Photo credit: NYC Dance Project – Ken Bower and Deborah Ory.
American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Christine Shevchenko is gearing up for a new season with the company. The fall season at David H. Koch Theater at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City kicks off Oct. 16.
Since she was promoted to principal in 2017, Shevchenko has relished the opportunity to dive into the research for each role she takes on. She loves the freedom she has in interpreting the characters.
"Ever since I was given a principal role, which was my last year of being a soloist, I feel like I go much deeper into the role. I learn what the story is about, who the character is and how the character would respond to every move and gesture," she explained to Dance Network in a recent interview. "I even got an acting coach who worked with me on all the little details — whether it was a glance or the way you walk across the stage — so that the audience can understand what you're trying to say. The more mature I get in this art form, the more I realize that the acting and the soul are the most important thing."
Shevchenko has spent her entire career with ABT. It's something she takes pride in as a dancer because it was her ultimate childhood goal. Being able to achieve that has been a dream come true.
"Ever since I was a little girl, it was my dream to dance in American Ballet Theatre and I always watched videos with Natalia Markarova and [Mikhail] Baryshnikov," Shevchenko shared. "ABT was a company with the full classical repertoire, so that was my goal and my dream as a little girl to dance in that company. Once I got in, my goal was to become a principal dancer and I didn't want to leave because I wanted to achieve what I set out to do. I fought until I got my dream."
Of course, getting to her goal wasn't easy. She started with ABT as an apprentice back in 2007 and gradually worked her way up through the ranks of the company.
"I went through every single rank, starting from the bottom and working my way up," Shevchenko explained. "It taught me a lot about how the corps [de ballet] works, how the soloists work and it taught me to be strong and confident. It was a great experience; I wouldn't change it."
Since she's been with the company, ballet has seen an extraordinary amount of changes, especially when it comes to social media. These platforms have altered the dance landscape somewhat and Shevchenko gave her thoughts on the direction social media is heading.
"The social media stuff is the number one thing and it's getting so out of control now. In the movie industry, you have a core team of people who figure your brand out," she shared. "In the dance world, you're on your own, you have no help and you have to do all of that stuff by yourself. I feel like it takes away the focus for most dancers. They stop focusing on the way they are dancing and the artistry. Instead, they focus on the social media part."
Her advice to rising dancers is pretty simple — work hard.
"I work so hard and I even work on my days off. I'm constantly trying to protect everything that I do. I videotape all my rehearsals and I watch them back to see all the things that I can change and improve upon," she advised. "I would say to continue trying to keep dancing better and better because the work never ends and you always have to perfect what you're doing."
Shevchenko's long-term goals remain firmly rooted in the ballet world. Just because she's an ABT principal dancer does not mean she's resting on her laurels.
"My goal is in dance. I would love to guest with companies internationally like the Mariinsky Ballet or the Royal Ballet," she summed up. "Other than that, my main goal is just to keep perfecting what I do and get better each day."
Don’t miss Dance Network’s ‘To The Pointe’ interview with former Dance Theatre of Harlem star Alison Stroming: