Anna Tsygankova: Cinderella, and a real-life fairytale
Russian ballerina Anna Tsygankova, Cinderella for Christopher Wheeldon and half of one of ballet's power couples, tells us about creating a fairytale.
First of all, they’re a handsome couple: she ravishingly pale with raven black hair and the face of a fairytale princess; he a golden prince, not for nothing known as the Brad Pitt of ballet with chiselled jaw, Pitt-ian pout and piercing blue eyes.
Tsygankova is enjoying the peaks of a career that has seen her mark a place as one of the top ballerinas of the day. Having danced with the Bolshoi, and as principal with Hungarian National Ballet, she joined Dutch National Ballet in 2007, but continues to guest with companies around the world.
This show marks Cinderella’s UK premiere, a chance for us to see another full length work by one of Britain’s favourite, home-grown choreographers.
Anna Tsygankova told us about working with Wheeldon, dancing with her own prince charming and the ongoing allure of ballet.
Christopher Wheeldon has chosen to lean away from the Cinderella story we all recognise, how do your roles compare to the traditional figures?
A: Chris leaned more towards brothers Grimm’s story and also the characters became human. My Cinderella is often alone but never lonely. She is guided by her fates and I really love her for being brave because so many people are afraid to follow their destiny.
Is this Cinderella a princess for a modern day?
A: To me she does not come across as a princess. She is a young woman, kind and generous and in spite of the difficult circumstances, she finds the strength to believe and trust her faith.
Christopher Wheeldon has referred to you as his muse - what inspiration do you draw from him?
A: From the day Chris and I started working together, I realised what a special man he is - incredible talent, amazing vision, kind heart and endless energy. How would those things not inspire me? I learn a lot from him, dancing his ballets makes my body move in such a different way and it is amazing to feel the unity between the body and the soul.
Anna Tsygankova and Christopher Wheeldon, photo by Altin Kaftira
It’s a long ballet, how do you prepare?
A: Usually, two hours before the show, I do make-up and hair, drink coffee and I like to do it all in silence. No headset, no iPad, just my thoughts.
You’re dancing a fairytale with your own Prince Charming, what should we expect of your partnership?
A: As any partnership, Matt and I have developed ours over the years. We both became more experienced in dancing together, as well as individuals. You can put two brilliant dancers together but it still won’t be a partnership. The real one takes a special chemistry, trust and contrasts which complement one another.
Tell us about how you met.
A: When Matt joined Dutch National Ballet, I said to myself ‘this guy’s dancing is something I didn’t see for a long time’. Then we were put to dance together the new production of Don Quixote by Alexei Ratmansky, so I guess that was the beginning of our partnership.
What ballet do you dream of dancing together?
A: Manon and Onegin.
What will you do for fun when in London together?
A: We love Notting Hill, Hampstead and I am a big fan of all the parks. I simply like walking in the old streets of London, in Amsterdam I always bike. And culture life in London in fascinating, it is hard to choose which event to go to.
Anna Tsygankova and Matthew Golding in the Cinderella ballet | London Coliseum
How does being a principal at DNB compare with dancing for the Bolshoi?
A: Bolshoi was at the beginning of my career, I am a different person now. My life experience changed me, my life on stage changed me. I never regretted the decision to leave Russia, because in Europe I found the freedom I missed back home.
This year saw your debut with the Royal Ballet in Don Quixote, how did it feel?
A: It was an unforgettable experience. The beautiful dream came true. The stage of the Royal Opera House is very special. Obviously it is a lot of responsibility but I felt as if the stage was helping me and I was incredibly inspired to perform. As well as people, warm and friendly. Simply, an amazing company.
What kind of dance do you like to watch?
A: I love to watch the dancer who can express the true and deep emotions. I love young talents, seeing their potential but still to watch a master is something different.
The Christopher Wheeldon Cinderella shows at the London Coliseum until the 11th July 2015. Read our preview here.