fri 27/02/2015

10 Questions for Ballerina Alina Cojocaru | Dance reviews, news & interviews

10 Questions for Ballerina Alina Cojocaru

The Royal Ballet prima ballerina on what gives meaning to her brilliant career

Ballerina Alina Cojocaru: 'I feel I have a purpose. It's using the art form for a human cause'© Above: Andrej Uspenski & David Amzallag. Other photos, courtesy Hospices of Hope

For the Royal Ballet's exquisite star Alina Cojocaru her dream is performing some of the most physically demanding movements ever devised for a human being - for a paralysed 52-year-old man in Romania, the dream is to go to the park and look at the sky. Cojocaru's dream is realisable; Marius's is not. Romania is not a country where you would want to be ill, says the ballerina of her native land.

This Sunday Cojocaru returns some of the value of her talent and position in the world to her homeland by hosting a ballet gala at Sadler's Wells Theatre to raise money for the Romanian Hospices of Hope, a charity operating against the heavily charged backdrop of a relatively undeveloped country where the diagnosis of a terminal or incurable illness can likely lead to complete abandonment by the family.

Now almost 32, Cojocaru has spent exactly half her life in England at the Royal Ballet, and considers London her home. At Covent Garden she became an undeniable diamond in the company's jewels even from her earliest solo exposure at age 19. Tiny, a bird-boned five-footer with a voice as soft as a whisper, Cojocaru proved from very early on in her arrival in the Royal Ballet that she could command the world with her artistry and Russian-trained technique.

Alina Cojocaru is treated with a sort of hushed awe on the world's great stages

She's treated with a sort of hushed awe on the world's great stages - American Ballet Theatre and the Mariinsky Ballet both offer Cojocaru unalloyed worship, and I wonder if her relative scarcity on the London stage is more a symptom of Covent Garden's not always realising what a treasure it has than her sense of priorities.

But this Sunday her attention will be set firmly abroad in her native land, where she is painfully conscious many things don't operate at a level her adopted country would understand. Five years ago she was asked, as a high-profile Romanian, to lend her name to a new charity trying to address an inhumanity in her country, which was leading to dying children being left on hospital doorsteps.

For the ballerina, the question of what her nationality means to her is complicated, not least when it is knocking on the door of the European Union - but she could not help responding by organising a Sadler's Wells gala in 2008 which raised £30,000. (It speaks volumes, incidentally, about the warmth and romanticism of Cojocaru's artistic personality.) Earlier this year she went to Bucharest to see progress.

On Sunday she helms a second gala at the Wells fielding an array of delectable ballet treats - headlined by the return to Britain and classical ballet of the former Royal Ballet star Sergei Polunin, last known for his non-appearance in Peter Schaufuss's Midnight Express last month. For Alina, he will appear - she assures us. He will dance Don Quixote, and put paid to rumours that it was a falling-out with Cojocaru that precipitated his sudden quitting of the Royal Ballet in spring last year.

This week Cojocaru talked with me in a Royal Ballet studio about what struck her so forcibly and personally about the Hospices charity that she couldn't say no. She explained just what it takes to get a gala of great dancers organised, even when you have one of the most uniquely well-connected contacts books anywhere to be found. And we discussed other matters: her career, her hopes of marriage and children with her fiancé and dance partner, Johan Kobborg, and her consciousness of being lucky.


I think of Marius every morning I wake up - because I can move. I'm injured, but my injury will get better. I cannot imagine what life must be not to have hope

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