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Interview With Alexandra Georgieva On Her Successful Dance Career

Bulgarian Alexandra Georgieva, 44, is ballet director of the FriedrichstadtPalast in Berlin, Europe's most modern show palace

with the largest theater stage in the world. The ballet company consists of 60 dancers from more than 20 different countries. Before becoming ballet director, she was dancer in the FriedrichstadtPalast for 18 years, 12 years as a solo dancer.

 

Hello Alexandra, Questbg would like to thank you for allowing us to have this interview with you.

 

How old were you when you first started dancing?

I started dancing at the age of six. I went to a ballet school in my hometown Plovdiv three times a week, a so-called 'Schkola'. It was a preparatory school for the National School for Dance Art in Sofia. When I was nine I took part in the auditions. There were about 1000 children at that audition and I was one of the about 20 lucky ones that were chosen.

And when did you decide that you wanted to dance professionally?

I wanted to be a dancer since I was three years old. I presented dances on every occasion, family celebrations, etc. and drove my parents crazy (laughs). But once I was chosen for the National School for Dance Art in Sofia it was clear to me that I would work as hard as I could to become a professional dancer. I loved the ballet school in Sofia; it was like family to me even though the training was extremely hard. The Russian-inspired approach to the training of dance is that there are no excuses. You get challenged until you think you have reached your limits. And the next day you realize that your limits have been stretched a little further. Everything I have achieved in my career is due to this difficult and amazing training.

Were you given much support from your family?

My parents were incredibly supportive. They moved to Sofia which was 120 kilometres away from my hometown so that I could go to the National School for Dance Art, it was incredible. It was difficult for them to settle in the capital, but they did it because they wanted me to achieve my goal of becoming a professional dancer. They are still proud of me and I am very happy that they say it was worth the trouble. The funny thing is that my brother, who is three years younger, also got accepted in the National Ballet School so my parents suddenly had two kids working to become professional dancers.

How much training was required to begin a career in dance?

It took me about nine years of professional training. I went to the "Schkola", the preparatory ballet school from six to nine. Then I went to the School for Dance Art Sofia until I was 18. During the last year of our training we had a close cooperation with the National Opera. I feel deep humility for the classical dance but while dancing in Swan Lake, etc. I realized that I preferred the modern dance. That's why I decided to go to the National Music Theatre 'Stefan Makedonsky'. After two years I became the youngest solo-dancer, we had a colourful programme with musicals and operettas.

When did you start dancing at the FriedrichstadtPalast?

I started in 1991. My brother had then just started dancing at the State Theatre in Schwerin/Germany. He ended up dancing as a soloist for 14 years. I went to see him and went to the audition in the FriedrichstadtPalast. I think it was because I wanted to find out about my own market value that I went to that audition. At that point I had no intention of leaving my life in Bulgaria. I had a two-year-old daughter, I was married, and just to go to the audition was a complete frenzy.

I still remember perfectly that it was on 11th December, 1990, there were about 100 other professional dancers. In the course of the audition, the group shrank further and further and by the end of the day I was offered a contract. It was the huge stage of the FriedrichstadtPalast that overwhelmed me. I saw one of their shows that night and my eyes literally filled with tears at the thought of dancing on this amazing stage, of dominating it. I was given three months to think about the offer and in April 1991 I finally came to Berlin, only with a suitcase and a six-months-trial time to see what living and working here would be like.

After six months, I decided to stay in the FriedrichstadtPalast in Berlin and brought my little daughter. However I did pay quite a price. My then husband Hristi Chopov was and still is a successful Bulgarian actor. Of course, it was not possible for him to leave Bulgaria, so unfortunately the family broke apart. It was very tough for all of us.

I think in the meantime we have all come to terms with the fact that the decision to come to Berlin was an enormously important step for me. I danced in the FriedrichstadtPalast for 18 years altogether, 12 years as a solo dancer. I only managed it because my daughter was such an incredible support for me and always stood by my side. I am proud I have been able to offer my daughter the better of two cultures.

