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Zenaida Yanowsky to retire from The Royal Ballet

Principal dancer to leave the Company after 22 years.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

23 December 2016 at 2.18pm | 24 Comments

After 22 years with The Royal Ballet, Zenaida Yanowsky has made the decision to step down as a Principal dancer with the Company in July 2017 at the end of the current Season.

Her last performance will be in Australia in July performing Paulina in The Winter’s Tale at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre as part of The Royal Ballet’s summer visit to Brisbane.

Yanowsky joined The Royal Ballet in 1994 and was promoted to Principal in 2001. She has performed leading roles in the classical and contemporary repertory including Swan Lake, La Bayadère, Raymonda, Frederick Ashton’s A Month in the Country, Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon and Mayerling, George Balanchine’s Agon and Apollo and Jerome Robbins’s In the Night. Christopher Wheeldon created The Queen of Hearts on Yanowsky for his ballet Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as well as Paulina in The Winter’s Tale.

She has worked with a wealth of leading contemporary choreographers in new creations and existing works including Wayne McGregor, Liam Scarlett, Mark Baldwin, Kim Brandstrup, Christopher Bruce, Siobhan Davies, Nacho Duato, Mats Ek, Flemming Flindt, William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián, Cathy Marston, Ashley Page, Alexei Ratmansky, Glen Tetley, Twyla Tharp and Will Tuckett. She has also received a 2016 Critics Circle Award nomination for Outstanding Female Performance in Elizabeth by Will Tuckett. Later this Season Liam Scarlett will create the central role on her for his new ballet.

‘Zenaida has been an incredible member of The Royal Ballet for over 20 years and has illuminated the Royal Opera House stage in numerous performances with her extraordinary artistry and vivid dramatic skills', says Director of The Royal Ballet Kevin O'Hare.

'I have greatly admired her across the amazing range of roles in the repertory she has performed with the Company, and I hope we will have the opportunity in the future to collaborate on new projects in the next stage of her career. On behalf of all of us at the Company, I extend grateful thanks to Zenaida for her wonderful contribution to the artistic life of The Royal Ballet'.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

23 December 2016 at 2.18pm

This article has been categorised Ballet and tagged retirement, Zenaida Yanowsky

This article has 24 comments

  1. Jam D responded on 23 December 2016 at 2:34pm Reply

    Sniff sniff - so sad to see Zenaida leave but will try to catch her in everything she does with RB before she leaves... wonderful dance performer that I've enjoyed watching throughout the years...
    Good luck Zenaida and a million thank yous !

  2. Sean responded on 23 December 2016 at 3:16pm Reply

    Zenaida will be so dearly missed by her adoring fans. Zen, we wish you all that's good in life for the future. Xxx

  3. Simon Smith responded on 23 December 2016 at 3:33pm Reply

    Thank you so much Zenaida for all you've given to the Royal Ballet and countless audiences over the years. Elizabeth and Queen of Hearts - what a range! Do hope there'll be plenty of notice for your final Royal Opera House performances and very best wishes for the future, including further opportunities with the Royal Ballet?

  4. Julia responded on 23 December 2016 at 4:29pm Reply

    Amazing and awesome dancer. What a joy it was to see on stage. And still have time to see this season.

  5. karenb responded on 23 December 2016 at 4:41pm Reply

    Oh no! My favourite dancer. So sorry to hear that Zenaida is leaving. I wish her well for the future.

  6. Catherine responded on 23 December 2016 at 4:54pm Reply

    Oh what a shame - have become very very fond of her. Any idea when her last Covent Garden performance will be ?

    • ML responded on 27 December 2016 at 11:18pm

      She's next in Les Enfants Terribles, After the Rain and Mayerling (as Empress Elisabeth) but the casting for the summer ballets isn't out yet. It would be marvellous if she were the 2016-2017 season closing night's Marguerite in Marguerite and Armand with Federico. Fingers crossed!

  7. Patrick John Gordon Shaw responded on 23 December 2016 at 5:57pm Reply

    Well - we must just make sure to give her an appropriate send off at the Garden!!

  8. Karen responded on 23 December 2016 at 7:10pm Reply

    Hopefully we will get a farewell performance in London? Wishing Zenaida all the best and hope she will find a way to continue to pass on her experience and stagecraft to future generations at RB.

    (and btw, not in any way disconcerting to find that someone who feels quite 'recent' has been at RB for 22 years!!)

  9. Wendy Humphrey responded on 23 December 2016 at 10:07pm Reply

    Sorry to see that Zenaida is leaving ,such a wonderful dancer and a lovely person. Best wishes for the future.

  10. I always love Zenaida's performances - so strong and telling. All good wishes to her for the future.


  12. Michael Sharpe responded on 24 December 2016 at 11:24am Reply

    A fond farewell to a much loved dancer,with lots to relish before that last curtain call - After the Rain, Rubies, Empress Elizabeth and Marguerite,hopefully on June 10,the last night of this season,a fitting end to a fine career.

