Ballet dancer

Q&A with ballet dancer Alyona Kovalyova

Alyona Kovalyova, 20, was accepted into the Bolshoi Ballet just after graduated with honors from the Vaganova Academy in St. Petersburg, her hometown, in 2016. Her lead roles with ballet have included Myrtha in Gisele and Odette/Odile in Swan Lake.

What was your childhood or your first ambition?
Being athletic, I loved tennis. My plans for the future were constantly changing.

Private school or public school? University or straight to work?
My mother used to say that all girls should learn to dance. I was recommended to try Vaganova Academy. When I saw all the people trying to get into the academy, I was shocked – I only went there because my mother took me. But we tried, and from the second lesson I understood that it was my passion. I studied there for eight years.

Who was or still is your mentor?
The biggest influence is my director, Makhar Vaziev. He gave me such opportunities after only a few weeks. It was amazing. I had never dreamed of such a chance to direct the ballet.

Are you in good physical shape?
Each day begins with a lesson. After that, rehearsals. For the first, you have to work even more, learn all the dances. And in the evening there are shows. It’s our day.

Ambition or talent: what matters more to succeed?
Most important is your passion: your ability to work, how much you work and work with the spirit – don’t repeat the same mistakes but understand what your dance is all about. You also need to have confidence in the class and not be lazy or miss classes or rehearsals. Each performance must be better than the previous one. We are not only dancers but also actors. It’s not just the technique and the steps, it’s the thought behind them.

How politically engaged are you?
Working with the ballet as an ambassador, a dancer can explain exactly what is needed.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently own?
Nothing. When something comes without any effort, for me it loses everything. When you achieve something, when you work really hard for it and you deserve it, then that’s much more important.

What is your biggest extravaganza?
Time with my friends.

Where are you the happiest?
The Bolshoi Theatre. It’s my home and the place where I can be myself, speak to the public through the stage, express myself.

What ambitions do you still have?
Always improving myself — and that’s for my whole life.

What motivates you ?
The moment you enter a scene, you feel that everyone is waiting for you, waiting to understand your emotions and thoughts. You can influence them during those few hours. After a few seconds, you step into the story you’re telling – it’s a very rare opportunity to be another person, to live another life. When the show ends, you hear the applause and know the audience gets it.

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
It’s very difficult to judge yourself. My teachers, my audience and the people around me can judge better.

What do you find most irritating in other people?
The worst part is being a double person – when you speak one way but act another.

What item you lost would you like to still have?
Nothing. I don’t think about things that are past. I like to look ahead.

What is the greatest challenge of our time?
Live together in peace. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. I’m so confused that we’ve had so many disasters in the past and still haven’t learned anything – we keep arguing, creating new wars, new problems. The biggest challenge is letting everyone live.

Do you believe in life after death?
Yes. I believe there is something else, maybe another life or another place. I think we all need to believe in something, so we are always dreaming. It doesn’t end here.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would your score be?
I’m afraid to judge. I don’t know – I’m sorry.

Alyona Kovalyova dances in “Swan Lake” at the Royal Opera House, August 3 (morning) and August 14 (evening);

To follow @FTMag on Twitter to hear our latest stories first. Listen and subscribe to Everything Else, the FT Culture Podcast, at or at Apple podcast