In the Studio with Olga Smirnova

Olga Smirnova’s first three seasons at the Bolshoi Ballet were a whirlwind of debuts and creations, but it all came to a halt in 2014, when a foot injury took the Vaganova-trained prodigy out of action for nearly a year. During her break, Smirnova adopted a new approach to taking care of her body throughout the day, using Pilates and various floor exercises. When she returned to the stage last summer, in Yuri Possokhov’s new full-length ballet A Hero of Our Time, it was with a newfound maturity. “Maybe I needed this break to reflect after such an intense period,” she says. “I think I grew up more than in the previous three years.”

A Hero of Our Time puts a modern twist on a popular 19th-century Russian novel by Mikhail Lermontov and its hero, Pechorin, who encounters a series of women. Pointe went backstage with Smirnova as she worked with Possokhov and theater director Kirill Serebrennikov on the role of Bela. With the help of her coach, Marina Kondratieva, she used her expressive lines and port de bras to lend depth to the character, a proud Circassian princess.

And the creations keep coming: This winter, she spent a month in Monaco, where Jean-Christophe Maillot devised a new part for her in Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo’s Nutcracker Company. “I feel like Maillot and Possokhov are ‘my’ choreographers,” she explains. “I feel so comfortable in their work that I would never miss an opportunity to go further with them.”

Smirnova and Igor Tsvirko rehearse “A Hero of Our Time” (photo by Quinn Wharton)


“Even if you’re very talented, if you don’t want to work, if you don’t want to search, success will never come.” (Photo by Quinn Wharton)


With theater director Kirill Serebrennikov: “The choreographer would create steps, and then Kirill came in and simply started talking. His words gave the choreography meaning and color.” (Photo by Quinn Wharton)


(Photo by Quinn Wharton)


(Photo by Quinn Wharton)

“Some dancers feel free to suggest things or to change the choreography, but I don’t. I trust the choreographer—I don’t even wonder if the result is beautiful or not.” (Photo by Quinn Wharton)


“The key to building a partnership is the desire to work, to search together in the studio, to focus on the little details. Sometimes, rather than trying lifts over and over again, the best thing is to talk and figure out the problem together.” (Photo by Quinn Wharton)



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