for Student Culture Magazine
By James Hickie
Ballerina Daria Klimentova talks photography,
motherhood and jet-setting stalkers.
across from me, Daria Klimentova cuts a delicate figure as she picks
at a mozzarella and olive salad with the poise of the white swan she
magically portrays on stage. We are sitting in a small French café
off Gloucester Road where she welcomes a short break from the rigours
of her multiple roles. Dressed casually in a black woollen coat and
jeans, her fingers intertwine around a cup of tea providing welcome
warmth from a bitter February afternoon.
Born and raised in the Czech Republic, Daria grudgingly began ballet
at the age of ten, a departure from what she saw as the 'livelier' gymnastics.
At twelve she began to experience a love for the art she had held contempt
for two years previously, thanks in part to an overwhelming desire to
perform at the National Theatre in her home city of Prague. These dreams
were on the way to becoming reality when she began training at the Prague
State Conservatory complete with the chance to participate in and flourish
After three years in Prague, Daria travelled abroad to dance for various
ballet companies. This included a year in Cape Town (Principal at Cape
Ballet Company) three years in Scotland (Principal at Scottish Ballet)
and finally to London, dancing for the English National Ballet where
she has been for eight years.
Daria met her husband, Ian Comer (a producer) whilst dancing for ENB
and they have a three-year-old daughter, Sabina, which meant a balancing
of roles and responsibilities. Her daily routine reflects this business.
"On an average day I will do class from 10-11.30, then have two
or three hours of rehearsals which can be straight after class. I will
then go home to spend some time with Sabina. Later I will go to the
pool or for a run, more exercise! Later I will work on my photography
for up to five hours after my daughter has gone to sleep.
interest in photography stemmed from her interest in the movements associated
with ballet. "Of course music interests me, but I am a very visual
person" she states matter of factly. For a person who much of her
life on and around the stage, this is exactly the canvas she uses for
her budding hobby. "Being a dancer makes it easier to photograph
ballet, to know what looks right." Daria's hobby has led to her
creating ballet calendars for the English National Ballet.
Daria hopes a future career in photography will not garner her the kind
of fanatical fans which ballet has. One particularly enthusiastic, and
presumably rich, fan quickly springs to her mind. "There was a
Japanese man who came to my performances all over the world" she
laughs "He even came to see me when the company toured Australia,
he would wait at the stage door and simply get my autograph. He must
have my signature so many times!" The fact her life and career
was the subject of a 1998 documentary film might have had something
to do with her high profile and popularity.
A harsh reminder of the career life span of a ballerina came in the
form of a yearlong injury to her foot. "The injury was bad but
I also had a reaction to the cortisone injection I was given which made
the tissue in my foot wear away. This meant that I had to wait six months
until I was ready for an operation." Such a set back was one of
several events that made Daria grateful for the life she has, "I
lost my father to lung cancer and my brother was killed in a motorcycle
accident last year."
Rather than diminish her, these tragic losses strengthened her resolve
and dedication to things in her life, which are important to her. As
a result Daria takes her family on tour with her. "I have to have
my daughter with me on tour, she takes my mind off things so that it
is not all about ballet." When I ask about her thoughts with regards
to her daughter going into ballet, Daria's response is typical of a
supportive parent. "I would support my daughter in whatever she
wants to do, if she wants to do ballet then I will support her, I will
tell her that it is hard work", she adds with a knowing smile.
In a career that is so fulfilling, Daria still has things she is yet
to achieve in ballet. "I would like to perform neo-classical ballet
as well as some story ballets like Mamon. The company that I dance for
does not do these ballets however." Ever the professional, Daria
simply shrugs and smiles. "I do not mind not doing these things
though, I would not want to join another company and have to start again."
Laughing suddenly she reveals her main problem with beginning again,
"I don't like being told what to do!"
Daria's aspirations for the future include a career in photography,
more children and the continuation of the ballet workshops she conducted
last year in her native Prague, as an annual event. For now her enthusiasm
for life in London is obvious. "London is the centre for so much,
it is the centre of culture." Daria welcomes the competition that
comes with working in such an artistic city. "In London I have
learned to become ambitious."
As we depart our temporary haven from the elements, Daria struggles
beneath a wealth of camera equipment with visible effort. Here begins
the largely non-ballet part of her day. Pulling her jacket collar up
and exhaling against the frosty breeze she reiterates something she
said to me in the interview "when it comes to choices, family is
always the most important thing to me." With a handshake and a
charming smile, which has peppered our conversation today, she disappears
to face the wind whipped streets of South Kensington and a busy day