Kateryna Khaniukova
Ballerina, first soloist of the English National Ballet under the direction of Tamara Rojo. She graduated from Kyiv National Choreography School, and debuted as a prima on the stage of the National Opera of Ukraine. Her leading roles are: Clara ('The Nutcracker'), Medora and Gulnare ('Corsaire'), Giselle ('Giselle'), Odette / Odile ('Swan Lake'). She has won prizes at the Serge Lifar International Ballet Competition, and international ballet competitions in Istanbul and South Korea.
Here, in Kyiv, my mum kept my childhood pointe shoes, and also the woolly socks which my grandmother knitted for me
Their natural wool helped to take the pain away after exertions and injuries at ballet competitions. But the most important thing is that through them I felt the care of those close to me, a connection with home. It helped me to endure emotional pressure: I don't even know how my further career would have developed were it not for this simple, utilitarian item. Modern technologies used for creating ballet shoes and clothing can reduce physical pain and reduce the load. However, the most important thing is what's in your heart. So even today I look at these small, children's socks with tenderness and gratitude.
Very often young ballet artists choose this path under pressure from their parents. And usually this ends very sadly. Dancers fulfil the unrealised ambitions of their parents, forgetting about themselves. With me it was to the contrary: my parents are doctors and they understood all the health risks for a ballet artist. They supported me because I am their child. But if one day I came and said: "That's enough, I will no longer do ballet"—they would absolutely support me in this decision.

I have never been afraid of the stage. It is the opposite: it is on the very stage that I feel most like myself. From the early years of study we were involved in the performances of Kyiv National Opera, and each of these performances was a day of rejoicing for me. This does not change with age. Today I still adore the moment of anxiety before stepping out onto the stage and the moment when the audience greets you with applause.

For the sake of this I am willing to spend hours, days and weeks in the rehearsal hall. If there is not this desire, it is very hard to achieve success in the profession. From an early age you learn to be level-headed and disciplined, precisely because of the understanding of what you are doing it all for.
Despite my young age, ballet was my conscious choice. I was in love with dance, and strove to tie my life to it. Without this it is very hard in the profession of dancing, for it demands complete commitment, both physical and emotional
Movement was always my element, I might even say my need. It was imperative to direct this activity into something useful and interesting. I started to dance in the Ukraine Folk Ensemble. I was brought there by my grandmother, with whom I was very close in my childhood years.

Folk dance remains my infatuation, even today. It gave me an understanding of my roots and Ukrainian cultural identity. Our cultural heritage is extremely rich: the traditions, dances, conventions, and even folk costumes of different regions.

A teacher at Kyiv Choreography School saw my abilities. It was a chance, we lived near each other. Svitlana Andriivna offered me help in preparing for admission to the choreographic school, and my path as a classical ballet artist began. This is a person I am very grateful to. If it weren't for her, my path would be completely different. She believed in me, gave me her time, her strengths.
Recently, however, the brightest experience for me has been filling the role of Frida Kahlo in a production of Broken Wings for the British Royal Ballet. During work on this part I was deeply immersed in the emotional life of the artist. Her tragic fate struck me. It seems that it was concentrating on painting that allowed her to endure, to live through physical and emotional suffering.

I am also incredibly happy that in my first year in London I worked with John Neumeier, one of the most famous choreographers of contemporary neoclassical ballets. This is a person who is very subtle and sensitive, his 'The Lady of the Camellias' is one of the most beautiful ballets that I have seen in my life.

Working alongside different choreographers, subjects and cultures, I always remember my native land and roots. But even when performing an international classic I am confident that my Ukrainian roots are reflected in every one of my movements. The decision to leave Ukraine for London was very hard for me. However, it is also a means to bring Ukrainian culture and talents to the world. A link with my native land is with me every day, regardless of distance.

Working in London, I always try to stay in touch with my family in Kyiv. This is what gives me inspiration and support. Communication and even a dish from the national cuisine. I cook them for foreign friends and try to taste them as a priority when I return to Ukraine. The term 'comfort food' seems to me very apt for describing them. Through food it is as if you feel comfort, calmness, the care of your loved ones.
I chose the path of a classical and neoclassical dancer for myself, the plastic language of classic choreography is the most special thing for me. The character of Giselle in the eponymous Adam ballet is very nearly the dearest one for me. The role of Medora in the ballet 'Corsaire' is also after my own heart
The emotional connection with the audience motivates you not to stop even at the hardest movements. You fell down 25 times in a row during the execution of a complex routine: but you got up for the 26th. It is what does not allow you to feel sorry for yourself even if you really want to.

And the most important thing in all of this is the person. I adore my profession, but above all else I am a woman and a Ukrainian. And only then a ballerina. In competition, which in our business is very harsh, it is important not to lose these human qualities.

It seems to me that today simplicity is the new luxury. The larger the scale of a person as a professional, the simpler they should be in personal communication. It is important to preserve this in yourself.
The opinions of the audience after a show are a unique method of psychotherapy for artists. You understand that for the viewer the dance is more than just a beautiful picture, it arouses deep emotions