and music. During the lockdown you started even more projects. Please tell us more about them.
I’m very curious about finding ways how dance can work together with other art forms. It’s a way to introduce it to the new audiences, find new and interesting creations, while using dance at its best quality.
When the lockdown started, together with -social distancing- as a main message [something that goes so against our whole existence as performers, which is about social sharing] I immediately thought, how usually complicated times as such are usually reflected in the arts, and if artists can respond to what is happening socially, why can’t dance? So I got in touch with all our dancers in the company, to see if we can create something that can show and support unity in the times when it’s being threatened. We filmed as a chain improvisations at home, each in response to the video posted by the previous person, which I then edited and which gave a start to –From Berlin with Love– video. It was amazing to see after how a lot of ballet companies around the world picked up the concept and created their own versions of it.
The interesting thing that happened during pandemic was that by learning to communicate online, for the lack of other choice, it actually led to connecting with people in other countries, companies, industries that I just never had time to work with before. That resulted me collaborating with choreographers such as Itzik Galili in Israel, Projection dance in Australia, composer Jonathan Heck in Hamburg, Goh ballet academy in Canada, as well collaborate with musicians, art galleries and fashion industry which my schedule just wouldn’t have allowed for before. Considering my mission to get more appreciation for dance out there, this gave a lot of opportunities to explore that.
In the beginning of your ballet career your teacher said that you would never be a swan as you didn’t have the correct body type and were too small at 165cm. Now, you’ve danced all the famous main characters in Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Giselle, the Sugar Plum fairy and more. How did you cope to become a prima ballerina anyway?
I truly believe, that when you really want something with all your being, you will be able to achieve it. Because there is a reason you want or dream about it in the first place. And I had a dream and determination to become prima ballerina from very early childhood. I think every time I was told I could not achieve it, gave me even more determination to proof that I can. But also I just couldn’t imaging giving up on something that for some reason is so important to me. Which is why even now, in the times of pandemic, when existence of the theatre world is under threat, I’m ready to put all the energy I can to make sure the world of ballet can and will still flourish.
What would you recommend young dancers at the beginning of their career?
Pay attention to the technique basics and correct way of coordination. It might seems very boring, but it will save you injuries for the rest of your career.
You danced Tatjana in Cranko’s Onegin. What are the challenges of this role? Why is this choreography still so famous and attractive?
I think it is such an attractive ballet, as it explores very relatable feelings that the characters go though. You combine it with romantic Russian setting, Tchaikovsky music and beautiful choreography and you get a perfect and dramatic evening.
The challenge for this role I find is that the emotional journey that Tatjana goes through is very rich, while you have a short span of stage time to fully portrait it. And I would not want to simplify what her character goes through and what her journey is about. She is not just a naive girl, who falls in love with a wrong person, and then when he comes back to her begging she revenges with reject. She is highly emotionally intelligent girl even at such a young age, and she falls in love with Onegin for a reason, she wants to understand and to help his depression, and while he ends up hurting her in every way possible, inside she know he has his reasons and she still loves him even many years later when they meet. Honor and dignity however are much more important to her then, so when every inch of her body wants to give into what seems like true love, she still chooses to be devoted to her current husband and family. Honor is something Russian culture highly prides, and I find this story and ballet is very much about capturing that.
You dance classical and contemporary ballets. You worked with all renown choreographers. What character do you love the most? What are the challenges doing both styles?
The character I haven’t done yet.))
I enjoy both classical and contemporary, because it offers wide range of languages of expression and I love finding new ways to express the story.
With dancing classical choreography I find certain ease and clarity in the fact that there is a clear technique and aesthetic you can always rely on. The challenge however is to also create clear storytelling within that frame, as it can feel limiting, so for me the main challenge and the goal is to erase any limitation, and find full freedom of expression staying in that frame.
In contemporary dance you work with different choreographers and there is endless possibilities of where movement can go, how it can be approached and interpreted. On one hand you have complete freedom of interpretation, but on the other you also have important responsibility to understand and translate through your body what the choreographer wanted to show. At the end of the day choreography is only as good as it was executed.
The biggest challenge for me is switching between classical and contemporary techniques, as it makes the body move in quite contradictory ways, which is incredibly straining and confusing for the muscles. So whenever I have to switch a lot between various styles of dancing, extra body conditioning becomes essential.
What are your new challenges and projects?
It is a curious time, when it is really hard to plan ahead, and there is a big challenge laying ahead in returning ballet and performing world to the live stage at its best quality as well as rebuilding the audience. For me specifically I’m also currently expecting an addition to our family, so this is definitely going to be the most exciting and beautiful change to my life. I’m very curious, what this part of life will bring and how it will also enrich my further career, so I’m really looking forward to what the next years are going to bring.
Photo on Top: Ballerina Model Ksenia Ovsyanick – FIREBIRD © Diego Indraccolo
More infoRmation On her Website
CV of Ksenia Ovsynick
Born 1989 in Tihvin, Russia
Berlin Staatsballett 2016 – today
English National Ballet — 2008-2016
Open University BA (honours) Business and Economics studies 2011-2017English National Ballet School 2005-2008Belorussian State Ballet College 1999-2005
Outstanding classical performance, National Dance Award 2012 Benois de la Danse 2013 best female dancer nominationPrizewinner at the Beijing International Ballet Competition 2006Prizewinner at the Prix de Lausanne 2007Silver Medal at the International Ballet Competition in Harkov, Ukraine 2004
Principal ballerina with Staatsballett Berlin, russian-born Ksenia started her training in Belorussian State Ballet College, followed by winning a scholarship at Prix de Lausanne to come to English National Ballet School. Her career started with English National Ballet and over the years she performed on the stages around the world including: Opera National de Paris Palais Garner, Royal Opera House Muscat, Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow, Royal Albert Hall London, Buckingham Palace, participated in gala performances in China, Singapore, India, Russia, Chile Greece, Sweden, Spain, Italy, France, Denmark, Latvia, Belarus among others, as well as participated in Closing ceremony of Olympics in London 2012.
At the age of 20 she danced her first Giselle and was nominated for English National Ballet’s Emerging dancer award. In march 2012 Ksenia had a title role of Firebird choreographed on her in the world premiere of “Firebird” by George Williamson, which brought her the Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for an outstanding performance.
In 2013 Ms Ovsyanick was nominated for “Prix Benois de la Danse” best female dancer award and in 2018 she won “Dance Open“ international Ballet Award in St. Petersburg.
Ksenia created roles together with current choreographers such as Nacho Duato, Liam Scarlett, George Williamson, Alexej Ratmansky, Itzik Galilli, Yabin Wang and performed ballets by Kenneth Macmillan, John Cranko, Jiri Kylian, George Balanchine, Serge Lifar and Wayne Eagling among others.
In 2016 she joined Staatsballett Berlin as Principal Ballerina, performing leading roles in Nacho Duato’s Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, the title role in ballet Erde created on her by Duato, as well as Rubies and Diamonds in Balanchine’s Jewels, Giselle, Onegin, Don Quixote, La Bayadere and others.
In season 2019/2020 also a Permanent Guest Principal Dancer with Polish National Ballet.