Interview: Moscow City Ballet
W HEN asked how many hours of the day are spent ballet dancing, Katerina Tokareva says it would be simpler to ask how many hours weren't. The answer to that one? Around two hours.
And then, of course, there is that awkward time as day turns to night and most people do nothing but sleep. That, the 26-year-old Moscow City Ballet dancer says, can be counted too.
When on tour, a typical day will involve getting up at around 6am and dancing – this includes rehearsals and show – until 9pm.
"It's stressful, but I love it," says Katerina, speaking in her native Russian. "Our team is a great bunch to work with.
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"I've liked it for eight years and don't want to leave."
The touring ballet group is currently in Scunthorpe where they are performing the Sleeping Beauty. They are going on to Crawley on Tuesday before heading to Nottingham next week.
The last time the team was in Nottingham was two years ago. "I'm looking forward to coming back to Nottingham," Katerina says.
"I like the city.
"We were all very excited about Robin Hood, who we all associate with Nottingham."
Katerina, originally from Donetsk in the Ukraine, has been part of the Moscow City Ballet since the age of 18, when she was invited to join. "I was visiting my friends in Moscow and then told my mum that I would move to Moscow.
"It was a big moment."
She got into dancing at the age of seven, through her aunt, Anna Weber, 36, who now lives in Germany.
Russia has a recognised tradition of ballet, and Russian ballet has had great importance in its country throughout history.
Martin Taylor, company director at the Moscow City Ballet, says it is this very tradition that makes Russians such excellent performers.
Mr Taylor, who became fascinated with the Russian language, literature and culture when he studied Russian in the 1980s, says: "There is always an audience for Russian classical ballet in the UK.
"I think that's because the Russians are so good at it. No one does it as well as them. There is a real appetite for it in this country.
"Classical ballet is just tradition in Russia. It's one of the things everyone just does.
"It's something the country takes really seriously. I'm not saying we don't take it seriously here, but the two countries have completely different work ethics.
"Where a British ballet company might come in at 6pm before an evening show, do a bit of a warm-up and then go on stage, every Russian company I've ever worked with will start practising at 11am and keep going for 11 hours.
"That's why they're good. Ballet is something where, the more you do it, the easier it gets and therefore the better it becomes."
Mr Taylor works for a company called Classical Events, the producers of the city ballet's 2013 tour and helps to bring Russian companies to the UK.
He stumbled into the profession when the Royal Opera in London called him up in 1987 because they needed an interpreter with Russian and English to translate for a Ukrainian opera group.
"I wandered on the stage, started doing some stuff, and they asked me to go on tour with them."
Since then, he has been working with actors, singers and directors, as well as with Victor Smirnov-Golovanov, who formed Moscow City Ballet in 1989 with the aim to promote the original ideas of the great 19th-century choreographers.