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Ivan Svitailo | Born to Dance

Born in Yalta, Ukraine, to a Russian father and Greek mother, both professors whose interests included scouting, weekly trips to the mountains and music, his parents introduced Ivan to a culture that was completely unfamiliar to him at the time. It was called “Greece”, and was always followed by a myth, a song, a story about a hero who killed the Lernean Hydra or a worthy king who united Greeks and was a fair ruler. At the age of 10, he came to Athens and began to discover the culture, arts and history first-hand, of the country he now calls home. “I remember sacrificing my 5-day class excursion in the final year of secondary school in order to participate in the Terpsichore’s Works dance competition. It was clear that I wanted the stage!” Charmed by a dance teacher he decided all he wanted to dance. “I have always been fascinated by daring to do new things, not hesitating, expressing myself freely, expressing myself in general. Dance supported me and taught me. I didn’t understand that while I was dancing, I was molding myself, as a person and not simply as a dancer. Even today, I can’t imagine a better way to do it. Dance freed me and also left its marks on me. I will dance forever.” Dance and music require discipline, humility and freedom of expression. His role models, who accompanied him down his path, were fearless, dared to defy the status quo through their art, and asserted their freedom through dance: Nureyev, Baryshnikov, Makarova, Maya Plisekskagia. “All of them are great dancers because they didn’t stop when they were told to stop. They continued because their heart told them to do so. They continued because it was a one-way street,” says Ivan, in admiration.


The Onassis Foundation scholarship program for technique improvement at the Broadway Dance Center brought him face to face with one of the most profound experiences in his life. “When I left for New York in order to improve my dance technique, I encountered obstacles related to personal character. I was the one to blame for the insecurities and difficulties that wouldn’t let me overcome my fears. So when I began to recognise the mind-games and accepted myself for what I was, I suddenly discovered an inexhaustible source of love and inspiration within myself. The fear disappeared and I found myself. It’s freedom and ecstasy to dance who you are and to become what you dance,” he confesses. How does he feel when on stage? “The stage reveals the whole truth of man. You confront a challenge. You are yourself, but you’re also your role. Inside, a battle wages between the child that never stops imagining and daydreaming and the adult who is grounded and mistrusts the fantasy. I must know what my truth is in order to reveal it. This emotional state of self-awareness and resistance, when you surpass your limits, is practically addictive. Each movement or response is initially born within me and is then addressed to the audience, who process and filter it and return it to me like a burden, that I must – like it or not – accept and carry on. It isn’t always easy. Each day is different. Unforeseen mistakes are made, the kind that derail you. This dynamic relationship, however, is one of the main reasons that I consider my job a challenge and why I love it so much. When the going gets tough, I use a trick my teachers taught me and seek out the “fourth wall”, where I personally find the security I need. After all, just as in life, there are no mistakes in theatre. There are only choices.”