Anna Tsygankova and Matthew Golding in Christopher Wheeldon's Cinderella for Dutch National Ballet Photo Angela Sterling

Anna Tsygankova and Matthew Golding in Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella
Photo Angela Sterling

Maggie Foyer talks the Dutch National Ballet principal dancer Anna Tsygankova ahead of next week’s visit by the company to the London Coliseum.

When the Dutch National Ballet brings Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella to the Coliseum it will give London audiences the chance to get to know some of the exciting dancers that Artistic Director, Ted Brandsen has attracted to his company. Among the principals is Siberian ballerina, Anna Tsygankova who has become an important muse for Wheeldon and who created the eponymous role in Amsterdam.

Anna comes from a family of pianists and is one of the most musical of dancers. She trained in Novosibirsk, won awards at the Prix de Lausanne and Arabesque competitions and danced the role of Odette/Odile at her graduation. She joined the Bolshoi Ballet as a soloist and maximised her time in Moscow to also train intensively with mentor, Raissa Struchkova.

Anna has a philosophy of trusting life and sometimes letting it take the lead. She was invited to dance Swan Lake in Budapest and later joined the Hungarian Ballet as a principal. Then in 2007 she was offered a principal contract with the Dutch National and made the move to Amsterdam. She quickly became an audience favourite and received the prestigious Alexandra Radius Prize the following year. At DNB she worked in a varied repertory and with many new choreographers; then fate again stepped in when she met Christopher Wheeldon who was to become such an important figure in her life.

Cinderella, a co-production with San Francisco Ballet, was Wheeldon’s first major ballet for Dutch National. Although Tryst and Continuum were in the rep and he had written Duet earlier in 2012, his and Tsygankova’s paths had not crossed. He saw Anna dance Giselle “then, I think, he saw me with a different eye,” she says, and she was cast, together with Matthew Golding as the lead couple in his new ballet.

Anna Tsygankova with Christopher Wheeldon Photo Angela Sterling

Anna with Christopher Wheeldon
Photo Angela Sterling

Anna rehearsing Cinderella Photo Angela Sterling

Anna rehearsing Cinderella
Photo Angela Sterling

“I had to go to San Francisco, it was my first time working with him and I fell in love with everything. Chris has a really unique dance language. I believe choreography is what he was meant to do and he has found his voice. He is so in touch with himself – he sees his path and follows it. In the studio he gives from the heart and I feel so at home doing his choreography,” she says.

Wheeldon’s An American in Paris is a triumph, and he is collecting awards exponentially. At the beginning of the season he was awarded Choreographer of the Year at the Positano Premia la Danza Léonide Massine in Italy, and he asked Anna and Jozef Varga from DNB to dance his Duet at the awards ceremony. “I was thrilled to be asked.” She was also delighted when he returned to Amsterdam for the final programme of the season to create Concerto Concordia for her. Written in just a few weeks it is evidence of their developing creative partnership. “Chris sees the dancer who is in front of him and reads the person. He takes the best of what I can offer but sees further – he sees what I can be.”

Wheeldon is now back in Amsterdam to rehearse Cinderella in preparation for the London season. The company has performed the ballet many times since it was premiered in December 2012 and have even taken it to Hong Kong. “It is such a privilege to be working with the choreographer again, right here in the studio. I am sure he will make some changes and make it even better! I personally have discovered more about the character and the way I connect with the steps. The role was comfortable before but now it is like a dress that fits you perfectly and you always feel beautiful wearing it.”

Wheeldon has set his ballet to the well-known Prokofiev score but offers a refreshingly new interpretation using the dark brothers Grimm version of the tale as his base. Designer Julian Crouch designed suitably fairy-tale creatures to populate this world and Basil Twist has created a magical tree and a coach to dazzle the audience and close the first act on a high note.

Anna Tsygankova and Matthew Golding Photo Angela Sterling

Anna Tsygankova and Matthew Golding in Cinderella
Photo Angela Sterling

Wheeldon also developed the context for the principal pair. For Anna this makes Cinderella more real, “She is not a victim, but a girl with character. She is very close to her dead mother whose spirit lives on in the tree that blooms on the spot where Cinderella’s tears have fallen.” In place of the seasons he has introduced four fates who exemplify the qualities Cinderella possesses: lightness, generosity, mystery and fluidity. Anna continues, “Chris also wanted more than just a handsome man from the Prince, the boyishness had to be there so Matthew was absolutely right.”

Anna first came to London as a member of the Bolshoi Ballet, when as she says, “I fell in love with the city.” Most recently she danced with the Royal Ballet replacing an injured Natalia Osipova in Don Quixote with her partner, Matthew Golding. “That was a great experience.” For the opening night in London, Matthew will again be partnering Anna. For Coliseum audiences there are several famous siblings to watch out for. Maia Makhateli, sister of former Royal Ballet principal David, will be dancing Cinderella together with Artur Sheshterikov on 9th and the matinee on the 11th; and Nadia, younger sister of Zenaida Yanowsky, will be dancing the role of step-sister Clementine, a role she created.

Dutch National Ballet perform Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella at the London Coliseum, July 8th-11th. For details and tickets, click here.

For CriticalDance’s review of DNB’s Cinderella from last December in Amsterdam, click here.