I was born in Tbilisi, Georgia into a dancer’s family. My grandfather was a national folk dancer and my grandmother was an opera singer. Both my parents and my brother were ballet dancers. When I think of my childhood, I feel like I grew up in the theater. I was always watching my parents on stage, trying on my mom’s pointe shoes, and even giving her corrections. From a very young age, I knew that I would be a dancer.
A career in ballet was unavoidable for me. Even though I wanted to start training when I was young, my parents made me wait till I was older. So, at the age of nine, I began to train at the Vakhtang Chabukiani Choreographic Institute. When I was 12, my brother, David, was dancing at the Dutch National Ballet in Amsterdam. I remember visiting him and falling completely in love with the city and company. I promised myself that when I grew up, I would live in Amsterdam. My parents and my brother were always my biggest inspiration. He was an amazing dancer and was always winning competitions. I wanted to be just like him, as well as make my parents proud.
When I was 15, my family moved to the US, so I would be able to grown more as a dancer. Subsequently, I joined the Colorado Ballet and eventually became a principal. However, after five years in Colorado, I wanted to dance for a bigger company and be closer to Europe. David was now a principal dancer at the Royal Ballet, so over Christmas, I went to England to audition for the Birmingham Royal Ballet. They hired me as a soloist and I moved there right away. This was a very challenging time for me. The weather was so grey, and I was really on my own for the first time. It was very difficult for me to find myself, so again I decided to move. I contacted the Dutch National Ballet a week before their season ended.
Even though their auditions had finished, the Artistic Director, Ted Brandsen, invited me to come take class. At first, I didn’t think I had a chance of being hired. The company is so tall, and I am very small. In the end, I was hired as a soloist and within three years I became a principal dancer. When I was growing up, I was always very determined. Becoming a dancer takes a lot of will power. You can’t be afraid to push outside your comfort zone. The career of a dancer is very short, and there is no time to wait for things to happen. You have to make your own luck by working hard with purpose. If you don’t take risks, there will never be any reward. At 19, I danced Aurora in my first full length Sleeping Beauty with Colorado Ballet. It was a very difficult role for me and I worked tirelessly on perfecting it. But at the end of the process, I was promoted to principal. The reward was very sweet.
Today, one of my favorite roles to dance is Giselle, not because of the technical requirements, but because of the emotional spectrum needed to convey her tragic story. Every time I dance this ballet, I have a new perspective and interpretation. There are always new things to discover. Maturity and life experience add different colors and feelings. No matter what happens in the future, I’ll always be grateful that I had my family’s inspiration and support. They always encouraged me to grab every moment, because you don’t want to let any chances fly by.
Photo by Lupe Jelena