Irina Dvorovenko with Tony Yazbeck in The Beast in the Jungle. Photo by Carol Rosegg, Courtesy Sam Rudy Media Relations.

For Irina Dvorovenko, Ballet Wasn't a Profession, But a Lifestyle

Some people take this profession as just a chapter of their life. They feel like dance is a job—a fun job, but a job. Other people live their life through dance. I never considered being a ballerina a profession. It's a lifestyle.

If I don't have a performance, I feel like a tiger trapped in a cage. I have so many emotions, I feel I need to give them to somebody, to exhaust myself—I need to cry or laugh, or else it's suffocating. Other people might scream or throw bottles into the wall. We dancers scream onstage through our movement. For me, it's like sweeping off the dust in my soul.


Dvorovenko with Yazbeck in The Beast in the Jungle. Photo by Carol Rosegg, Courtesy Sam Rudy Media Relations.

Through the characters you dance, you get to explore all the sides of being human. You experience their breakups, their betrayal—even if it's never happened in your life. I discovered myself through dance. It taught me how to be me as a person.

I'm 45, so I need to be smart about what my body can handle. If I have an opportunity to dance, and I can do it, I'll try. But now I'm also transferring what I've learned into acting—the body language, the coordination and musicality. I always transformed myself to get into the skin of the characters I danced; now, instead of just talking through the story inside my head, I open my mouth. Whether it's in theater, like Susan Stroman's The Beast in the Jungle, or TV shows, like "Flesh and Bone" or "The Americans," acting gives me another chance to express myself.

Irina Dvorovenko with Yazbeck in The Beast in the Jungle. Photo by Carol Rosegg, Courtesy Sam Rudy Media Relations.

Every dancer knows you have to be super-disciplined: Half of your brain has to work like you're in the military. And the second half has to be very artistic and creative. My husband, Maxim, and I still take Nancy Bielski's class at Steps on Broadway pretty much every day. It's like the Bible for us. Some days you're so tired and sore and hurt, you feel like you can't stand up, but you know you need to go to class.

All my life, I wanted to be the prima ballerina. I wanted to be an ambassador for beauty. Of course, there are struggles, and many injuries, but for me, the theater still feels like a church. Inside, I get the feeling that I am protected, like the guardian angels are watching me.

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In the new film Shirley, Elisabeth Moss stars as Shirley Jackson, the horror writer who rose to fame with her 1948 short story "The Lottery." The controversial hit led to the most mail The New Yorker had ever received about a work of fiction. Jackson went on to write hundreds more short stories and numerous books, including The Haunting of Hill House, which was adapted into a Netflix series in 2018.

In the film, a young couple moves in with Jackson and her philandering husband, a professor at Bennington College. Shirley initially resents this intrusion, and the ensuing drama inspires her next novel. Like one of her stories, the movie is a psychological thriller, where the line between imagination and reality is blurred.

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