From Russia with Love: Royal Moscow Ballet bring Romeo and Juliet to Derry

Classically trained ballerina Ekaterina Uksuskinova talks about staying on point for what could be her last dance as a touring performer

Hailed as the 'crown of Russian ballet' and arguably one of the most iconic modern institutions of dance, the Royal Moscow Ballet brings Sergei Prokofiev's critically acclaimed Romeo and Juliet to the Millennium Forum this March.

Once reserved for the upper echelons of Russian royalty, the Bolshoi inspired ballet promises to keep audiences on their toes marrying the passions of dance with the greatest tragic love story of the modern age. With exhilarating choregraphy from Leonid Lavrovsky and a musical score from Prokofiev, the drambalet is certainly worthy of Shakespeare.

Currently touring with the Royal Moscow Ballet, ballerina Ekaterina Uksuskinova takes a moment between masterclasses to offer up insight into Russia and the world's enduring love affair with the art form.

'Ballet is so embedded in Russian culture, it is everywhere, inescapable,' she explains. 'I was involved from a very young age and took to it quite quickly. When I was ten it became clear to my parents that this was something I had a talent for they enrolled me in professional classes and by 18 I was considered a professional in my field.'

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Proving that balance is integral in the day-to-day workings of a ballerina, Uksuskinova also teaches Russian ballet masterclasses throughout Europe, which she argues is the superior discipline in the dancing arena.

'For me the beauty of Russian ballet is that it preserves classical traditions whereas European ballet has become more contemporary and perhaps lost some precision along the way. My advice for anyone who aims to be a professional dancer is this; ensure you are trained classically. Of course it is more challenging but it is better for your body, it pushes you to be better. If you can do classical ballet you are prepared to do anything, dance any dance.

'The learnt movements are universal and can be applied to every genre. It is the classical choreography of Romeo and Juliet which makes the production so visually beautiful on stage.'

And with it's featherweight elegance, ballet plays the ultimate deceiver as Uksuskinova admits it's not all tutus and tiaras, but a profession you give your life and body to. 'I'm rehearsing for at least four hours daily and the routine can be fearsome,' she says. 'At the moment my body is not so good, every bone aches by the end of each day but it's worth it.'

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The intense physicality of the craft means that the average age of retirement for a ballerina is 29 however the 32 year-old ensures that statistics are bleaker than reality. 'It's true that in Russia from age 34 onwards, a ballerina can choose to retire,' she explains. 'There is a government fund dedicated solely to ballerinas which we can avail of. But it depends entirely on an individual's body not on their age. A great hero of mine Galina Ulanova, was dancing well in to her seventies.

'I think perhaps Romeo and Juliet will be the last production for me but retiring as a ballerina does not necessarily mean the end of your career. Personally I am kept so busy in the classroom, sharing ballet with the next generation and I hope to do this for as long as I am able to.'

Royal Moscow Ballet give at least 50 performances annually from its classical and contemporary repertoire for which they are famed. Yet Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet lends itself well to the world of ballet in that both, for the most part, remain eternally youthful. Uksuskinova places the ballet's international success down to the simple fact that 'everyone loves to love.'

'It's the love story we all know, it has it all, passion and tragedy and the performance is very professional and well put together. The attention to detail from choreography to spectacular handmade costumes make this production truly outstanding. The audience will leave the theatre feeling that love.'

The Royal Moscow Ballet bring Romeo and Juliet to the Millennium Forum, Derry~Londonderry on March 2. For more information and ticket booking visit www.millenniumforum.co.uk or contact the Box Office on 028 7126 4455.