Maria Sascha Khan, International Guest Artist
Where did you grow up and how did you get interested in dance?
MSK: I was born at the midwives log cabin in Pine Creek and grew up in Pray, Montana. A town so small it was recently up for sale. I grew up without a TV, surrounded by nature. One summer huge herds of buffalo escaped from the park and decided to graze in our playground. We had to wait to go out for recess until the American Indians arrived to round them up! My first exposure to dance was from a beautiful lady named Judith Younger Hertzens, who had danced with the San Francisco Ballet. She taught us movement classes in the back of a restaurant.
How did your background and your family's background; affect your passion for dance?
MSK: I grew up in a very creative household surrounded by the classical arts. I loved playing the cello, classical painting, cooking, riding horses, sewing and ballet. I understood from a young age it was important to find my unique talent and use it to help others. There is no history of ballet in my family but through our individual choice my three siblings and I all chose classical ballet. My sister Nadia Khan with the Teatro dell'Opera di Roma, brother Julian MacKay has just started his professional career with the Royal Ballet, in London, and my youngest brother Nicholas is in the upper school of the Vaganova Ballet Academy.
What career would you have chosen if you could not have been a dancer?
MSK: I would still be some kind of artist. Anything that helps transcend the mundane.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started dancing professionally?
MSK: Enjoy it all along the way, it is all part of the journey!
Of all the roles you have performed, which role helped you grow the most as an artist?
MSK: Part of being an artist is growing more and more every day. I was just at the theater rehearsing with my coach Liliya Vorobyova, here in Ekaterinburg, and I'm looking forward to the season. I was invited here, because the director wanted me for the principal roles such as Myrtha in Giselle and Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, which I've always wanted to dance. In a way every role I've danced has taught me something. In the end what you bring to the stage is the fullness of who you are and what you've learned. I hope that every role I dance continues to define me as an artist.
If a child told you they wanted to be a dancer, what advice would you give them?
MSK: Find the best teacher you can and don't be afraid to move on to better opportunities when the time comes.
How has social media changed a dancer’s status and what is required of them?
MSK: It allows the public the opportunity to know dancers on a personal level, which I think is great. It also gives them a glimpse behind the scenes of what it takes to be a professional dancer.
Do you have one moment in your career that you remember most fondly?
MSK: Signing my first professional contract with the Staatsballett Berlin. It's a special moment when after all those years of hard work you realise you “made it”. I had four offers quite quickly and hadn't yet finished my school, but when Vladimir offered I accepted immediately. I joined at a moment when it was really emerging as one of the best companies in the world. The level of the company was phenomenal. I learned so much just from watching Polina Semionova, Beatrice Knop, Iana Salenko, Nadia Saidikova, and Diana Vishneva who was a regular guest with us. It was amazing.
Who would you like most to have a coffee with (could be dead or alive)?
MSK: My whole family all together, all in one place at the same time. When that happens it's a miracle.
Who were some of the people who influenced you the most in your career?
MSK: It's been unbelievable to work with choreographers such as Nacho Duato, John Neumier, Angelin Prejlocaj, Russell Maliphant, Laura Alonso and artists such as, Vladimir Malakhov, Svetlana Zakharova, Ivan Vassiliev, Natalia Osipova, Lucia Laccarra and Marlon Dino. I've had the privilege to dance everything from Forsythe to Petipa, Cunningham, Ashton and Cranko to Balanchine. Having the opportunity to get to know many of these incredible artists not just on a professional but personal level has been extremely inspirational.
Another person who has greatly influenced me is Marika Besobrasova. She was an incredible lady. She changed my vision of myself, and even the art form. She was from another era. She didn't believe in advertising or the internet, she had a cell phone but didn't know how to use it. She said the students she was supposed to work with would find her. It took me 2 years to find her, but when I finally did it changed my life.
What do you most value in your friends?
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
MSK: Big Train Vanilla Chai Latte, extra scoop, no water.
Which person (dead or alive) would you most want to dance with if you could?
MSK: Yule Brenner, so we could re-enact the “Shall We Dance” scene from the King and I. Anna, in her gorgeous off the shoulder, hoop gown (that try as we might my sister and I could never quite manage to recreate from the gowns in our dress up trunk), and the King in all his imperial glory singing “Shall we Dance, on a bright cloud of music shall we fly,.......or per chance when the last little star has left the sky. Shall we still be together with our arms around each other and will you be my new romance....”.
What is your greatest indulgence?
MSK: Spending time in Montana. It's always a treat to have the time and space to go home. Still one of the most beautiful places in the world, in my opinion.
What are your worst fears (professionally or personally)?
MSK: There is so much I would like to accomplish and so many people I'd like to help. I get afraid I won't have time for all of it.
What was your biggest mishap in a performance?
MSK: My director in Berlin, Vladimir Malakhov, was dancing Swan Lake with us. In the 3rd act he has this angry dramatic exit. My partner and I were in our end pose center stage. Vladimir ran by us hitting my arm and knocking me over. My skirt flew over my head, and my partner landed on top of me. It seemed like an eternity till we managed to untangle ourselves.
What is the one thing you wished more people knew about dancing?
MSK: The complete feeling of freedom in those rare moments when everything just comes together. Beyond that the incredible journey dancing can take you on and the the truly extraordinary people you meet. I am fluent in French and German and learning Russian and have had the opportunity to travel the world. It's winter here in Ekaterinburg, Russia and I'm sitting in front of the Church of all Saints, (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_All_Saints,_Yekaterinburg) where the Romanov Family are revered as Saints. It's incredible to contemplate. I never imagined ballet would bring me here to where I am now, and can't wait to see where it brings me next.