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B A L L E T   Q & A   W I T H

Jurgita DroninaPrincipal Dancer of The National Ballet of Canada



Jurgita in our Flex 51 Leotard & Wonderland Skirt


How would you describe your relationship with dance in one sentence?

Love and Hate relationship.


Tell us an interesting fact about yourself that your fans might not know?

I love motorcycles and once I retire - my husband and I will go on a road trip.


How many hours of your life would you estimate you’ve spent dancing and practicing?

Most of the time it’s 50 hours a week, so 2600 hours a year. The hours of the performances (approximately 60 performances a year) would make 360 hours performing; extra work and rehearsals on the weekends to prepare for the guest performances would be 104 hours.

In total it would be close to and beyond 3600 hours a year! 


EARLY YEARS OF BALLET, BECOMING A BALLERINA


When did you start dancing?

I went to a professional ballet school at the age of 10. Did no ballet at all – only as a hobby before.


How would you describe your relationship with dance in the past?

In every day routine -  it always felt and still feels like a struggle to me, I was not blessed with the easy body, but I always believed that by working twice more - the results can be achieved anyway. I love it too much to not fight for the results, whatever it takes. And once I am on stage - it is another world. I never want the performance to end. I always wish to stay on stage just a bit longer. It is like an addiction - this feeling while being on stage. The satisfaction that stage gives is truly worth all the daily work, and once the performance is over, I am counting the hours until the next time I will be on stage again. I am addicted to the stage.


How old were when you knew you wanted to become a ballerina?

I think during my first year of school it was clear to me, that this is it. This will be my life, my passion.


How did your parents react when you told them you wanted to be a ballerina?

It was my mum that took me to see a ballet performance before taking me to the audition to attend ballet school. She saw how much I liked the performance which we watched at the National Opera & Ballet Theatre, so there was never a question about not dancing. It was quite obvious I had to try dancing ballet.


What was your greatest inspiration?

The Life itself. My family.


Did you have to deal with rejection? If so, how did you deal with rejection?

Yes, I have struggled a lot as a child because of my height and my speech difficulties at that time. I was very little in height during the school years and really faced many rejections towards that. But I just kept working really hard, believing that all will fall into the right place later in the future, but the work that has to be done now cannot wait till I grow. I always felt like I am building a base and something very important for my future. The more I got upset and bullied, the more hours I spent at the studios. Ballet became like an escape to me. It was the only comfortable place I felt I can express myself.



BEING A PROFESSIONAL BALLERINA


Do you still remember your first day at the professional company? How you felt and anything interesting did happen?

To be honest, I don't remember my first day anymore. But I remember my first performance with the company and how I could not stop looking at the audience and those golden balconies – the Royal Swedish Theatre is so incredibly beautiful. I still remember the smell of that old stage and wooden floor in the wings… Very special memories of my first performance as a professional ballerina.


What was your first experience dancing with the first company you joined Royal Swedish ballet?

I joined RSB for its classical, traditional repertoire that the company offered and to follow my artistic director Madeleine Onne’s vision towards me. I believed I will dance a lot in this company and won't have to wait many years for the opportunities to arise. Madeleine saw the talent in me and gave me many challenging opportunities right away. I started with the group dancing as well as performing solo roles right away. And once I performed solo parts, I started getting principal roles very early on. It made me grow into a ballerina much quicker. The Royal Swedish Ballet had fantastic classical repertoire that I was looking for after graduation. Looking back, I feel it was the perfect place to be at for those first 5 years. And I will never forget the inspiring artists and my colleagues that I had around to look up to. It’s very important for a young dancer to have someone to look up to, and value the work your colleagues do.


You then danced with the Royal Swedish ballet and Dutch National ballet before joining the National Ballet of Canada. How different is it dancing in Europe and now in Canada?  

After the Royal Swedish Ballet and dancing almost entire classical repertoire there, I was craving for more contemporary work, creations, as well as experiencing Balanchine, Forsythe, Dawson and other choreographers… I wanted to explore more and not limit myself with only classical repertoire. Dutch National Ballet was a great place to find what I was looking for. But only now I would dare to say that I found a perfect place, a golden middle between the two experiences that I previously had. National Ballet of Canada feels like home to me, I love the variety of the repertoire it offers and I don't feel I am missing out on anything. I love life in Toronto and my work with the Company. Almost too good to be true!


How long does it take for you to warm up for a class and for a show?

For class:

Every day I work-out either 1 hour at the gym or 1 hour on the pilates machine. And once a week I do both.

For performance:

Same routine in the morning with work-out at the gym + before performance I always do some stretching and stomach/back exercises for about 30 minutes; I am always doing 1-hour barre on my own and always give myself time to be on stage 30 minutes before curtain goes up. I never changed my routine.


What is the most fulfilling aspect of being a professional dancer?

Being on stage and living the life of each role performed. Traveling the world and sharing this art form with different audiences is an amazing experience in my career.


What was the best moment during in your career?

There are many… Each achievement has changed my career in some ways. But preparing my first “Swan Lake” with Natalia Makarova - definitely was a career changing experience.


And the worst / lowest point?

It is really difficult to point it out, as every misfortune felt like it was the worse time of my life. I think I will reflect on the lowest point once I retire and see what was the worst that has happened after all! 


TO ASPIRING DANCERS


As an inspiration to many aspiring young dancers across the world, what advice would you give them when they are at their worst?

To never ever give up and to not focus on the problem, but instead focus on how to solve the problem and how to get out of “falling down” situation as soon as possible. Know yourself better than anyone else, be able to confront and face negatives in yourself as well as see the positives. The worse phrase to me is - “take it easy” when something goes wrong (do it 100 percent or don’t do it at all, but don’t just take it easy!) or “good job”, which does not describe anything at all, and in my opinion, means you must keep working harder and smarter; analyse your work to get more detailed feedback towards your work. Good job is just not good enough! So if one feels at their worst facing issues as a ballet artist, go to the source of the problem and try to fix it. Most importantly, work smart and find your way in this ballet world. The way that will be unique and will represent you on stage.


There is something special in every dancer, what are three things that define you?

I always leave it up to the audience to see what is that “something" special, that makes them come back to my performances.


What do you wish to do after retiring from dance?

I have few ideas, all connected to the theatre, but my ideas keep evolving every year and I am sure once the retirement date is closer, everything will fall into the right place and it will be easier to make a choice. But I am definitely staying in the artistic field.


What is one of the most important pieces of advice you’ve received as a dancer?

There were quite a few advice during my career:

What matters is - who you are on stage and how you dance on stage, not in the studio.

What matters is the quality - over the quantity.

What matters is satisfaction one gets from their own work, building the repertoire and creating the roles in good environment, not the name and prestige of the company. Many dancers choose the “famous” company and stay unhappy there instead of choosing the company that will make them grow as dancers and artists and will make their career enjoyable.

A career is too short to stay somewhere one does not feel content. If you feel unhappy and unsatisfied, move on now; don’t complain and stick around for the comfort of it. You are the only one who is in charge of your own choices.