Congratulations to Australian Ballet Senior Artist Valerie Tereshchenko, 2017 Telstra Dancer of the Year.
The talented dancer was one of six nominees for the award and learned of her win on stage following the Sydney premiere of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Born in Kiev, Tereshchenko only began ballet lessons after her family made the move to Australia. She joined The Australian Ballet in 2009, rising to soloist rank in 2017, and, most recently, to Senior Artist earlier this year.
The stunning dancer tells us here what the award means to her and what it feels like to get to this point in her career.
Congratulations on your win, Valerie! How did you celebrate after the Telstra Award announcement?
“Thank you! My way of celebrating immediately after the announcement was calling my family and my partner and hearing their surprise and happiness! The rest of the celebrating sadly had to be postponed until I came home to Melbourne after finishing the Sydney season, but it still felt great.”
What’s the biggest thing the Telstra Award offers promising dancers, in your opinion? Do you have any plans for the cash prize?
“I’d say probably the exposure, and not just for individual dancers but for the art form in general. I think, and I hope, that a huge prize like this and the partnership with a flagship company like Telstra really helps bring ballet into the public eye. Footy players get all sorts of prizes and accolades, so why shouldn’t dancers? I think it’s great.
As for the cash prize, I must admit I am incredibly boring and rational with my money; and let’s face it, we don’t become dancers for the money anyway, so my prize money is sitting in a savings account awaiting the day I retire and find that I need to either study or re-train for a new career!”
It took awhile for you to get promoted from the corps de ballet, but in the last two years your career has really taken off. Did you ever wonder in those early years if you’d get here?
“Absolutely! When I joined the company, I made a secret pact with myself that if I didn’t make it out of the corps in five years, I would stop and go to uni. Well, I was in the corps de ballet for seven years, so there were definitely about two or three heart-wrenching years there when I was torn between my love of dance and the knowledge that I would probably never become the dancer I really wanted to be. I found myself convincing myself to stay for six more months, just another six months, and on it went…
I am so, so glad I stuck in there for a bit longer because I have achieved my dreams, and what I’ve accomplished in the last couple of years is well beyond anything I thought I would achieve in those early years in the company. I am incredibly stubborn, and sometimes I wonder if it is a blessing or a curse, but in this case, I am quite happy I stuck it in those extra few years!”
Has anything changed for you in terms of your routine or perhaps internally, say, in terms of your confidence since you were promoted to Senior Artist?
“A funny thing happened last year when I was promoted to Soloist. For the first few months, I had this feeling that I had to prove that my promotion was warranted. I felt like I had to live up to the title of Soloist, instead of just being me. It proved to be disastrous, as the pressure I put on myself totally destroyed my confidence in my dancing.
I’m trying to not do the same thing this year, although it is hard, as the calibre of dancers in this rank is incredible; they are the dancers I have always looked up to. I definitely still feel like I have some growing to do into my new position.”
After everything you’ve been through to get to this point, do you have any advice to pass on to younger dancers?
“I guess it’s important to know the work involved. Ballet is hard, and when you think it can’t get any harder, it does. You have to be prepared to go through a lot of physical and mental turmoil.
However, if you are prepared for this and you absolutely have to dance, then it’s important to persevere. If it were easy, everyone would do it!”
Valerie Tereshchenko will perform in the Australian Ballet’s forthcoming MURPHY season. To find out more, visit www.australianballet.com.au.
By Grace Gassin of Dance Informa.