The Music Center Kicks Off Season with Mariinsky Ballet Production of Balanchine’s Jewels

By Allyson Nobles
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Maria Khoreva and Xander in Diamonds by Svetlana Avvakum.

This weekend The Music Center opened their 2019/2020 season hosting Russia’s Mariinsky Ballet for their production of George Balanchine’s incredible three-act ballet Jewels. Ahead of their arrival, we got to ask up-and-coming dance starlet Maria Khoreva a little more about herself. The-19 year-old has been garnering a lot of attention for her talent and style on the stage, but also off stage. Now with nearly 350k followers on Instagram and a wealth of humility and grace, Khoreva is quickly becoming an international sensation. The interview below has been edited slightly for clarity.

LA CANVAS: Have you performed Balanchine’s Jewels before?

MARIA KHOREVA: Yes, a few times at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint-Petersburg. There are performances that are physically demanding, such as Paquita, there are artistically difficult performances such as La Bayadere, and there are those that are very difficult to get into the essence of because of the many overlapping meanings, but once you’re there, you no longer lose that bond with them. It seems to me that Balanchine is absolutely my choreographer: every movement, phrase, combination very logically falls on my body and soul. He is also a great joker and a very modest person, who would never talk directly about meanings, hiding his innermost thoughts of a great philosopher and thinker under the seemingly plotless nature of his creations, clothing them in an allegory of the subtlest irony, behind which there is tenderness. His ballet is a celebration and triumph of femininity, which is so unusual for the present world.

LAC: How are you feeling leading into opening night? Nervous? Excited?

MK: In general, before going on stage, I feel an extraordinary excitement, familiar to every person who had to speak for the first time in front of a large audience – to give a speech, sing a song, dance. I feel it each time like the first time. But once you take a few steps on stage the excitement, jitters, fear go away, turning into pure adrenaline and now the most important thing is not to waste all energy at the beginning of the performance, because the logic of most ballet performances is such that the climax with fouetté, difficult lifts, jumps occur at the end of the ballet and you need to save strength to this main finish line. There were a few times when I failed to dose my efforts correctly and got physically squeezed to the finale and as a result could not cope with some difficulties. It was terrible.

But now the best way to describe the feelings would be to say I’m thrilled to step onstage of the amazing Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and perform my favorite role! It’s such an honor to be dancing Balanchine’s beautiful choreography and being able to connect to the audience through it! 

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👏Сегодня начинается последний этап американских гастролей балетной труппы Мариинского театра: серия спектаклей «Баядерка» в Зеллербах-холле Беркли (30 октября – 3 ноября). В партии Никии – Екатерина Кондаурова, Олеся Новикова, Мария Хорева, в партии Солора – Андрей Ермаков, Кимин Ким, Владимир Шкляров, Гамзатти – Надежда Батоева, Анастасия Нуйкина, Екатерина Чебыкина. ⠀ 📷 Н.Разиной и В.Барановского

A post shared by Mariinsky Theatre (@mariinsky) on

LAC: How is it working with Mariinsky Ballet?

MK: It’s very exciting every day! There are so many interesting opportunities given to the young dancers now thanks to our director Yuri Fateev and I’m feeling very lucky to be a part of a company now! You may not know your schedule for tomorrow because the things keep changing rapidly but you get to create your art – prepare new roles, work with your coach and your partners, get to know other dancers, and that’s priceless!!

The tragedy, and at the same time the artist’s happiness, lies in the fact that he does not dispose of his own life, following his roles and performances according to the theater’s life schedule, which becomes his own and main life.

LAC: Is there a favorite moment on stage for you? And is it the music, the choreography? What is the best part?

MK: Well, there are certainly moments when I feel genuinely happy, so elated and absolutely free. It’s both! The combination of powerful music and choreography, costumes, stage decorations – realizing you’re a part of it is truly magical.

Any role is an endless world. A universe. The human soul is infinite. The more an artist penetrates his character, the more he becomes fascinated by it. I love all my roles, but the most difficult and therefore most beloved today are “Nikiya” from La Bayadere and “Diamonds” from Jewels. They are mine. I do not have to invent anything and do not have to deceive anyone, putting on someone else’s mask and portraying another myself. They are like a dress made by a good tailor by your standards. It’s not tight and does not hang loosely anywhere. Perfect dress. Ideal roles.

Maria Khoreva and in Diamonds by Svetlana Avvakum.

LAC: What inspires you most in your dance? And what motivates you when you have a hard time?

