Published: June 21, 2012
Send to a friend

BEHIND THE SCENES WITH...
ALEXANDRA GEORGIEVA

Meet SBF Member Alexandra Georgieva, born in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, where she started dancing at the age of 6. Three years later she attended the State School for Ballet and Choreography in Sofia, where she graduated in 1985 as a State Certified Stage Dancer. The world's best dance pedagogues were among her teachers: Maris Liepa, Fea Balabina and Professor Kalina Bogoeva. She joined Friedrichstadt-Palast in 1990 as a dancer and six months later she got her first soloist part, which she held for 18 years, until 2008 when she became the Ballet Director.
We interviewed Alexandra to find out about how her career has evolved from being a dancer to becoming the Ballet Director at Friedrichstadt-Palast...
Alexandra Georgieva

  • Sofia, National School for Dance Art
Alexandra at the age of 9
1977 How old were you when you started dancing and what inspired you to take it up?
    Quote ...I studied classical, Graham technique, modern and jazz and we had to play the piano too. We believe that itís necessary to study both dance and music...

    Alexandra Georgieva: From the age of three I would dance at every possible occasion and family celebrations. When I was 6 years old, I started taking classes at a Bulgarian preparatory ballet school and when I was 9, I was chosen to join a professional ballet school - The National Ballet School, in Sofia. There were about 1000 children at that audition and I was one of the about 20 lucky ones to be chosen. From that moment, I knew that I would become a professional dancer and I was living my dream.

  • Do you come from a showbiz family?
    AG: No, I don't come from a showbiz family. Both of my parents worked in the steel industry, but they loved music and dance and were open to every kind of art.

  • What impact did moving to Sofia to join The National Ballet School have on your family?
    AG: I'm from Plovdiv, the second largest city in Bulgaria and 120 kilometres from Sofia. My parents were incredibly supportive and when I moved to Sofia, my whole family came with me. It was a big problem for them, but they sacrificed everything for me, Sofia, State Opera
Graduation Gala
Alexandra dancing 'Auber Grand', pas classique Variation
1985 because they wanted me to achieve my goal of becoming a professional dancer. My father was able to get a transfer with his company, but my mother couldn't. It was a really difficult time for us.
    My brother, Nikolai is three years younger than me and everyday when I came home from ballet school, I told him what a wonderful time I was having. When he was nine, he told my parents that he wanted to be a dancer too. This was in 1975 and at that time in Bulgaria, if a boy told his father that he wanted to be a dancer, the father didn't like it, as ballet wasn't considered the right thing for a boy to do. However, my mum supported him and persuaded my father and said; "Please give the boy a chance! It's a great school where the children learn to be very strong and disciplined". So my brother started three years after me, he was really talented and my parents suddenly had two children working to become professional dancers.


  • Have you ever worked with your brother?
    AG: Just on one occasion in the State Opera in Bulgaria. It was in my brother's last year of studying. It was a great moment.

  • Can you tell us about your dance training in Bulgaria?
    AG: I was completely educated in the Russian-inspired approach to training in dance. I studied classical, Graham technique, modern and jazz and we had to play the piano too. We believe that itís necessary to study both dance and music. It was a wonderful time for me. Even though the training was extremely hard, you get challenged until you think you have reached your limit and then the next day you realize that your limit has been stretched a little further, I just loved it. It was like a family to me. I was at that school until I was 18.

  • Does Bulgaria have a long dance tradition like many eastern European countries?
    Channel BNT (Bulgarian TV)
Alexandra dancing a piece called 'The Wall'
1987 AG: We have a big dance tradition and we have folk dances that go back as far as 1,360 years, characterised by their lively energy, grace, uneven rhythms and exciting footwork. In the 1800s classical ballet became popular. So we have a really old and fantastic dance tradition.

  • Where did you start your professional dance career?
    Quote ...Those who work here at Friedrichstadt-Palast have to be wholeheartedly committed to their job and love it. This is the only way they can perform at the level we demand of them every day...

    AG: I had a one-year internship in the State Opera, in Sofia and then 5 years in Musical Theatre, in Sofia.

  • What brought you from Bulgaria to Germany and working at the Friedrichstadt-Palast?
    AG: In 1990 I came to Germany to visit my brother who was working in the State Theatre in Schwerin. He ended up dancing there as a soloist for 14 years. Whilst I was in Germany I met a lot of Bulgarian dancers and they told me about a big audition that was coming up at the Friedrichstadt-Palast. They encouraged me to attend to see where my own market value was. I attended more for fun, as I had no intention of leaving my life in Bulgaria. There were about 100 dancers from all over the world at the audition. We had 2 hours of classical training, followed by modern and then tap. I was the first girl that the bosses chose and I was offered a contract to start on 1 January 1991, when I was 24. My first show was called Wie ein Vogel Schwerelos, which means 'As a Weightless Bird'. I danced in the Friedrichstadt-Palast for 18 years altogether, starting out in the chorus and 6 months later I became the soloist in the same show.

