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Lyudmila Khitrova: ‘I love adventures...not only on stage!’

The leading soloist of the National Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre was born in Karaganda, studied in Nizhny Novgorod and now dances in Minsk
The leading soloist of the National Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre was born in Karaganda, studied in Nizhny Novgorod and now dances in Minsk

Lyudmila Khitrova

Where-where? In Karaganda!

Russian Lyudmila Khitrova graduated from Nizhny Novgorod’s Theatrical College but has lived in Minsk for five years already. She was born in Kazakhstan but, at the age of five, her family moved to Nizhny Novgorod. “I love questions about where I was born,” she smiles. “Where-where? In Karaganda! As a matter of fact, much in my life creates a rhyme, I love it!” With the support of her mother, she attended various clubs and groups related to dancing and art. She was a success everywhere but did not love all the places. She refused to continue with sporting dances after the first lesson for example, even though the classes were paid for a month in advance, her mother did not persuade her to carry on, as she wanted her to find what she’d really love to do. She also wished Lyudmila to have good posture and, with this in mind, took her to a ballet school. The hobby transformed into a passion: she showed talent, determination and a strong desire to dance.

Lyudmila remembers her childhood in Nizhny Novgorod with a smile. “I began ballet training at the age of ten. Some specialists believe this is late. However, everything depends on a person’s desire and their capabilities. At present, training at an early age is promoted: children are flexible but professional burnout can also happen quicker, ending a career earlier. Much depends on the school and the physical abilities of the pupil. The more correctly a dancer was trained to work and treat themselves well, the longer their bodies will remain strong. We are not made of iron.”

“Some performances exhaust me physically and emotionally,” the dancer adds. “It’s important to listen to your body and react to it, also ensuring rest. I can recall Maya Plisetskaya here: she danced wonderfully for decades and each time stressed in her interviews that she treated her body as a working instrument — carefully and with respect.”

After graduating from Theatrical College, Lyudmila rapidly progressed in her career in Krasnoyarsk, becoming a soloist at the State Opera and Ballet Theatre. “My boyfriend, Alexander Butrimovich, also studied in Nizhny Novgorod. We were later invited to Krasnoyarsk. I would not have moved without him. Just imagine: to move to Siberia at the age of 17! It was difficult to do this alone. However, everything turned out well,” says Lyudmila. “We were provided with good conditions for creativity and enjoyed wonderful foreign tours: we spent six months in England, visited Italy twice and danced in Mexico. However, I’m a heat loving person; it was a true challenge for me to live in Siberia.”

Alexander often took part in different contests and was then invited to Belarus by Valentin Yelizariev. Minsk also became a kind of a rhyme for Lyudmila and Alexander: he was born in the city, though his parents now live in Russia.

Skorina’s medal

Nobody invited Lyudmila to Minsk and this was her impetus to come. She knew that the local National Academic Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre seldom employ temporary dancers. “I’m a Libran and am always in limbo. It often takes me a long time to make a decision. However, I immediately agree to any kind of an adventure. I love everything unusual. I decided to take a risk and it has succeeded, but I had to follow the entire path, starting with the corps-de-ballet,” Lyudmila recollects with a smile, admitting that it was hard and a little bit offensive to begin her career anew. She even cried in the beginning.

The lady believes that it’s sometimes useful to prove to others and ourselves that your career is not accidental but the result of a hard work and talent. At present, she is a leading dancer at Minsk’s Bolshoi Theatre.  Last year, Lyudmila was recognised at the 4th International Competition of Ballet Dancers in Istanbul, also receiving a high state award of Belarus: the Medal of Frantsisk Skorina. The dancer admits that she lacked belief until the last minute. “It seemed to me that awards of that kind are only presented to citizens of the country. I’m a Russian, with a residence permit in Belarus.” she says.

‘Juliet today and a Spaniard tomorrow’

Lyudmila admits that she hears applause only when the other artistes come out to bow. During her bows, she hears nothing because of the adrenalin. The dancer regrets that the lights are off at this moment and she cannot see the audience. With this in mind, she loved touring Germany where a stage and the audience are not separated by an orchestra pit. No barriers exist and artistes can clearly see people’s faces: their emotions sometimes add to the desire to dance other well-known roles.

“Most often we take classical pieces on tour,” explains Lyudmila. “This is the right thing to do, any classical dancer can train to dance a modern piece. However, it’s much more challenging to do the opposite. Classics are essential; these are the basis which enables me to create my characters. It’s important for me to understand my character. I love playing overwhelming emotions. With this in mind, I always watch films or read books on the topic while preparing. I treat each role with respect and, afterwards, see how I’ve danced. I notice my mistakes and try to correct them in the future.”

As a rule, the artistes spend most of their time in the theatre. Unsurprisingly, they often find love here. Soloists have no strict schedules of rehearsals. They seldom know when they’ll have a break or any free time. “Of course, I can miss a rehearsal, but it’s in my interest to keep in shape. Really, determination is needed to constantly force us to train, even when you’re in a bad mood. Sometimes I don’t want to leave my bed but I know I must. Meanwhile, when asked of my plans for the day, I’d never say I’m going to my job, I say that I’m going to the theatre. I love it!”

Children or career

“I don’t wish to delay having children until it’s too late, but this is not a simple question. I’m at the peak of my career — receiving leading roles and enjoying numerous performances. After having a baby, I’d need to leave the theatre for at least a year. Even after a break, time is needed to get back in shape. I can’t even imagine what it would be like after a baby.

However, I’m a realist. I understand that it’s impossible to dance everything. I know that I’d catch up with a year if I need to miss it. I wish to be a young mother. I’m trying to persuade my parents to move to Minsk. My mother will retire in a year and I’m looking forward to having her here very much. She often visits me and loves staying here. I’d also love my brother to move here with his family. This is my plan and I hope it’ll happen.
I love touring and travelling. It’s always interesting for me to visit somewhere for a week or so for example, to enhance my qualifications or see something new. I love returning to Minsk though, I’m happy here. I’m often invited to join other troupes but I’m satisfied with my job and everything around me. I love Minsk, I love working at this theatre and I appreciate people’s attitude to me. I’d like to stay and build a family here,” notes Ms. Khitrova.

By Natalia Stepuro
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