  13. Cora Rodriguez responded on 24 December 2016 at 2:20pm Reply

    We will all miss her

  14. Jakegee responded on 24 December 2016 at 5:24pm Reply

    It is so sad to know that we shall no longer see Zenaida Yanowsky grace the stage of the ROH after the end of this season, but I must not be disappointed, and rather express my deep gratitude to Zenaida for the infinite pleasure she has given us, and I wish her every success in her future beyond The Royal Ballet.

    Not only is she an amazingly versatile classical ballerina, but the startling range of her performances display an astonishing ability in character acting.

    I had the pleasure of seeing her as Manon in a stellar "Manon" cast with Roberto Bolle as Des Grieux and Carlos Acosta as Lescaut. A treasured unforgettable memory!

    She excelled in the role of Paulina in Christopher Wheeldon's "The Winter's Tale". Caring but authoritative, and unstinting in her devotion to Hermione and Perdita and the household of Sicilia.

    Contrast that with her role as Queen of Hearts in Wheeldon's "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland". Ruthless and outrageous, but Zenaida still made her a loveable character, side-splittingly funny in the "Tart Adage"!

    I hope that the Royal Ballet may have film 'in the can' of Zenaida as Natalia Petrovna opposite Rupert Pennefather in "A Month in the Country". An outstanding performance by both dancers which I would so much love to see produced on DVD.

    Her majestic role as "Elizabeth" in the Linbury Studio was a fitting finale to Carlos Acosta's 17 year career with The Royal Ballet. I saw Zenaida and Carlos perform many times together .... a match made in Heaven!

    Then, most recently, her performances in "After the Rain", partnered by Reece Clarke, were sublime. Elegant and emotional - a feast for the eyes and ears! I look forward more than ever to seeing them together again in March, and hope that their performance may be filmed for release on DVD. Let us please have a tribute DVD of Zenaida's lasting and varied legacy with The Royal Ballet!

  15. Still grappling with the idea that I'll never see her heart wrenching, soul stirring, mind bending artistry at the ROH regularly ever again! I truly hope she'll stay to coach the next generation... and teach them how to touch lives the way she has every time she has taken the stage.

  16. Stevie responded on 26 December 2016 at 2:27pm Reply

    We wish we could keep the stars for ever, but it is not possible. Only positive from such a sad farewell, is the great talent waiting in the background, being given an opportunity. Maybe this will pave the way for such an event as the return of Melissa Hamilton from Germany, as a principle dancer.

    • ML responded on 27 December 2016 at 11:25pm

      I agree- hope they are asking Melissa to stay on after her shows in Rubies, and giving her a principal dancer contract! She's ready. Yuhui also!

  17. Love, love Zen's dancing! Her performance as Paulina this year (especially the scene where she realises that Perdita is really Hermione and Leontes' long list child) was so moving that she had us in tears. Plus so many other wonderful performances. I wish we could have her for longer, but I wish her well in her future plans and I hope she will continue to appear onstage at ROH or elsewhere in London as a guest artist.

  18. Bridie Macmahon responded on 28 December 2016 at 8:51pm Reply

    I will miss her so much. She is a fascinating and totally unique dancer - beautiful, dramatic, intelligent, expressive, and always with something held in reserve; something only she knows. I hope she will remain involved with the company and that she will continue to perform in some capacity in future.

  19. Vanessa Innes-Wagstaff responded on 30 December 2016 at 6:12pm Reply

    She's the best Checkmate I've seen in recent years,..but there's more to life than ballet, so time to have time for herself...I'm sad all the same.

  20. Patrick Buckingham responded on 4 January 2017 at 9:52pm Reply

    One of my favourite dancers who will be much missed. I only have to think of Paulina and the Queen of Hearts (both created by Chris Wheeldon for Zenaida) to realise what a complete dancer she is. Technical skill and unrivalled dramatic brilliance make for a truly incredible dancer. Good luck to Zenaida in her future life.

  21. Lynda Murphy responded on 6 July 2017 at 1:40pm Reply

    I just was in Brisbane last night to see A Winters Tale and I just fell in love with Zenaida. I just loved her. I called her my Blue lady - of course I have found her at the end of her life as a dancer but we purchased a box set of DVDs so Ill be able to watch her- Thank you for giving me a wonderful evening as well as the rest of the company.
    Lynda Murphy

This article has 1 mention elsewhere

  1. Royal Ballet mixed bill; Rambert review – Liam Scarlett's new ballet was worth the wait - Comedy Feed - Comedy News:  […] and psychological preoccupations to telling effect. It is, you might say, a study in Scarlett. Zenaida Yanowsky is the archetype who recurs in his ballets: the woman doomed to isolation, and on occasion death, […]

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