The ‘Firsts’ that Last

Prima ballerina Daria Klimentová says she was 'overwhelmed' at a recent performance when the audience flooded her with flowers.

Prima ballerina Daria Klimentová says she was ‘overwhelmed’ at a recent performance when the audience flooded her with flowers.

Prima ballerina Daria Klimentová’s 25 year career first started with The National Theatre Ballet. And that’s where she gave her last Czech performance, May 15, before her retirement from dance.

Tickets for her performance sold out in a mere 23 minutes. And so it was a packed house that came to see, appreciate, applaud, literally cheer, and give standing ovations to the Prague native who has danced in companies around the world.

She ends her career after 18 years with the English National Ballet, where she has been lead principal dancer partnered with rising star Vadim Muntagirov. At Thursday’s performance they danced the pas de deux from Swan Lake, Le Corsaire, and the suite from Don Quixote.

It’s easy to see why Daria Klimentová is a stand-out. Expressive, emotive, and graceful are weak little words to describe her awe-inspiring on-stage persona. Whereas all dancers are physically strong — and some show it more than others — Daria Klimentová is, too, but rather more lithe. And Vadim Muntagirov is her perfect match, not only in ability, but even physically — their body forms and movements are so similar it sometimes seems like they are dancing in just one body of two parts.

A Lasting Legacy
But Daria Klimentová brings another characteristic which makes her a lasting talent. As Martin Rypan, Czech National Ballet administrative director tells Opus Osm, “Daria is ‘art with heart.’ I was with her when her career here started 18 years ago. Then, she was nice. She has always been nice, and now,” even in the last part of her career, he says, “she is still nice.”

Daria Klimentová and her 'soul-mate' dance partner Vadim Muntagirov answer questions at a recent Prague press conference. More photos: Opus Osm facebook page.

Daria Klimentová and her ‘soul-mate’ dance partner Vadim Muntagirov answer questions at a recent Prague press conference. More photos: Opus Osm facebook page.

This is clear from her tradition of appearing for the National Theatre every spring in a one-night guest performance always called, as this evening, “Daria Klimentová, Děkuji! (Thank You!).” It’s her way of thanking Prague and The Czech National Ballet for giving her the first roles to start her long career.

She is also committed to helping young talented dancers, including Vadim Muntagirov, who began partnering with her in 2009 straight from the conservatory. He says, “She brings so much joy, not only on stage but also in the studio. She gives me something. I feel confident. I can ‘go for it’ and open to something new in the ballet world.”

At her farewell performance, she also “introduced” Dance Conservatory student Anna Herrmannová as Amor in the Don Quixote suite. (“I want to give a place for other young dancers,” she explains.) And young company soloist / choreographer Viktor Konvalinka gave a show-stopping performance in his amazing contemporary dance piece, Just Solo.

Daria Klimentová will return to Prague this summer as an instructor in her own annual International Ballet Master Classes, which she first began 12 years ago. Her final full performance, as Juliet and Vadim Muntagirov as Romeo, will be given with the English National Ballet in June at London’s Royal Albert Hall. A London gala performance is also planned for September. Her autobiography, Daria Klimentová: The Agony and Ecstasy: My Life in Dance, has been published in English; plans for a Czech translation are pending.

Why Ballet Lasts
With so many other art forms to choose from, and at the click of a computer key, why should audiences still come to live ballet performances? “Ballet tiptoeing evokes the feeling of the supernatural. Ballet is capable of letting us disentangle from reality and make us live in the moment,” she explains in an interview in the evening’s printed program.

Has she ever experienced on stage an overwhelming moment which she wished could never end? “Yes, lots,” she responds. “I have always felt this way when I put myself into the role and cease to perceive the world around me.”

It is her inimitable ability to lift the audience out of the world around them making her the stand-out dancer which the audience came, for the last time, to experience. — oo

– Mary Matz, editor of Opus Osm

Photo Credits: Top: The National Theatre Ballet; bottom, Miroslav Setnička

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