MK: I love the time spent in the rehearsal studio. It is there, step by step, that large and small roles are born, sewn from shreds of school knowledge and skills, which at the Academy were also in turn composed of very simple movements. Ballet is a mosaic diligently laid out day after day by teachers, choreographers and artists in their joint work. That’s the kind of daily and painstaking work, that makes the main source of strength in difficult situations, helping by tiny steps to get over any great difficulty. In Russia, we say “what the eyes fear the hands do.”

And inspiration is all around. Delicious coffee, an interesting book, a beautiful ballerina on YouTube, a funny post on Instagram, not to mention the recently seen “The OA” [of Netflix]! Music, friends, family – this list can go on and on. Inspiration is life around you and in yourself. It is everywhere.

LAC: Is this your first time to Los Angeles? How is it different from Saint-Petersburg? I bet the weather is much warmer here right now!

MK: Well, truly the weather here now is much warmer than it ever gets in summer in Saint-Petersburg. And also it typically doesn’t get any higher than 20 floors in my home city so it’s very much different from all the skyscrapers you can find here! I would also say it’s calmer in Saint-Petersburg and the energy is more subtle. And the ocean, of course, with an endless beach. It does not fit into the head that you can live on the shore of a warm ocean and see every day how the sun sets in it.

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Saying bye to Los Angeles and Southern California today and traveling North! 💨 It was a beautiful time and I hope to be back soon! 💙 We left three quarters of our tour behind us and Balanchine’s choreography with it and there’s only one week of Bayaderes in Berkeley, CA at the @cal_performances to look forward too! But it doesn’t lower our excitement and we’re moving back to the timeless classics with the new inspiration from everything we experienced during the tour! ✨😍 P.S. if you thought I only had one picture from Santa Monica beach in LA you were so wrong… 🤦🏻‍♀️😅 Of course I couldn’t go home without trying to make at least 1K pics 🙈 Thanks @caixetaeyes for capturing the sunset and me! Hope you guys are having a gorgeous day! ❤️ #mariakhoreva

A post shared by Maria Khoreva (@marachok) on

LAC: What else do you like to do in your spare time? Any other fun hobbies?

MK: Well, I’m not sure about the “fun”, but books, music, movies and the Internet fill all the gaps between rehearsals and performances so it’s hard to add anything else. From the big things, I really like traveling, going to museums and exhibitions, and I don’t forget about shopping. By the way, here in LA I really enjoyed walked around The Broad. Do you remember there is a painting in dark blue colors – water, boat, people at the table? Mysterious and captivating. Or a yellow girl with a tear… Amazingly beautiful.

LAC: What are you listening to right now? What is some of your favorite music? Any books?

MK: I have a big playlist of Johann S. Bach on my phone, I’m listening to it whenever I need to concentrate and get inspired before the show. Also right now I’m really into musicals (La La Land, Chicago, Phantom of the Opera, The Greatest Showman) and into Jazz/Indie (Amy Winehouse, Susanne Sundfør, Melody Gardot). But I also love Pop! (Ava Max, Lana de Rey, Halsey and others).
The books that I read now are Victor Pelevin, Hyperion by Dan Simmons. In general, I love science fiction very much. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is one of my last favorites. How did I live before, not knowing the answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything?

LAC: What are some of your hopes and dreams as you continue to grow and flourish as a dancer? Is there a ballet or choreographer you are interested in performing with?

MK: My biggest dream is to discover myself through dance – to never stop improving through the new roles and choreography and finding endless new possibilities in the ones I’ve already performed. I really want to become a true artist being able to tell all of these marvelous stories which ballet always are about. Every ballet that I see – I dream of maybe performing in it one day because I’m just fascinated by this art form. But as of lately I’ve been really hoping to dance two roles – Odette/Odille from Swan Lake and Juliet from Romeo and Juliet.

And what’s next… I try not to think. I believe in fate, in people around me, in my teachers, friends, family. I learn to believe in myself, not to be afraid of anything and to observe with interest how it all happens. So far very interesting!

Though the Mariinsky Ballet has now concluded their run of Jewels, The Music Center’s season continues with The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in March and in April Germany’s own Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch’s staging of Palermo Palermo, which has not graced the United States in almost thirty years. The season continues with Malpaso Dance Company in May and concludes in July with Teatro alla Scala Ballet Company for their debut with The Music Center in July performing Giselle, a masterful 19th century ballet that is ripe with romance and tragedy.

Tickets can be found at https://www.musiccenter.org/

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