Gabriel Stoyanov found his passion for dancing at the age of five. The Bulgarian is now a professional ballet dancer and is working on his doctorate at the famous Vaganova Academy in Russia. In an interview, the 27-year-old explains how he experiences Russia as a gay man and how he can turn his passion into a career.
Gabriel, you are studying ballet at the Vaganova Academy. What does that mean to you?
It is simply indescribable to be able to study at an academy in Russia with such a long history. It is the oldest and most famous ballet school in the world. Ballet is not just dancing there, but an art form, and it is cultivated with great passion. When I was allowed to attend the academy for the first time, I was able to attend the rector’s lecture and one of my greatest role models, Ludmila Valentinovna Kovaleva, was sitting next to me. I was just blown away. Then I knew that one day I would study here, no matter what it costs me, and now I have made it.
What does the training at the academy offer you as a dancer and artist?
As a ballet master, I specialize in a doctorate in choreographic art. I hope to travel to Russia again soon to work with all of these dedicated and talented people. Hopefully, there will be engagements in theaters again in the future, of course, that depends on a variety of developments.
You have been studying from Switzerland since the corona pandemic, how do your training and studies work?
I get up early and do an hour of stretching. Sometimes I have my first lecture at eight o’clock because of the two-hour time difference between here and St. Petersburg. Then I go to the studio to work with my coach for a good two hours. After that, I race home to attend lectures for two to three hours. I do homework and in the evenings I teach at various ballet schools. When the situation improves again, I go to a gym for a few hours for weight training.
How does studying in Switzerland and Russia differ?
It is very strict in Russia and Bulgaria. You do what the lecturers say, or you’re out. It’s very tough but incredibly educational. In Switzerland, studying is more democratic, and more is done together. I like that very much, but it takes longer to achieve the same results.
Speaking of dancing, how did you discover ballet for yourself?
I grew up in two small villages near Sofia, Bulgaria. When I was five my parents took me to a dance school where I first learned traditional Bulgarian dances. When I was a little older, I secretly took ballet classes. It was there that I discovered my great passion for ballet. An important moment was when I got to know the Bulgarian ballet legend Krasimira Koldamova. She told me that my talent could go a long way if I started training seriously.
What else do you want to achieve in the world of ballet?
The first big goal is the successful completion of the degree and thus the doctorate. I can’t dance a lot right now, so I hope to be able to perform in Russia and around the world for a few more years. Later I would like to use all my experience to pass on my knowledge to the children here in Switzerland and to help build the next generation of great dancers.
Let’s say a young person from the LGBTIQ community reads our interview and wants to become a professional dancer too. What would you advise as a role model?
Don’t stop working on yourself. Not just physically, but also mentally. You have to be strong in this world – be it in ballet or in general. It is important that you develop yourself so that you have something to be really proud of. Do not let yourself be defined by your gender or your sexuality, but by what you have achieved and how you are. Surround yourself with great people who support you in everything and encourage each other on your way.
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