to the work,” Dronina says, adding that she cried on the plane home. “I
“She has lovely articulation in her legs and feet. And she’s very techni-
said to my husband, ‘My love, I don’t want to leave. I feel so good here.’ ”
Artistic director Karen Kain wasn’t in the market for a new female
principal dancer. But after Dronina’s visit, Kain started to wonder
whether she could make it work. “She was very special,” Kain says.
cally assured—although I’m sure she doesn’t feel that way.” Kain raises
her eyebrows knowingly. “And I really liked her. It seemed like it
Dronina’s first season was full of the dramatic roles she thrives in. Last
November, she danced Hermione in Christopher Wheeldon’s The Winter’s Tale, and loved what it demanded from her as an actress. “I talk in
my head with every gesture,” Dronina tells me, referring to the climactic trial scene in which Hermione pleads for her life. The next challenge
came from La Sylphide, set by Danish choreographer Johan Kobborg.
“I’d never danced a Bournonville ballet before and Johan was a great
teacher. The style is so simple but so clear. You can’t add anything on
top of it, like at the beginning I wanted to do something extra”—she
demonstrates a little épaulement—“and he said, ‘No, no, no! Very plain.
Very Bournonville.’ It was a totally different approach.” Her meticu-
lous attention to detail paid off—reviews were unanimously glowing.
Dronina maintains a position as principal guest artist with the Hong
Kong Ballet, now run by Onne, who continues to nurture Dronina’s
career. Dronina also recently curated, hosted and danced in a gala in
Vilnius, celebrating the 90th anniversary of the Lithuanian Ballet.
Meanwhile, her family takes full advantage of Toronto, often at-
“At 11: 30 am, I’m done. I can rehearse Giselle.” She meets my eye and
tending museums, galleries, concerts and festivals. Family is a huge
source of stability in her life. “When I met my husband, my life
changed. He didn’t judge my approach. He says, ‘This is what ballet
should be, so much more than performing steps.’ Once I found happi-
ness in life, I became happy in ballet.”
Yet Dronina maintains that her work is still fraught with a sense of
struggle. “You get a new body every day. You see me in tendus and I’m
crying. I have sweat dripping into a pool below me.”
And yet it’s these challenges that make her dancing most mean-
ingful. Once company class is over, she puts the grueling technical
work aside and dives headlong into character, setting and emotion.
her smile becomes radiant. “You achieve something and you think:
Oh, it was worth it. Now I understand.” n
Martha Schabas is the dance critic at The Globe and Mail in Canada
and author of the novel Various Positions.
“Once I found happiness
in life, I became happy in
ballet.” —Jurgita Dronina
From left: With Naoya Ebe in Nutcracker;
as Hermione in The Winter’s Tale; rising to
the challenge of La Sylphide; rehearsing
with Evan McKie in The Winter’s Tale