Voci dell'Opera and me, Yulia Sumzina, are starting a new series of articles and interviews dedicated to the next generation of dancers of the Mariinsky theatre. We hope it will be a big project, interesting for the international audience. As an author of the idea, I can say that the main goal of “Mariinsky Next Generation” is to let ballet lovers discover something new about dancers and look at them not only from a professional point of view but also from a little bit more personal perspective.
The first person who has agreed to take part in this adventure is the soloist of the Mariinsky ballet, young Brazilian dancer Victor Caixeta. Despite being very busy while working hard on new roles, Victor found some time to meet me in a place near the Mariinsky theatre to talk about his career and life with a glass of lemonade. So, we have an exclusive interview for the “Mariinsky Next Generation” project.
Victor was born in Uberlandia, Brazil, and started his ballet studies at the age of 12. He participated and won prizes in such ballet competitions as The Youth America Grand Prix (New York, 2015, 2014, finalist), European Ballet Grand Prix (Vienna, 2017, first prize and jury award), the International Competition Tanzolymp (Berlin, 2017, 1st prize in the Classical Dance nomination), the XIII International Ballet Dancers and Choreographers’ Competition in Moscow (3rd prize, 2017). After the competition in Moscow, he was invited to the Mariinsky ballet company and since his second season in Saint-Petersburg, Victor has danced many of the leading roles, including the Nutcracker Prince (in two versions), Don Basilio (in "Don Quixote"), James (in "La Sylphide"), Romeo (in "Romeo and Juliet"), Prince Desire (in "Sleeping Beauty").
The first question is about your first steps in ballet. Was it your idea to start doing ballet?
It was not really planned. I was in school when the director from a ballet school came there to hold an audition. I didn't want to do it but everyone had to try. There was something like some stretching, etc., and I was actually the only one she picked. I didn't really understand what ballet was at that time... She asked my mom's telephone, called her, and mom went there to talk to her. Then my mom came home and said, "You will do ballet!" At first, I wanted to go just to see girls in ballet clothes, and when I started, it was not really serious, it was just some physical activity to me.
How old were you?
I was 12, quite late for it.
When you were a child, a teenager, who were your role models in ballet and who inspires you nowadays?
For sure, it was my first teacher Guiomar Boaventura because she changed my mind for everything, not just ballet, but for life. Ballet in Brazil is a kind of art... It's not just a hobby or something, it saves lives. For example, there were many really poor people in my school. They had no money for eating and she put them to ballet and then they got scholarships and went away. Now they help their families in Brazil. Or somebody was doing drugs and she helped these people. My family was never rich but I had a really good base, we were poor but educated and united, were always together. I had no problems with drugs or with anything like this. So... my first teacher always was my biggest inspiration and I always wanted to be someone – not just a good dancer but a good person like her. And nowadays, I think it's also my teachers. I don't have a dancer who inspires me because I think everyone is different, each dancer has their specialties, so I am myself, the other dancers are themselves. But I would say my teachers Gennady Selutsky and Viktor Baranov gave me everything that they had and I'm really grateful to this because I'm learning from the bests.
You were born very far from Russia, in Brazilian town Uberlandia... What does the word “home” mean to you now?
I actually had this conversation with my mom in summer... I don't feel home anywhere right now. I can say I'm a person of the world. I've never been to any place for a long time. I know that I won't be here forever and I will never go back to Brazil and live there, the world is big. Home for me is the place where love is, where my family is. The stage is also home.
You started dancing with the Mariinsky ballet in 2017 after graduating from the Berlin ballet school and after the competition in Moscow. Was the process of adaptation in St. Petersburg, in the theatre quick or not?
I'm still getting used to all (laughs). It was really hard at the beginning, extremely hard. I had to grow up... I “woke up” like “Victor, you're not a child anymore!”, even though when I was 15, I went by airplane alone and left my house. I always took care of myself but here everything was so different and there was nobody to help me. I had to do everything by myself: documents, to deal with all this bureaucracy. It was hard for a 17-18-year-old boy. I had to speak the language and there were not many people who could offer help, but I grew up. Every country has its good and bad points. I am also grateful for living here because it made me very much stronger, the person that I am now is completely different from the person I arrived here 3 years ago.
