Artist Spotlight: Alina Cojocaru

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Alina Cojocaru, one of my favorite ballet dancers to watch, is a principal with the English National Ballet in London (as of fall 2013). She looks like she’s fifteen, but she’s looked that way for decades now. She’s tiny, but she does so much with her size, you don’t think “petite.” Long limbs go a long way in helping her look just the right size onstage. (It’s tough for ballet dancers under 5’5”. If you’re under 5’3”, even harder. Cojocaru is 5’2”.)

I love her because watching her makes me smile. It makes me forget myself. It makes the nagging, edgy, incessant voices in my head go quiet. There’s no analysis of her technique as I watch. There’s just the joy of watching her be joyful. She makes me believe in storybook fairy tale princesses and happily-ever-afters, even as my cynical side scoffs that there’s no such thing. But an accomplished ballet dancer is also an illusionist: her performance allow you to suspend any disbelief. Believe again in magic. Feel it, all around you, seep into you.

Here’s Alina Cojocaru, at age 25, as Aurora in the Rose Adagio from the ballet, The Sleeping Beauty. (This was during her Royal Ballet days.) Go check it out.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uA5C-s4NjoQ

[Editor’s note on March 19, 2014: heartbreakingly, they removed the gorgeous video clip. Sob! Here is a link to a pirated copy. She’s sooooo good that her talent breaks through the icky nature of seeing someone’s bootleg version. It’s a “better than nothing” glimpse, in my mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbQsqd3IC5M]

And here she is, in a different variation, but still as Aurora.

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Now allow me to share an article, by The Guardian’s Luke Jennings, on what makes this rendition of Cojocaru’s particularly impressive and astonishing.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2011/nov/24/alina-cojocaru-rose-adagio-sleeping-beauty

I have to say, there are many ballet dancers in the world who are so technically accomplished and talented that your eyes pop out, but there are far fewer who manage that along with projecting an organic innocent delight. Alina Cojocaru, as Aurora, seems to be discovering the beauty of ballet, of art, of movement, as if for the first time, and there’s a delight and amazement not just on the face, but emanating from her, filling the stage, filling your heart as you watch.

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A few details: Cojocaru was born and raised in Bucharest, Romania. She started off in gymnastics first and was nine when she shifted to ballet. She was almost immediately singled out, chosen by the director of the Kiev Ballet to take part in a student exchange program, which meant leaving home, her native country and language behind, to focus on ballet. In 1997, she won the gold medal at the Prix de Lausanne, at the age of fifteen, and her future was launched. Here are a few interviews that share more of her story, one from 2011 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/theatre/dance/8388579/World-of-Alina-Cojocaru-ballet-dancer.html and one from 2001 http://www.danceview.org/interviews/cojocaru.html

I’ll close my swooning praise of her with a second YouTube clip that had me equally mesmerized, for different reasons, and a different role entirely. It’s a Swan Lake pas de deux, out in the open air, in Denmark and it rains on her and her partner (fellow Royal Ballet principal and Cojocaru’s offstage partner as well, Johan Kobborg, who also left the Royal Ballet in 2013). There’s misty, bucolic scenery, like something out of a dream. As is her performance: exquisite in every way. A jaw-dropping partnered pirouette with nine rotations. Or more. I lost count. She did it a second time too. Oh, my. And the way she can hold her en pointe arabesques and extensions a la seconde. It seems to defy gravity. Her technique and artistry seem to defy the rules of being mortal.

In the end, isn’t that why we all love our prima ballerinas? They make us believe in magic once again. And it’s a beautiful, beautiful place to return to. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozJfJM2Zfek

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7 thoughts on “Artist Spotlight: Alina Cojocaru”

  1. I saw her in Balanchine’s Diamonds; the pas de deux was exquisite. One had the impression the entire Royal Opera House audience was holding its breath and longing for it never to end. Unfortunately she is injured at the moment (as is Johan Kobborg, it must be an unhappy household just now). Here’s wishing them both a speedy recovery and rapid return to the stage so we can swoon at their talent some more.

    • Oh, lucky you, to have seen her in Diamonds! I can just imagine how gorgeous that must have been. Was Kobborg her partner in it? Goodness, both of them injured now. That’s a blow for the Royal Ballet, or maybe that’s just what’s to be expected from time to time with their dancers.And her whiplash injury at twenty-seven could have been a career-ended. Wouldn’t THAT have been a shame?

      Thanks so much for posting here, Katherine!

  2. I am also a fan of Alina. She is just amazing! Thank you for sharing those videos, I could just keep watch them again and again she is so wonderful.

    I have really enjoyed your blog! I am an adult beginner starting back into ballet after a long hiatus and your blog has been very helpful and inspirational!

    • Rachael, so glad to hear you’re another Alina fan! I’ve watched those links an embarrassing amount of time. Today I’m glued in on Christopher Wheeldon’s “After the Rain” – another mesmerizer, although with Yuan Yuan Tan and not Alina. (The link is on my “Bombs or Ballet?” post – it’s worth your time to check it out, trust me!)

      So glad you’re enjoying my blog! Have you been to Adult Ballerina Project? (http://adultballerinaproject.com). You might have come from there today, as there was a link to my site on an interview she just posted. If not, that’s a great place to check out. It looks like you’re blogging, too. Cool! I’ll come visit!

  3. She is amazingly stunning. And I do admire her technique, especially her feet. I have to thank a couple of company girls I dance with for my admiration for her. They put a couple of links of her on Facebook, and I spent nearly an entire afternoon watching her clips on Youtube.

    • Ooh, do share any must-see links here! I’m really, really enjoying watching her. (Yes, the feet – gasp! And the precise articulation of her movements in general. Sooooo satisfying to watch.) Would love suggestions or links on what to watch next. (I’m so glad we live in the YouTube era.)

  4. News announced this week (June 3-7, 2013): both Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg will be leaving the Royal Ballet to pursue other opportunities. Holy cow! What a loss for the Royal Ballet!

    Doubly glad that YouTube exists and I have my own little link here to still watch them…

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