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It is my great pleasure to bring you an English translation of the interview Diana Vishneva gave to Svetlana Sachkova of Vogue Russia recently. The renowned prima ballerina, who has been based in New York for the majority of this year, spoke of her pregnancy, the birth of her son Rudolf, the return to fighting form and her plans for the future.
Photo by Ben Hassett
“I am convinced that I am on the cusp of an entirely new phase of my professional life. I long to create something innovative, to push boundaries. I have been thinking about starting my own company for a long time now.” – Diana Vishneva, Vogue Russia, September 2018
On pregnancy and giving birth
I feel very at home [in America]. My mother-in-law, a neonatologist, lives here, and she is helping us so much right now. My wonderful doctor came highly recommended by my friends; She was with me all throughout my pregnancy and delivered my son. She had her concerns, due to my age, the fact that I am a ballerina and because of my rhesus negative status. We came up with plan A and plan B, but everything went splendidly.
On naming her son Rudolf
I love Nureyev very much – I even collect photos with his autographs – but we did not name our son after him! I spent a long time selecting the name: its meaning and the way it sounds was very important to me. In German, it means “a strong leader”. We also gave our son a second name – Victor (with the emphasis on the second syllable) – after my father. Rudolf-Victor sounds harmonious and, most importantly, international. I am of Russian and Tatar descent, and my husband is of an even wilder mix: he has Russian, Korean, Polish, Belarus and Kazakh blood.
On whether she will encourage her son to pursue ballet
It’s a wonderful profession, but a person must be driven by an incredible passion to overcome all of its obstacles. If I recognise [this passion in my son], naturally I will not stand in his way. But something tells me that history will not repeat itself in my family.
On getting back into shape
I was forbidden from taking even the lightest of exercise in the six weeks following the birth. And it was great! I completely immersed myself in caring for my child and thought of nothing else. Who cares about getting in shape when there is such a miracle to enjoy! I spent my time learning to handle this bundle of joy and limited my recovery to regular massages and trips to the osteopath, who put my abdominal muscles and hip joints back into place. I began to train only with the doctors’ permission. I am not very happy with my progress, but all of my teachers can’t believe it; they say that I am making a phenomenally fast recovery! The body remembers everything.
I started training a month ago; about eight weeks after giving birth. I spent my entire pregnancy resting because my body demanded it so, naturally, I didn’t jump straight into the deep end. I started off by attending a weekly pilates class and am only now returning to ballet.
On training at Steps on Broadway
No one stares at me or whispers behind my back. That’s not the way of this place. When I came to this studio for my first class, I ran into Baryshnikov.
Photos by Frederic Pinet
On balancing motherhood and work
At the moment, I am taking a “less is more” approach to all job offers. I am a mature person and I do not give myself any strict directives; everything must happen organically. I can see the correct course of action in any situation, be it work, life or child-rearing. For example, I’m told: “Do you rock him to sleep in your arms? Oh, he will grow dependant on you then.” So what? Of course, I rock my son to sleep in my arms. I can feel that we both need the warmth, the touch, and the connection. They used to say that you need to let an infant ‘cry themselves out’, but that’s such nonsense to me. Love, kindness and attention are the most important things you can give to a child. The more they are nourished, the more independent, calm and free they will grow to be. I will not take a military approach to child-rearing. For a boy to learn discipline, he should be enrolled in sports programs, not put through drills and punishments at home. That would only scar him emotionally.
For me, it is imperative that things happen naturally. I do not torment myself or my child. Instead, I listen to him and to my own body. That is why I took a break while I was pregnant. I spent thirty years dancing without a break. Only once did I allow myself a little time-out because of an injury. About three years ago, I realised that the amount of work is growing, the projects are piling up, the contracts aren’t expiring, and I am no longer able to handle it, on a purely psychological level. I was longing for this break and was preparing myself for the birth of my son.
Photo by Ben Hassett
Ohad Naharin’s “B/olero” | September 27 | Paris Opera Ballet
Diana: “[Back in 2016], I had been longing to work with Ohad, who headed Batsheva Dance Company for many years, for a long time. At long last, he told me that he had the kind of choreography [I was looking for], set to an electronic remix of Ravel’s score, but I would needed a partner. I thought: why not invite a real Étoile? When I offered the part to Aurélie Dupont, she was astounded. Ballet is a very competitive field, and such gestures are very rare. We travelled to Israel together, spent a week in rehearsals, and performed at the festival. We enjoyed working together, and Aurélie suggested that we keep going. I had agreed to dance at the Opera Garnier’s season opening Gala before I fell pregnant, but I promised [Aurélie] that I would be ready no matter what. After all, this is one of my favourite stages in the world. It will be no ordinary performance, but a grand event, run under the patronage of Chanel. Karl Lagerfeld is designing costumes for Aurélie and me.
Diana Vishneva and Aurélie Dupont performing Ohad Haharin’s “B/olero” at Context Festival.
Photo from the Context Festival website.
Context Festival | October – November | various Moscow and St Petersburg venues
The international festival CONTEXT. Diana Vishneva provides access to the best practices of contemporary dance. Each year the festival brings world premieres, unique collaborations, and critically acclaimed productions created by both recognised and emerging choreographers to the Russian audience. The festival also features documentary film screenings and a broad educational programme. Over the course of the year, the Festival team travels the world in search of the most exciting contemporary dance companies to present their works to people in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
Diana: “I have always been drawn to modern dance, even when no one knew anything about it [in Russia]. When I trained at Vaganova, I would unearth some old, dusty VHS tapes of modern productions, and would greedily devour the footage sitting in front of a TV in one of the studios, all the while dreaming that one day I, too, will be part of that world. My dream came true. Working in Europe and America gave me an opportunity to expand beyond classical ballet. A new dance language is an entirely different aesthetic, and learning it is always a struggle; the body resists and retaliates with pain. But I see no point [in carrying on] if there isn’t room for growth. I find it all incredibly rewarding: I mature both spiritually and emotionally and begin to realise myself in new ways.
Diana: “When you are growing, you feel as if you are bursting at the seams, and you just have to do something about it. When the festival was first launched six years ago, hardly anyone in Russia knew what modern choreography was . Today, now that they have grown accustomed to it, the audience begins to distinguish between different styles and recognise the new names.”
Diana Vishneva and Marcelo Gomes. Photo from the Context Festival website.
Sleeping Beauty Dreams | December | Beacon Theatre, New York and other venues
A contemporary art exploration of the age-old fable, features global prima ballerina Diana Vishneva performing as Princess Aurora and Tony Award nominee Desmond Richardson as Prince Peter in a fusion of dance, music, art, and revolutionary 3D digital technology never seen on stage before.
Diana: “This is my first time working on a project of this scale. It was realised by a huge team from all over the globe: every single one of them – a leader in their field. The choreography was created by Edward Clug to the music of Noisia, a Dutch electronic music trio, and the costumes were designed by Bart Hess, whose work is exhibited all over the world and who has collaborated with Lady Gaga. The result will be an experimental production, which blurs the lines between music, dance, modern art and 3D technology. Together with our creative producer, Rem Khass, we view this genre as ‘contemporary art performance’. We took the story of “Sleeping Beauty” as our base, and proceeded to investigate Aurora’s dreams, which she experiences during her century-long sleep, as the powers of good and evil struggle within her. No one has explored this angle until now. In an unprecedented turn, my character will interact with digital creatures by virtue of cutting-edge technology, brought to life by Carlo Ratti and Tobias Gremmler.