You are only 20 now and it is your third season at the Mariinsky. Since the last season, you have performed not only the secondary roles but the main ones. What are the main points for you which make you able to do it all at such a young age?
Definitely, the teachers, the support that I get from them. The teachers helped me a lot, and we have no time to deal with “drama”. Everything happens so fast that even if you're not ready, they just throw you on stage. So, the lights are on, and you're staying alone, so you have to do it. It doesn't matter what your age is and which ballet you're dancing, if you have or don't have enough time for preparing, if you have or don't have pain. Now I just realize I danced something a week later because after performances I'm in ecstasy and I don't feel anything.
What helps you prepare roles, how do you get inspired for everything you do?
In Mariinsky, we have a computer room where we can see some old performances which happened in the theatre, something like videos of the legends... I go there and I watch these stars of the past, compare and see what I would like to take from them and try to create something mine because I don't want to copy them, I just want to get some inspiration to create something myself with the help of the teachers, of course.
And a little bit about your life in St. Petersburg... Do you have any favourite places? Where do you like going for a walk?
Usually, I spend my days off with physiotherapy (laughs). Really, I always try to go out, meet my friends, I have a close group of Italian friends and we're friends with the chief in the Four Seasons Hotel's Percorso Restaurant... so I try to spend my free time eating something good because during the week I have just time for preparing something quick at home or I eat in the "stolovaya" in the theatre. I try to use this time to see my friends and talk about something else besides ballet...
Do you like cinemas in St. Petersburg? There are cinemas where you can watch films in English…
I also like to watch them in Russian, I already understand the most part. And I go alone just to sit there, eat popcorn, listen to the language and to relax. I usually do this two times when I go to the supermarket, Prisma. There is one cinema close to it and inside there is also a cinema.
Some people know that your hobby is photography. What is the main subject of your photos and what are the main things you want to show by your shots?
I really like to show a different atmosphere and I like the hidden beauty, the imperfections which make perfection. For example, my pictures which I took with Maria Iliushkina are just rehearsal pictures, she even didn't wear make-up. I was trying to get a picture of Masha, not of a model, she was not posing for the pictures. I don't like it when a person poses, I always want something spontaneous. So, she was trying to learn something with her teacher but they were the most stunning pictures I have ever taken. It was unique because she was just herself.
Favourite role: I like to express my emotions on the stage, so... Don Quixote (Basilio). I like to play with the character, not just the classical things. I like something where I show the style and express the things by the dance.
Music: Some classical music, for example, Max Richter. And from non-classical music, I like Billie Eilish, pop and Brazilian music. I love Queen, I'm a big fan of them and I like old vinyl, etc.
Film: Probably, “Harry Potter”... my favourite one is “The Goblet of Fire”. I also like comedies and movies like that.
Book: It's a bit cliché to say but “Bible”. I really go over and over sometimes... I read a lot and I like to read something like psychology, this kind of thing.
Fragrance: Now I use Dior Sauvage, but also I like Versace.
City: Berlin. It's the only place, I think, I could see myself for a long time. Not forever as I've said that I have no “home” but for me Berlin is the closest place to “home”. My inner self loves Berlin so much because it's the place when I feel comfortable and safe.
Advantage: I think I never really give up. I'm a really strong person inside and I don't hide from people what happens to me but I won't give up.
Disadvantage: Probably, the same thing, because it can be really dangerous sometimes... You know, when I really want something I can do anything for it.
You feel the lack of: My family, for sure… and sun, I think.
You cannot live without: I really wanted to say ballet, but I'm not sure. Because I think, life is much more than just about ballet or just about something. I love my profession, I'm crazy about it but life is more about meeting your people, finding your things. I cannot find just one thing, there are a lot of little things connected for me to being alive, healthy, in a good mood.
Photos: Tatiana Kholkina, Tonia Ekimova, Valentin Baranovsky
Sketch: Yulia Sumzina