Ukrainian Masha Peker, now a dancer with Melbourne Ballet Company (MBC), says she never imagined she would be living in Australia. Her path “down under” happened by chance, she admits, but she is very grateful that it did.
Peker recalls the first time she heard about Australia – when her mum would read her Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Then, she visited Melbourne and Sydney on a holiday with her family and fell in love with the city of Melbourne. But her family later immigrated to the U.S., where they lived in Brooklyn for many years.
Following her sister, Peker moved to Wollongong, where she found the Beverley Rowles School of Dance. She says it was through the wonderful training and mentoring of Rowles and her children, Marshall and Mercellez, that led her to pursue dance. Soon after, the eager dancer moved to Melbourne to continue her training with the Australian Conservatoire of Ballet. Since then, she has been building her roots in Melbourne, and has found her spot in the MBC. Find out more about Peker and her life in Australia below.
You have performed in many venues around Australia! Do you have a favourite theatre or city to perform in?
“It’s so difficult to pick just one. Melbourne Ballet Company has performed in so many places around Australia, and I have been so lucky to visit places I otherwise never would have had the chance to see. Every theatre and city is so different in character and audiences. Growing up, ballet had been such an important aspect of my culture, and in many places in Australia, it’s their first time seeing a ballet for some of our audiences.
I love going to Byron Bay; it’s always such an enthusiastic and supportive audience there. Darwin Entertainment Centre is a beautiful theatre; it has a big stage, and we have filled the theatre there many times where our programs are always so well received, so it’s always a highlight. Another great theatre we went to twice this year was the Concourse in Sydney, which had a great vibe and was incredibly welcoming. So it’s very difficult to pick just one.”
You’ve trained all around globe. What is really unique about training and dancing here in Australia compared to other institutions overseas?
“I guess what makes any ballet training unique anywhere in the world is mostly dependent on the teachers you have, and in a place like Australia, we are lucky to have accessibility to wonderful teachers in many places. I think it is important to find a school and teachers who are suitable to your needs and ability, as you have to place a lot of trust in your teacher to further your training.”
Do you have a favourite role to dance? And also, what is your favourite ballet to either perform or watch?
“I have really enjoyed performing Simon Hoy’s works in MBC; they are challenging and incredibly rewarding. One of my favourites would be Archè, where I have danced in the role of the four swans, as well as Odette/Odile. It really is a beautifully and cleverly arranged ballet by Simon Hoy, which also features Tim Podesta’s choreography with a wonderful score that has one of my favourite pieces of music in it by Edward Elgar. I also had a great experience and had a lot of fun performing Tim Harbour’s Zealots last year, which is quite energetic from beginning to end.
Now that I reflect, I also really enjoyed dancing in classic productions like Swan Lake with St Petersburg Ballet Theatre. I would still say my favourite to watch would be well performed classics! I think it’s the tradition, costumes, music and storytelling of such ballets that continue to attract me to them.”
Can you tell us what is coming up next for MBC?
“Melbourne Ballet Company has exciting plans to work with some wonderful new choreographers in 2018, and will continue to tour Australia-wide. Our new 2018 season will be launched in February. In April 2018, MBC is hosting an exciting student performance and study tour to New York and LA.”
And lastly, what are your tips for all the aspiring ballerinas out there?
“I’d say anyone aspiring to be a dancer needs to train hard, persevere and do everything with strong belief and a sense of integrity. There will always be hiccups, injuries or personal changes, and you have to remind yourself why you love what you do so much and not to lose sight of what you wish to achieve, as it will most definitely pay off one way or another. My other tip would be to keep your eyes open and see as many different companies and works as you can.”
By Elle Evangelista of Dance Informa.