Swan Lake: Onstage, principal ballerina Maria Mosina is both good and evil

maria mosina odette.jpg
Courtesy of the Colorado Ballet
Maria Mosina (as Odette) and Igor Vassine in a 2008 performance of Swan Lake.
Maria Mosina is almost as graceful a speaker as she is a dancer. Almost. A principal ballerina with the Colorado Ballet, Mosina began her career with the Bolshoi Ballet Grigorovich Company in Russia, and it is with a soft Russian accent that she describes her career as "completely natural" but "always consuming." Later, as she searches for words to describe why every part is, in a way, her favorite one, she apologizes for this accent. But she doesn't need to -- Mosina's insight is, after all, that of a dancer, a lifestyle that comes with a language of its own. This is the vocabulary she's having trouble translating.

"It's hard to explain because I'm both human and a dancer," she says. The first attribute, in many ways, is why she is so talented at the second. Show and Tell sat down with Mosina to talk about Swan Lake, its heroine and villain, how Natalie Portman changed them and why they will always hold an important niche in pop culture.

Watch Mosina dance (and perform 32 fuetes) in a 2008 performance of Swan Lake:

Westword (Kelsey Whipple): What originally inspired you to dance?
Maria Mosina: I started to dance as a baby. I just liked to dance, to move. It came naturally. There's an expression, I think, in English, that it was in my nature. When I was 10 years old, my mom put me in ballet school in Moscow, and I have known since that age that I would be a professional ballet dancer. In Russia, there are professional ballet schools, so when they accepted me to the school, it came with the preparations for that to be my life. It's an 8-year education that includes all forms of ballet, everything, every day. It's different here.

If you could perform only one role for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

It's hard to say because when you start to prepare for a ballet, no matter whether it's classical or contemporary or whatever, you're changing everything about yourself in order to do that. You are that part for as long as you play it. At that time, at that moment, it's your favorite piece to do, especially in classical ballet. So right now my favorite parts are the white swan and the black swan because I think about nothing else.

Of the two -- Odette and Odile -- which part do you most relate to?
I think my favorite part is the white, Odette, because I think she is a deeper person and it's incredibly hard to choose whether to be a human being or a bird. It's a lyrical part, and you have to be active to play her. You have to be very well-trained to do classical expression in her part, to be a human, a queen, and then later a bird in the same piece. The second act with Odette is the key of the entire ballet.

What qualities does it take, then, to play Odile?
Odile is the type of woman who just walks into a castle and knows she will in. She's a femme fatale, so I just have to know that I am the queen of the ball, the queen of everything, and let that come out. I have to act with my entire body.

The Colorado Ballet enlists three principal dancers in Swan Lake, each of whom plays both swans. What is it like to watch the other two women dance the same part?
I'm just watching as a member of the audience. I'm not comparing or thinking about me. I'm just understanding what the other principals are trying to say through the dance. I separate myself completely.

Each principal couple has their own style. Each dancer has their own interpretation but with the same steps, of course. It's very interesting to watch the other principal dancers and see that they're doing something different than you are. It's one of the most physically demanding ballets of all time for the principal female, and it's important for us to have time off in between shows in order to maintain our roles.

We are physically different and have different characters. Some of us are softer and more lyrical, and some of us appear to be more human, while others are better at portraying the bird. Some of us have more technical difficulties, even. I could never compare myself, but if I'm thinking about my interpretation, I've danced this throughout my entire career. Every time, it's a little bit different, and it's interesting to repeat this part because you grow and your character changes and you add little steps or change the emotions. It's very important to have a connection between me and my partner, and that is also different every time.

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Asuka and Dana, *swoon* 

Maria is a gem too.

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