woman of dance

Fragen an Anna Merkulova

Anna Merkulova works in Dresden with Semper Opera Ballet since 2006, as first soloist since 2015.

1 ______ artist path of life

Who had a great influence on you through your dance career as a human, artist and dancer?

First of all my mom, for taking me to a dance school, because my kindergarden teachers kept telling her that I dance all the time.

My first ballet teacher, for convincing my mom to take me to a professional ballet school and for giving me my first ballet lessons.

And my first yoga teacher at the ballet school, for starting me on my spiritual journey at the age of 10/12. The journey that continues until now and is very closely connected to dancing and my career as a dancer.

And of course many people I worked with and still working with, like Laura Graham and Gamal Gouda, my teachers at Semperoper Ballet.

How do you find the balance between growing as an artist and feeling your body experiencing a lot of physical challenges? 

Main thing is to listen to your body! And know when to take it a bit easy and when to push through the pain. We as dancers always push but the time of rest is a very important thing also for growing as an artist. Both you and your body need time to recover and information, experience and development need to sink in!

Sometimes it is a better choice to do a rehearsal through your head and not your body. Think about correction, listen to the music, talk about things. Next time you get to it your body will know what to do and you will be in sync.

How do you provide for your physical and mental health?

All the tools we have today to keep our body healthy are great. You just have to find the ones that fit you personally. I like for myself massage, swimming, stretching, yoga, hot bath and sleep☺

Mentally is the same thing. You need to find what works for you.

I work with energy a lot. Reiki and Regression therapy helped me tremendously. And of course there are more traditional things like walking.

I also find that having animals help to disconnect from work and connect with nature. I have a cat and a dog myself and love the way they put a smile on my face even on the most difficult days at work.

Where do you experience moments of thriving as a human with spirit and heart?

When I dance lead role in story ballets.

How does friends and family can give you support through rough times?

Your loved ones can listen to you and support you in your decisions or give advice.

They can also care for you in moments of need!

The most important here is for you to be able to ask for help! It can feel like a weakness sometimes, but asking for help is the greatest tool you have to connect, develop and grow, as an artist and human.

When do you like to rely on your own accomplishments for supporting yourself mentally? 

Unless I hit a very big wall I would always try to rely on myself for support. You get there with experience, when you learn how much strength you actually have inside. But there needs to be balance! As humans we always need to be connected to others and give and get support to each other. This is the other side of the great strength within!

How do you grow self-esteem for being able to dance leading roles?

In my ten years of working with SOB (Semper Oper Ballet) I have done a lot of regression therapy work. That really helped me to deal with lots of issues, one of them self-esteem.

If you don’t know what regression therapy is, look it up. There are lots of information about it out there. And I highly recommend it. It helped me so much that now I am studying to become a therapist myself.

What gives you strength in weak moments?

Knowing that weak moments, hard times and challenges are actually opportunities for further growth, both as human and dancer.

Are there any practical, health or psychological tips that you would share with younger female dancers?

I would say learn to listen to yourself and your body. Be conscious, stay aware and never be afraid of challenges.

2 ______ preparation

What do you do to make your mind and body ready for a main role performance?

There are many layers that need to be addressed on the way to a role.

Work of course! Polishing the technique every day is only one step. You also need to develop the character. I usually also try to tune in energetically into the role and channel the energy of a specific character. Before the performance I like to get quiet, so I can slowly dive into the role. I do some meditation or listen to some music that suits the moment. A good warm up and of course always dance from the heart!

How many hours a day do you dedicate for your task as a dancer?

My working day is usually from 10 to 18.00. But sometimes work comes home with me. Video homework or preparing point shoes sometimes needs extra time.

How do you give yourself off time for your body and mind to unload and charge energy for your next tasks?

Sometimes I like to disconnect from dance at all and go explore the other parts of me and my life. I think this is very important for your body and mind. This also brings more colours into your work and personality on stage.

What works for you concerning the female issue of monthlies to be on the top of your capability?

If I have no pain I work as I normally do. Sometimes I feel a bit slow or heavy but it’s just a couple of days.

Did you ever had issues with your monthlies in a way that work became (almost) impossible? If so what helped to get back in shape? 

Yes, of course. Period can get really bad. Then I just need to take a day off and give my body some rest. Usually it’s a day or two; this doesn’t affect me and my work that much.

What did change in your exercises and nutrition over the years of your career? Is there something that you do or eat less or more?

I became vegetarian at 25.  This really helped me to feel better and also lose some weight.

Now sometimes I go vegan for periods of time. And when I do that I really notice the change in my body. It gets more light and flexible. There are certain foods that also affect our muscles, so finding what works for you could bring some positive results. For me it’s not having a milk and dairy product that works well for my muscles.

3 _______ work space

What is important for you in the work space and in contact with choreographers?

Concentration, collaboration and team work. And having a great time working and creating☺

What do you value when you think of work behaviours or attitudes of dance colleagues? 

Respect to each other and to the space you are working in.

How do you feel dancing a soloist part?

I love to dance soloist parts, especially when a ballet has a story. The challenge here is to fill the whole stage with your presence when you are dancing alone or with a partner. I always enjoy expanding myself and my energy.☺

Do you step back with your philosophy of life for the purpose of the choreography or do you rather put it in your interpretation of the piece?

I prefer to stay true to myself and find a way to integrate myself into the choreography in my way. But remember to always stay open for new things that I can learn.

What does it make with you if you dance a piece created by a mind of a male choreographer?

Male or female choreographer I will always dance as a woman. There is so much debate nowadays about female/male choreographers in dance. I think they are both important! Dance will of course benefit from having more female choreographers to balance out the male influence. But man and women are the parts of one whole. They are both important and each is unique and valuable.

Choreography by Stijn Celis
Music_Sergei Prokofiev (Staatskapelle Dresden)
Dancers_Anna Merkulova & Istvan Simon

Thank you for your time and thoughts! Thank you for sharing!

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To watch this amazing dancer life on stage_ visit

https://www.semperoper.de/spielplan/ballett/spielzeit/2016.html

https://www.semperoper.de/ensemble/personen/peid/anna-merkulova/432.html

for more information and schedule