Ulyana Lopatkina - Biography

Ulyana Lopatkina is a renowned ballet dancer and the prima ballerina of the Mariinsky Theater in Saint Petersburg. She has received numerous awards and prizes and is known throughout the world.

Ulyana Lopatkina was born in Ukraine, in the small city of Kerch on 23 October 1973. Her father was a production manager at a shipbuilding facility and her mother was an economist.

When Ulyana was small, her parents decided to send her to an artistic gymnastics and a dancing group. Ulyana’s mother wanted her daughter to become a ballerina and went to great lengths to fulfill her life-long dream.

Ulyana’s interest in ballet developed quite suddenly - she was fascinated by photographs of legendary ballet dancers such as Maya Plisetskaya and Galina Ulanova. Young Ulyana fell in love with the striking beauty of the holds, the graceful movements and the airy tutus and gowns. But looking at the pictures was not enough for the future ballerina and she spent days reading avidly about ballet and studying the biographies of famous choreographers such as Didlo and Glushkovsky. Enthusiasm of this sort yielded fruit – Ulyana decided to try out for a choreography school.

When Ulyana was 10 she moved to St. Petersburg by herself. Her mother completely supported her daughter’s desire to become a ballet dancer and was probably aware of the long-term advantage the sacrifice would create, but Ulyana’s father was horrified to think of his daughter leaving her home in Ukraine at such a young age. Still, the girl left Kerch in search of her dreams.

In Saint Petersburg Ulyana passed the entrance examination at the Vaganova Academy, but her future teachers were not particularly impressed by her abilities. The verdict of the admission board was not flattering - Ulyana had quite an average faculty for ballet. The evaluation affected Ulyana greatly – she shrank into herself and became reserved, fearing she might be expelled at any moment. She always tried to be the best and remembers that once she danced with a high fever; her eyes were streaming and she felt sick, but she said nothing to her teacher, as she could not stand the thought of someone else dancing in her place.

Ulyana was in luck’s way; all her teachers were talented and vivid personalities. During her last two years of school she studied with Natalia Dudinskaya. The professor and the pupil did not always manage to arrive at an understanding: Ulyana was a strong-willed student and did not agree with her teachers; their standards often failed to satisfy her.

Ulyana lived in a boarding school and was desperately homesick, but she was determined to become at least a prima ballerina. In her free time Ulyana loved to draw. This hobby grew into a favorite pastime even after she finished the choreography school.

In 1990 Ulyana, an intermediate level student at the time, participated in the Vaganova-Prix contest. She performed the part of the Queen of Water from the ballet “Konyok-Gorbunok” (нужен перевод названия балета, тем более это достаточно известный балет), a “Silfida” variation and a pas de deux from the second act of “Giselle” with Alexander Mishchenko. Ulyana took first prize. Only then did her professors finally understand that the girl they considered to be “nothing out of the ordinary” was indeed a highly gifted young ballerina.

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