Originally my mother enrolled me in ballet because it kept me off the streets. For the first two years, I danced only half-heartedly. I didn’t really like it much. One day, someone told my mother I would never become a professional dancer. Suddenly I became determined to prove them wrong. I am extremely stubborn by nature, and this comment struck a cord in me. Consequently I became very committed to my training.
When I was a teenager, I was lucky enough to receive a scholarship to study at the Geneva Dance Center in Switzerland. There I met a wonderful teacher, named David Allen, with whom I trained I until I was 19. Then, in 2001, I joined the Vienna State Opera Ballet, mostly because it was very close to my family in Albania. However I quickly became very unhappy in Vienna. Throughout t he whole season, I didn’t step on stage once. When I went to ask the director why, he replied that I danced too much like a prince, so didn’t fit in the corps de ballet. I was so hurt by his rude comments that almost hit him with a chair. Luckily a friend of mine intervened before anything got too serious. All I wanted to do was be on stage. I’m not sure why he disliked my dancing so much, but it seemed there was nothing I could do about it .
My phone rang, and there was a job for me. I tore up my return ticket and never looked back. I am a big believer in destiny, and for some reason, this was meant for me.
At this point I was so frustrated by the situation, that I really thought I would quit dancing altogether. But it seemed silly to waste all my hard work, so I decided I would try a few open auditions and just to see what came of it. During this time I had no money, so I had to sleep in a train station and begged for food. It was a very dehumanizing experience, but did teach me a lot about life.
When I auditioned for Bayerische Staatsopera, the director, Ivan Liska, didn’t hire me right away. He said that if there'd be any openings, I would be his first call. I didn’t really believe him. I thought he was just a nice guy trying to let me down easy. So I went to the airport and prepared myself to return home to Albania. However my phone rang, and there was a job for me. I tore up my ticket and never looked back. I am a big believer in destiny, and for some reason, this was meant for me.
I am the first to say I’m not the most physically talented. I have struggled a lot, and think that ballet is too difficult unless you are supremely talented. That being said, I think my true talent lies in partnering. Somehow I am able to know exactly where the ballerina should be. It is a very intuitive sense that I would love to be able to pass on to the next generation. In so many young dancers, you can see the fear in their eyes as they approach their partner. I feel that I would really be able to help them.
Throughout my career, the most challenging thing for me has been to maintain a calm head. My emotions bubble very close to the surface and I often act on impulse. I have worked very hard at not letting my feelings get the best of me. Now I am able to control my head and remain cool under pressure.
Starting from the season 2017/18 I joined Dortmund Ballet as a principal guest artist.