Reverence: A Noble Radiance

The Royal Ballet’s Johan Kobborg brings nuance and depth to his roles.
Published in the April/May 2011 issue.

Kobborg in "The Lesson"

Photo by Johan Persson

In reaching the top, how much is talent and how much is sweat?
For me, it was definitely more determination than talent. I know principals all over the world who are actually not naturally talented, but have worked very hard.

What are you most proud of?
My productions of La Sylphide. Staging it at the Bolshoi was an enormous personal achievement, because they’d just done a different production of La Sylphide, and I was able to change the dancers’ opinions of the ballet.

You were trained in Bournonville technique. What do you love most about it?
For a dancer it’s an amazing technical base. Maybe especially for boys, because for all the jumps you’re not using your arms to get you in the air. It comes from the stomach. That core strength makes everything else easier.

What’s your biggest indulgence?
I’m a shopaholic. If you let me loose in Dolce & Gabbana and I see something, I just think, ‘I work so hard, I should have it.’ It’s not good. I’m also a bit of a sparkler—I always wear gold sneakers. I have lots of pairs.

You trained as a tenor—do you still sing?
I traveled most of Europe singing, but I stopped at 16 when I began to focus on ballet. Lately, I started again and even make pop songs on my computer!

You and Alina Cojocaru are on- and offstage partners. What is your favorite role to perform with her?
Giselle is very special for us both. We’ve traveled the world with this ballet, and we can do so many things together in it.

What talent do you have that few people know about?
I’m not bad at designing costumes. I’ve done a few, for The Royal’s production of Napoli, for instance. I also used to do a lot of circus stuff, so I can juggle, ride a monobike and do magic tricks!

What advice do you have for students hoping to be professional dancers?
Unless your heart and mind are telling you that this is really what you want, then forget about it. It’s too hard to not love it.

What inspires you?
Alina.