Born in Stara Zagora in 1938, one of the living legends of Bulgarian classical ballet Krassimira Koldamova has more than 60 roles in 70 shows. She has danced on some of the top world stages; she has been prima ballerina of the French Grand Ballet Classique. At the beginning of the 1990’s she founded the first private ballet studio for discovering and developing young talents.
In an interview for Radio Bulgaria the ballet prima, a veritable idol for generations of Bulgarians, goes back to the first steps in her career:
“I started out from Anastas Petrov’s school – he was the patriarch of Bulgarian classical ballet. Then I went on to the national dance school and continued with Russian pedagogue Vladimir Belii. A little later Lilly Beron took over our class. And we considered ourselves so lucky – she was the most famous ballerina in the country! We were so happy to watch her dance on stage; but Beron was so strict. After Belii, who would constantly praise and encourage us, she set such a high standard. I remember how I used to come home and cry in exasperation. At that time we studied for four years, not nine as now. That is too long, you must “hurl” yourself on stage sooner. I wasn’t 16 yet when I finished the ballet school and joined the opera company. There I was again lucky to be working with Beron, but I myself was prima ballerina. It is a rare and fortunate thing to have your tutor with you at the theatre. She continued to be strict but by then I knew she was perhaps the only person who would very accurately and unrelentingly point out each of my mistakes. I didn’t cry any more – I remember this as a happy time.”
Audiences of the older generation will remember Lilly Beron and her aristocratic aura on stage, and she passed her refinement onto her student. Very young and full of hope, Krassimira Koldamova made her debut on the stage of the Sofia opera in 1954. The role that has become emblematic for her is that of Giselle in the ballet of the same name by Adolphe Adam. And it is as Giselle that she has lived on in the hearts of ballet lovers. Does she remember the first time she performed as Giselle:
“That is something you can never forget. I was admitted to the Sofia opera house and spent two years there. Then, together with my school friend Kalina Bogoeva we specialized at the Bolshoi theatre school in Moscow. When we came back we found out we had been fired. Then Assen Manolov, principal choreographer of the Rousse opera house invited me to join the company as Giselle. I had seen the ballet in Moscow many times, I had studied the Adagio from the second act. It was a dream come true but I never thought it would happen so soon. I left for Rousse and the atmosphere there was wonderful, all artistes, including Assen Manolov himself were so kind.”
Krassimira Koldamova has danced on the stages of some of the biggest theatre houses in the world. In the 1966 – 1978 period she was invited to Havana, Cuba many times by legendary ballerina Alicia Allonso. There, the Bulgarian prima was given a standing ovation by the audiences.
Koldamova has played an important role in founding the Arabesque ballet. At the end of her artistic career she set up a ballet studio for discovering and developing young talents.
“Many children have come to my studio since 1991,” says Koldamova. “Those with talent continued at the ballet school. More than 100 of my students are currently studying there or have gone on to join opera theatre companies. Every year we have newcomers to the studio. Ballet is a fine occupation for children and parents know it. Dancing engages all senses – the eyes so as to see your partner, the ears so as to hear the music. Ballet helps their concentration and that is something they will find useful in any sphere and any profession.”
By a tradition the young dancers from Krassimira Koldamova’s studio are now preparing for their Christmas and New Year concert. After retiring from the stage, the ballerina started creating small choreography pieces for her students. She now plans to stage a ballet show for children based on Charles Perrault’s Puss in Boots.
English version: Milena Daynova
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