  • How did you make the transition from being a dancer to becoming the Ballet Director at the Friedrichstadt-Palast?
    Berlin, Friedrichstadt-Palast
Alexandra in Cinema - Die Kin Revue
1996 AG: In 2001 I started rethinking about my career and what I would do when I retired from dancing. I knew that I wanted to stay in the business and so I studied Dance Pedagogics with the Royal Academy of Dance to become a dance teacher.
    Quote ...Personally I think itís all down to patience and staying true to yourself. A good dancer is very disciplined and passionate about their job and needs to put their heart and soul in it...
    It was a great time for me. I started from the beginning again and learnt the ABCs of dancing for a small child. I found it extremely interesting, as my previous training had been in the Russian style. Russian and English dance schools are very different.
    Becoming the Ballet Director was a big surprise for me, but I was open to the challenge and the experience. It was a great possibility, because at that moment they needed a new Ballet Director. The big boss, Dr. Berndt Schmidt, asked me if I wanted to give it a try for 2 or 3 months. I thought: "WOW!" Ė what a opportunity and I couldn't resist the amazing offer! So in October 2008, I ended my dancing career and became the Ballet Director.


  • Can you please describe a typical day as the Ballet Director at Friedrichstadt-Palast?
    AG: My working day starts at 9.30am, I check my emails and make some phone calls. About half an hour later I start the classical training with the Ballet Company. I have a Ballet Assistant and a Ballet Master in my team and discuss with them the previous nightís show and possible corrections or improvements. The Ballet Company is made up of 60 dancers, there is always something to correct or someone to replace due to sickness. We then work on the corrections, have workshops or rehearsals for upcoming shows. My team and I sit together again around 2:00pm to go over the changes and then we have a couple of hours off. In the evening there is always one member of the Ballet Directorate present, to watch the show, so Iím there in the evening two or three times a week.

  • Are you involved in casting and if so, what qualities do you look for?
    AG: Yes, I hold the auditions and I look mainly for flexibility. They must have a strong classical background and an all-round ability and be good at modern, contemporary, tap, Latin American, hip-hop and street dancing. Our show is a big show and itís really important for us to have dancers who can dance all the different styles. For our present show we have eight different choreographers and therefore the dancers have to perform in many different styles.

  • Now that you are in the creative team, do you ever feel the urge to be back on stage? Berlin, Friedrichstadt-Palast
Alexandra in 'Wunderbar'
Photo by Herbert Schulze
2002
    AG: Nooo... (laughing) Ė that part of my life is over! Twenty four years is enough!

  • How have productions evolved in Friedrichstadt-Palast since you started working there?
    AG: Every new show is more challenging. Every time we go on more and more. We have to do this to go up another level. The audience has a lot of information now and expects more. Itís necessary to always raise the level.

  • Do you think that the way showbiz is today puts more, or less pressure on a dancerís career than it used to do in the past and what would you say to encourage todayís performers?
    AG: I think that the challenges for a dancer are immense and truly hard. Itís a hard time for a dancer now to find a job and they always have to overcome obstacles. I have a huge respect for the dancers now. I donít want to say that my time was easier, but there were more possibilities to find work. In the past, there were many TV shows with dancers, now there arenít. Most big productions in Europe have reduced the amount of dancers.

  • What would you say has been the highest moment in your career?
    Quote ...I don't come from a showbiz family. Both of my parents worked in the steel industry, but they loved music and dance and were open to every kind of art...

    AG: I cannot say that I had one big moment in my career, because Iíve had many. One of them was my first production in musical theatre in the show My Fair Lady at the Stefan Makedonski Theatre, in Sofia. It was my first time as a professional dancer on stage. It was an amazing moment for me. The second one was in Friedrichstadt-Palast, where after a very short time, I became the star of the show. The third time was when my parents came to Berlin and saw me in the show for the first time. By then I was the soloist, but I hadnít told them, as I wanted it to be a surprise. When they saw me, they cried for joy and it was a great moment for me. The fourth time was when I first did a big tap solo number here. Prior to that, my tap wasnít great, but I practiced alone for two months in the ballet studio, until my boss told me that I was ready.

  • If you had the chance, who would you thank for what you have achieved?
    AG: I would like to say a really big thank you to my mum, dad and daughter, for everything that they have done for me. I was already a mother when I came to Friedrichstadt-Palast, so my daughter Nevena has grown up here and has been so supportive.

  • Is your daughter a dancer too? Berlin, Friedrichstadt-Palast
Yma - Zu SchŲn, Um Wahr Zu Sein
Behind the scenes: Alexandra with Ballet Master, Maik Damboldt
still image from German TV VOX/SZ TV's program 'Nachtmenschen, Friedrichstadtpalast'
2011
    AG: When she was nine she told me that she wanted to train to be a dancer. What could I say? It was impossible for me to say no! I did tell her though how hard it was. So she did try and for six years she was with the National Ballet School. However, after six years I spoke to her and said: "My lovely daughter, you are good, but not great". It was very hard, but I had to be honest. I had to tell her like a colleague, instead of a mum.

  • What do you think is the key to success in a dancing career and to surviving in the business?
    AG: Personally I think it's all down to patience and staying true to yourself. A good dancer is very disciplined and passionate about their job and needs to put their heart and soul into it. Charisma is also very important, along with being versatile and picking up things quickly. They must listen to their body and care for it very well, because that is their only tool. Those who work here at Friedrichstadt-Palast have to be wholeheartedly committed to their job and love it. This is the only way they can perform at the level we demand of them every day.

  • What plans do you have for the future?
    AG: I want all of us to keep striving for perfection Ė in other words... quality, quality and quality...


    Thank you Alexandra for this heartfelt interview!