Do you enjoy life in Berlin, how is it different to your home country?

I enjoy life here very much. The atmosphere, the mix of different people, the vibrant city, it's a city in motion. You have so many different events you can go to every night, it's fantastic. Life here is very different to life in Bulgaria, since the mentalities are different. Bulgarians have a certain easy-going attitude, loud and unpunctual whereas Germans live and love discipline. I love both ways and I know I would have been happy in Bulgaria, too.

Have you faced any problems or challenges during your time as a dancer?

You face many challenges as a dancer, especially in your childhood. You basically give up the most basic things like playing with other children after school for the sake of dance. You live in a parallel world of art, full of dance, music and images. Of course it also means a lot of sacrifice.

When did you start working as ballet director at the FriedrichstadtPalast?

I became director in 2008. In 2001, I was 35 and still dancing in the ballet ensemble of the FriedrichstadtPalast, I started thinking about my future in a serious way. I wondered what I was going to do once my career as a dancer was over. I have a child; I live in a foreign country. Since I knew I wanted to stay in the world of dance, I started a specialist training at the Royal Academy of Dance.

I studied Dance Pedagogics here for three years while still dancing in the ballet company almost every night. It was quite challenging. At 38, I was done with the education and apart from being part of the ballet company of the FriedrichstadtPalast I also started working as their ballet assistant. Two years later, in 2007, I became ballet master.Shortly after, Dr. Berndt Schmidt was appointed as new general director of the FriedrichstadtPalast. He started reorganizing some of the old structures.

Only two months later I was promoted to deputy ballet director. It was a complete shock to me and I obviously couldn't resist the amazing offer.I was just speechless at the speed with which my life was changing. Summer 2008 was also my last performance as dancer on stage. Our show 'Qi' which premiered in autumn 2008 was an incredible success and only two days after the premiere I was offered the job as ballet director. I should add that I owe very much to the support of my daughter and my German partner.

How do you spend a typical day working as a ballet director?

I come into the office at 9.30, check my emails and do some phone calls. At 10 o'clock I greet the ballet company that starts their classical training. My team, consist of a ballet assistant and a ballet master, so I talk about the show of the night before. We discuss possible corrections or improvements. Our ballet company is made up of 60 dancers that all take part in the show. So there is always something to correct, someone to replace due to sickness, etc. At 11.20 we do the corrections for the current show and have workshops or rehearsals for upcoming shows. Around 2pm my team and I sit together again to go over the changes, and then we have a couple of hours off. In the evening one member of the ballet directorate is always present to watch the show. That means I start work again two to three times a week at 6pm.

I watch the ballet preparations and then the show to see how the ballet does. We perform en suite shows in the FriedrichstadtPalast, which means we show the same show, at the moment 'Yma', for almost two years every night. The biggest challenge for the involved artists is to give their best in every show on every night. So therefore one of us watches the show every night to make sure that no mistakes occur, which could easily happen with more than 100 artists on stage in the course of such a long period of time.

How would you define a 'good' dancer?

A good dancer is very disciplined and passionate about their job. Charisma is very important, being versatile and having a quick reception. To me it is also essential that dancers are well-balanced. That's something you notice on stage.

What advice would you give to aspiring dancers?

Listen to your body and care for it very well, because your body is your only tool.

What is the key to success in a dancing career?

You need to put your heart and soul in your training and your job. And you need to be passionate about it. Otherwise you will not be able to persist.

What plans do you have for the future?

I'd like to be the perfect person for the position I am lucky to have. The FriedrichstadtPalast is very special and I hope I am a ballet director that lives up to this. Having danced my whole life, I know about the needs of dancers and hope I can be of help to them and their worries. I want to make sure that the atmosphere in the ballet company of the FriedrichstadtPalast is very harmonic. But at the same time I want all of us to keep striving for perfection.

Coming soon - More interviews with Bulgarian dancers from the FriedrichstadtPalast in Berlin.