Ballet coach zenaida janowsky stands in front of a group of students speaking to them.

In conversation with Zenaida Yanowsky

In September we welcomed Zenaida Yanowsky to the School as Coach for the Pre-professional Programme. We asked her a few questions about her experience.

It’s wonderful to have you here at the School! How do you feel about teaching here?

On a personal level, it’s always a joy when you can pass on the knowledge you have gathered during a long career to the next generation of dancers. The students are of a very high standard and are able to understand and tweak problems very quickly, which makes my job a lot more enjoyable as I can challenge them further.

How did you first start out as a dancer? What do you remember about your early experiences with dance training?

I started dancing very late, at 14 years old, so I remember not having much of a break after school. I went to school and then did five hours of ballet, but I come from a family of dancers so I pretty much grew up in the theatre. My parents were contemporary dancers. By the time I was five years old, my Dad had become a choreographer, creating his own company, while my mother ran the school. Both my parents are superb teachers and taught me and my siblings till we joined international companies. As professional dancers, we would always go back home to my parents on our respective company breaks to clean up our technique. Their school is in the Canary Islands, which helped as we could combine the holiday with a bit of work.

What’s the best advice you were given when you were training?

My mum told me to work as if I was swimming in an Olympic pool. You only look around once you’ve finished the length of the pool. If you spend too long looking around whilst swimming, you might never make it to the end. I pretty much did that all through my training and career.

What were some of the highlights of your dancing career?

That question always feels like trying to choose a favourite child! Impossible. But I very much enjoyed the creative periods. Finding my feet in Swan Lake, La Bayadère, Manon and Marguerite and Armand, or in any Balanchine, Forsythe, Mats Ek or Kylián work. I also loved all the pieces that were created for me. I feel privileged to have had such an extensive array of choreographers to work with.

Outside of your performing career, what else are you particularly proud of?

My parents showed me you can have a career and a family. I guess that’s my proudest moment achievement, as I always worked to combine both things, even though at times it seemed totally incompatible.

What are you most excited about in your new role at the School?

I always get excited working with the students, and seeing their ability to cope with the pressures of the work and the challenges, such as injuries, while still growing as people. I also love getting to know them as artists. They always surprise me and I like that.

What would you say are things that today’s dancers need to be aware of when they’re starting out? What advice would you give?

Dancers are so exquisite these days. It might feel like the pyramid is closing in… but let’s never forget that it’s an art form.

What else have you got coming up outside of your work at the School?

I mostly coach in international professional ballet companies. Recently I’ve been in America with Festival Ballet Providence coaching their production of The Nutcracker. Then I’ll be heading back to London to coach The Royal Ballet’s Swan Lake. I also teach on the Trainee Programme at English National Ballet School and have dancers coming to me for private tuition. And amongst all that, I’m trying to be flexible with my time so I can be home for my kids too!