An important event took place at the National Opera of Ukraine this season: the theater signed a contract with Ana Sophia Sceller, an ex-prima ballerina of the New York City Ballet. On November 24, for the first time, she will dance the part of Giselle on the Kiev stage, and on the eve of the premiere, Ana Sofia told us about her work in one of the most famous dance troupes in the world and how and why she made the decision to move to Ukraine.
I was born in Argentina, in Buenos Aires. There are six children in our family, I am number 5. (Smiles.) It's cool to have a big family. We have a general chat chat, where we correspond. Two live in Argentina, one brother in Brazil, one sister in Chicago, and the other brother in Los Angeles. We have already agreed that we will meet this New Year together with our sister in Chicago.
When I was in first grade, my elder brother went to football after school – and my mother began to worry that I would be bored after school, so I was sent to the ballet section, which was organized at my school. Once a year, Nancy Bocca, the director of the dance school at Teatro Colon, came to us. When I was in 4th grade, Nancy told my mother that I had good data and advised me to go to her school. Mom did not know anything about ballet, but she realized that behind the school stands the prestige of the main theater of Argentina, so she asked me: "Do you want to dance?" I was only 9 years old and I answered yes. Mom found a teacher who prepared me for the audition, I passed the selection, entered, and it all started.
Studying at the theater school, I sometimes went on stage in the crowd, often playing the role of Cupid. I saw with my own eyes how the ballet “Corsair” was staged, in which the famous Farukh Ruzimatov and Svetlana Zakharova danced. Imagine, then she was only 19 years old, and she was already a soloist! I grew up in this atmosphere and learned from the best examples.
When I was 13, Nancy advised my mother to send me to audition at the New York School of American Ballet. I did, but my mother was not going to let me live in a boarding school, so she took my younger brother and went to New York with me.
I can’t say that it was too hard for me to study in New York, because I had a fairly high level of training. I was the youngest on the course, but the only one was already dancing on pointe shoes.
“Sleeping Beauty” will forever remain an iconic ballet for me, because it was my debut. I well remember the moment before going on stage: three hours before the start, I was already completely ready, and when I did makeup, my hands trembled so much that it was difficult for me to make up my eyelashes, I was so nervous. But as soon as I stepped on the scene, all the excitement instantly disappeared.
A lot of dancers are lost during the transition period, when study ends and they become artists. You are young, there are so many people, opportunities and parties around, you are 17, and you do not want to miss anything. One day in the middle of the week I went to a party, and the next morning I felt terrible and realized that alcohol was still in my body and I could not dance with the necessary ease, so I told my friends that I would never do it again. You can be a good student and a talented ballerina, but in a dance company such as the New York City Ballet, because of such temptations, you simply stop receiving roles and this will end. For a professional dancer, it is very important to immediately understand your priority, where you want to be – at a party or on stage. It's not easy. But I am happy that I was smart enough not to succumb to temptations. I graduated from one of the best schools and during the first year in the New York City Ballet I already performed solo parts in The Nutcracker, and after two years of work I became a soloist of the troupe.
I do not hide that I went through difficult times. When you are a soloist, you don’t go out in the play every day, besides, many of the classical productions in which I danced were removed from the repertoire. It was a difficult moment, which lasted about two years, until I became a prima ballerina, but even when I did not have rehearsals, I studied, went to the gym, tried to work all the time and keep myself in shape.
In the New York City Ballet, in my opinion, they put on the most new productions for the season. Thanks to this, I learned to learn new material very quickly – today you are preparing something new, and in a few weeks you should already dance it on stage.
I left the New York City Ballet after 13 years of work. I was the prima of the troupe, and I wanted to dance in classical ballets, which I dreamed about since childhood. Of course, “Sleeping Beauty” and “Swan Lake” are staged here from season to season, but I wanted more, I wanted to have teachers who would grow up with these productions and pass on their knowledge. So I joined the San Francisco Ballet, expecting to find more classics here, but the trend for neoclassicism and modernity dominated. I liked some productions, but it did not fill my soul.
It seems to me that in a modern theater it is important not to go to extremes and to develop both areas – both modern dance and maintaining the classics at the proper level. So that one does not suffer because of the other.
The San Francisco Ballet has a rather specific schedule: the dancers begin to rehearse in July, but do not go on stage until December, that is, for six months you prepare performances that you will dance only in winter. And I rehearsed everything and got injured, so, unfortunately, I missed the season without dancing in my beloved Don Quixote. The trauma made me stop and think. I realized that I had to dance all year round – to rehearse and go on stage, rehearse and dance.
Last year, I first came to Kiev at the invitation of Alexander Stoyanov, and we met a couple of years ago at a gala evening in Italy. Then he began to invite people from different countries to Ukraine and invited me to dance "Swan Lake" with him. I remember how my friends asked if it was boring there in Kiev, and I answered them: "You can’t even imagine what kind of city it is and how much I liked it!"
After two seasons spent in San Francisco, I was in search of a new troupe and thought about different theaters, one of the proposals came from Kiev – from Alexander and the National Opera of Ukraine. This is probably strange, but this is the first idea that settled in my head when I thought about moving to a new theater. We were invited together with Nikolai Gorodiski, my partner in many productions, and in the end we accepted this offer.
The answer to the question "why?" simple: every dancer always wants more and never rests on his laurels. The most important thing for a dancer is the knowledge that you can always dance even better.
I have been living in Kiev since September. At first, Nikolay helped me a lot, he was born in Ukraine, but as a child he went abroad with his family. Now for me the most important thing is to learn a language. Although many dancers know English at the theater, there are no barriers to communication.
I am open to any new productions. Under the contract, I will have two performances a month, and we decide the issue of the repertoire together with Alexander Stoyanov.
I realize my main dreams now. I want to have experience in the entire classical ballet repertoire. And I really dream of dancing the part of Nikiya in the ballet La Bayadere.
See also: Ballet “The Rite of Spring”: 23 dancers with Down Syndrome danced in costumes by Ukrainian designer Masha Reva