Dance Dialogue, Elena Glurdjidze

Dance is the Word writer Laura Dodge attended English National Ballet’s speaker series ‘Dance Dialogue’ last week. Here, she recounts the experience and what she learned about English National Ballet Senior Principal Elena Glurdjidze;

Born in Georgia, Elena Glurdjidze began dancing “by accident”. She was taken to a local arts school at the age of seven to learn piano and her music teacher recommended she also started ballet. Glurdjidze began dancing and loved it, training there for the next three years and performing in a number of shows which were broadcast on television.

At the age of 10, she went to a vocational ballet school in Leningrad. It was difficult to move away from her family and speak a different language all the time but the experience gave her “a lot of strength”. Her teacher didn’t like her and it was only when she won medals in ballet competitions that Glurdjidze started to believe in herself. At 18, she joined the Russian Ballet and was able to dance a number of exciting roles on tour, but she felt she needed to leave the country in order to progress in her career.

In 2002, Glurdjidze gained a principal contract with English National Ballet, and moved once again to a new country, adapting to the different culture and language. She found it difficult to master the precision and detail of the English style at first, but now s feels able to combine the best elements of English ballet with her Vaganova training. She also highlights the importance of retaining individuality as a dancer: “individuality is what makes you interesting to watch above technique”.

Glurdjidze loves dancing Giselle because of the character’s emotional depth. She studied acting at school and especially enjoys the dramatic challenges of different roles. Her dream ballets to perform would be Kenneth MacMillan’s Mayerling and Frederick Ashton’s A Month in the Country.  Glurdjidze performed MacMillan’s Romeo & Juliet balcony pas de deux in a gala and described how it “doesn’t feel like doing steps but being expressive through dance”.

She has enjoyed creating roles with English National Ballet, notably in The Canterville Ghost and The Snow Queen. She hasn’t made many international guest appearances yet, but now that she is older, would now like to perform more abroad. She is particularly keen to diversify from her existing repertoire and learn more modern ballets.

Glurdjidze is currently training at the Royal Ballet School to be a teacher and would like to coach other dancers when she retires. Her husband keeps asking her when she will stop dancing and she always says 2-3 years, but the length of time never decreases! Glurdjidze was injured at the end of last season and had so much pain coming back to work but she loves it. She will know when she doesn’t enjoy it anymore, it will be time to stop dancing. For now she has a busy schedule of rehearsing, performing, teaching and being a mother.

Glurdjidze is dancing Aurora in English National Ballet’s upcoming Sleeping Beauty. She enjoys the role because of the way the character develops across the ballet’s three acts. Glurdjidze dreamed of being a dancer as a child and now has a family as well so life is very satisfying. “I’m happy, I’ve got everything.”

Laura Dodge