Svetlana Zakharova (dancer)

Svetlana Yuryevna Zakharova (Ukrainian: Світлана Юріївна Захарова, Russian: Светлана Юрьевна Захарова; born 10 June 1979) is a Russian prima ballerina with the Bolshoi Ballet[1] and an étoile of the La Scala Theatre Ballet.[2]

Svetlana Zakharova
Svetlana Zakharova in 2015
Svetlana Yuryevna Zakharova

(1979-06-10) 10 June 1979
EducationKyiv Choreographic School, Vaganova Ballet Academy
Height175 cm (5 ft 9 in)
Spouse(s)Vadim Repin
Current groupBolshoi Ballet
Former groupsMariinsky Ballet
DancesSwan Lake, Giselle, Don Quixote, The Sleeping Beauty, La Bayadère, Raymonda

Early life

Svetlana Zakharova was born in Lutsk, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union, on 10 June 1979. At the age of six, she was taken by her mother to learn folk dancing at a local studio, and by the age of 10, she had auditioned and was accepted into the Kyiv Choreography School. Valeria Sulegina was one of her teachers.[3]

In 1995, after six years at the Kyiv School, Zakharova entered the Young Dancers' Competition (Vaganova-Prix) in St. Petersburg. The youngest contestant, she took second prize and was invited to continue her training in the graduating course of St Petersburg's Vaganova Academy.[4] It was the first time in the school's history to allow a student to skip two grades.[5]

After attending the pre-eminent Russian ballet school for one year, Zakharova then joined the Mariinsky ballet in 1996.[6]

Mariinsky Ballet

Zakharova debuted with the Mariinsky Ballet in 1996, appearing as Maria with Ruben Bobovnikov, in Rostislav Zakharov's The Fountain of Bakhchisarai.

In 1997, after her first year with the Mariinsky, at 18, Zakharova was promoted to principal dancer. Her first partner was principal Igor Zelensky.[7] Olga Moiseyeva was her coach.[3]

Bolshoi Ballet

By 2003, Zakharova "was getting itchy feet" at the Mariinsky, and moved to the Bolshoi Ballet.[6] The offer from the Bolshoi company was longstanding, and the departure from the Mariinsky was reportedly due to discontent with that company.[8]

Zakharova is coached by Lyudmila Semenyaka.[3]

Rise to fame

From 1999 on, Zakharova regularly performed as a guest soloist at the Paris Opera where she worked with French choreographer Pierre Lacotte. Lacotte is viewed as a leading authority on classical ballet[9] contributing to the career of Evgenia Obraztsova and Hannah O'Neill. Svetlana Zakharova was the first Russian principal dancer performing in Paris and became a world star[3] as of 2000.

Successful assignments followed, ranging from great classical roles like Giselle, Odette-Odile in "Swan Lake", Aurora in "Sleeping Beauty", and Nikiya in "La Bayadère," to such modern works as Balanchine's "Serenade", "Symphony in C" and "Apollo" as well as McMillan's "Manon" and Neumeier's "Now and Then"[7][10]

At La Scala Theatre Ballet in Italy, Zakharova danced with partner Roberto Bolle in Swan Lake, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, and La Bayadère.

Zakharova was one of the dancers featured in the 2006 documentary Ballerina.


Zakharova is viewed as one of the greatest ballerinas of her generation and is highly regarded for her technical expertise.[11]

Vladimir Vasiliev, director of the Bolshoi ballet from 1995 to 2000 and as a principal dancer on a level with Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov,[12] described Zakharova as "nature endowed," having everything a girl dreaming of ballet could want.

He pointed out that perfection had one drawback, the dryness of the limit.

When working briefly with Zakharova, Vasiliev changed his idea of her – of the actress. He felt the inner churning of her emotions and the lively beating of her heart.

"In an adagio from the ballet "Macbeth", Svetlana was for me a joyous revelation."[10]

"In the flesh, it's hard not to be a little dazzled by Svetlana Zakharova's improbably fine features and impossibly big blue eyes – but these are merely the finishing touches of a long, strong, beautifully proportioned body that's one of the great balletic instruments of our times."[6]


Personal life

Zakharova is married to Russian violinist Vadim Repin, and they have one child, daughter Anna (b. 2011). She had withdrawn from the Bolshoi Ballet tour to London in the summer of 2010 citing a hip injury; she was pregnant at the time. Zakharova returned to dancing, and performed in London on 15 May 2011, in a gala performance celebrating Soviet ballerina Galina Ulanova.

She named the Italian danseur Roberto Bolle as one of her favorite partners.

A member of United Russia party, Zakharova was a supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation during the Ukrainian crisis, which led to a break in her relationship with the Kyiv Choreographic School in particular.[15]


  1. "Svetlana Zakharova". Bolshoi Theatre. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  2. "Etoiles Biographies". Teatro alla Scala. Retrieved 29 October 2015.
  3. A Young Ballerina Learns to Walk Through Open Doors, biography of Svetlana Zakharova by Gia Kourlas, The New York Times, 21 July 2005.
  4. Svetlana Zakharova – The embodiment of joy and beauty, article by Elena Fyodorenko, 11 June 2009.
  5. Svetlana Zakharova, announcement, programme La Bayadère, the Belgrad Music Festival, 26 October 2015.
  6. Monahan, Mark (15 July 2006). "The Jewel in the Bolshoi's Crown". The Telegraph. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  7. Svetlana Zakharova's page, at the Bolchoi Theatre
  8. Ng, Kevin. "Interview with Zakharova". Archived from the original on 15 September 2008.
  9. Danse : les nouveaux visages de « Paquita » au Palais Garnier, article by Philippe Noisette, Les Echos, 5 May 2015.
  10. The embodiment of joy and beauty, article by Elena Fyodorenko, Russia Now, 11 June 2009.
  11. Macaulay, Alastair (21 November 2011). "Sleeping Beauty Review". New York Times.
  12. Interview: Mathias Heymann, principal dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet, by Patricia Boccadoro, 2 November 2009,
  13. "Nominees: Female Dancers". Prix Benois de la Danse. 2005. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
  14. "Presidential Decree of 05.06.2007 N 700". Archived from the original on 28 May 2008.
  15. "Ukraine Ballet School Rejects Charity from Pro-Putin Dancer". Agence France-Presse. 13 December 2014. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
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