As a long-limbed powerhouse, yet soulful soubrette, Maria Baranova defies “type.” At 16, she signed her first contract with Hamburg Ballet. At 19, she became a principal at Finnish National Ballet. This season, with a persistent glimmer still in her eyes, she has joined Boston Ballet as a soloist, where she’s eager to test the limits of her artistry.
The Neumeier-trained Baranova sparkles in his works, like Préludes CV, which she danced at Finnish National Ballet. Photo by Stanislav Belyaevsky, Courtesy Boston Ballet.
Company: Boston Ballet
Hometown: Helsinki, Finland
Training: Helsinki Dance Institute, School of the Hamburg Ballet—John Neumeier
Accolades: Notable prizes from the Prix de Lausanne, Helsinki International Ballet Competition and Erik Bruhn Prize, among others
Career prep at competitions: “They are great practice to control yourself—when you are nervous and you only have that one chance,” says Baranova. “I learned how to focus myself.”
Her most meaningful role: The title role in Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon in 2012 at Finnish National Ballet. “I had spent all summer preparing, but it still didn’t feel honest,” she says. “One week before the performance, my partner Friedemann Vogel, a principal with Stuttgart Ballet, came to rehearse. He started very young as a principal, too, and knew how hard it was. He taught me how to create in myself this character. When you find this incredible chemistry with a partner, it can open you and drive you into the story.”
Her path to Massachusetts: When Boston Ballet toured to Finland in 2012, Baranova fell in love with its broad repertoire. Last year when BB’s resident choreographer Jorma Elo set A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Finnish National, Baranova connected with artistic director Mikko Nissinen, who is also from Finland. In August, she became the first Finnish dancer he has hired for the company.
On adjusting to company life in the U.S.: ”The working rhythm is different,” she says. “In Europe, you rehearse one ballet and then perform, then rehearse another. Here, we prepare many ballets for three months, and then start to perform. There’s a lot of homework.”
What Nissinen is saying: “She is a powerful dancer—with lots of spunk and speed. Now I want to see her go deeper into neoclassical repertoire and tackle things that are not as natural for her.”
Her dream roles: “Whatever I’m dancing at the moment is my favorite,” she says. “But I like to keep the dreams to myself. I’m looking forward to everything.” n
James Whiteside (Jayme Thornton for Dance Magazine)
Say you're perpetually impeccable designer Thom Browne. Say you're planning your Spring 2020 Paris menswear show along a "Versailles country club" theme. Say you want a world-class danseur to open the show with some kind of appropriately fabulous choreography.
Who do you call? James Whiteside, of course. On Saturday, the American Ballet Theatre principal—wearing pointe shoes and a glorious pinstriped tutu—kicked off Browne's presentation at the École des Beaux-Arts with a 15-minute, show-stealing solo. Whiteside choreographed the piece himself, with the help of detailed notes from the designer.
I'd been a professional dancer for five years when I realized the pain I'd been feeling in my hip and down my sciatic nerve was not going away. I had been treating it for two years as we dancers do—with regular visits to my masseuse, physical therapy, baths, ice and lots of Aleve—but I never stopped dancing. It finally dawned on me that if I kept going at the speed I was going (which was, well, speedy), the pain would only get more severe and unrelenting, and I might never dance again.
I told myself I'd take two months off, and all would be better.
That first morning when I woke up at 10 am, I had no idea what to do with myself. My life until that moment had been dictated by class and rehearsal, every hour accounted for. How should I fill the huge swath of time ahead of me?