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In just two short years, Ukraine’s Kateryna Khaniukova has arguably become the queen of British ballet. Famous choreographers and producers are vying to book the Ukrainian ballerina.
In spring 2013, Khaniukova arrived for a weekend in London. At the time she was planning to take a small break and later travel to Riga. But her teacher at the time told her to stay in and practice her dance skills. Later she did not regret putting in the extra hours of practice. Khaniukova was offered to work at the English National Ballet - one of the leading British troupes.
Tamara Rojo, artistic director of the English National Ballet, closely observed the ballet skills of the Ukrainian dancer. Without any additional questions and castings, Rojo invited Khaniukova to her team. A month later, the ballerina has a new contract.
Khaniukova has several high-profile prime performances as part of the London theater troupe and dozens of performances on the leading stages of Europe. Critics point out the dancer’s refined technique, recognizable style, artistry, and respect her list of winning in the prestigious ballet competitions such as the Serge Lifar International Ballet Competition.
Now the timetable of 26-year Khaniukova is laid out for the year ahead. Leading contemporary choreographers work with her helping to hone to perfection not only classic parties, but also plays in Art Nouveau style. For example, in the coming season British public will see Khaniukova as Giselle. However, classical ballet about a girl with a broken heart will be presented in the author's interpretation of modern British choreographer Akram Khan. He's famous co-operation with the leading stages of the world, as well as the staging the show of pop diva Kylie Minogue.
The first meeting that determined the future of the Ukrainian ballerina was with Svitlana Ilienko. The wife of Ukrainian filmmaker Mykhaylo Ilienko was a neighbor of Khaniukova’s family. Ilienko prepared little Khaniukova to enter the Kyiv State Choreographic School.
Then there were five years at the National Opera of Ukraine. Khaniukova had leading roles in major classical ballet performances- Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet and Swan Lake by Pyotr Tchaikovsky. And she visited a lot of countries including Japan, China, Colombia, and the US.
In 2013 Khaniukova marked a turning point in her career. Khaniukova signed a contract with the English National Ballet. It took few months to do the paperwork; at that time Kyiv burned in the revolutionary fire. As a result, Ukrainian joined her troupe in London in the middle of the season and missed the preparations for the premiere - Firebird by Igor Stravinsky.
Khaniukova says that she did not dream to leave the country and did not dream about London. However, the opportunities in the British capital outweighed the fear of leaving her home theater.
The peculiarity of the English National Ballet is that classical plays in its repertoire are side by side with modern performances. First Khaniukova danced in nouveau style only at competitions, and in the British capital she had to learn the new skills.
At the same time Ukrainian continues to dance classics. She explains that the Kyiv school is still considered one of the best in the world, providing its students a solid foundation for further experiments. To improve the skills of modern choreography, Khaniukova is often looking videos of actual performances. And in her spare time she visits rehearsals of hip-hop and salsa.
When British critic Luke Jennings firs saw Khaniukova, he was just smitten. The expert was impressed by the rhythm and plastic movements of Ukrainian girl.
British experts highly esteem the ease with which Ukrainian soars above the stage. However, experts also note that young ballerina sometimes lacks the charisma to confidently lead the partners on stage.
However, the criticism does not bother Khaniukova. She calls herself a gambler, enthusiastically accepting every challenge. And the Ukrainian does not like when people say that she broke ties with their homeland. Last year, she came to Kyiv to dance Kitri’s role in the Don Quixote ballet. And this spring she signed a contract with the National Opera.