Interview for Student Culture Magazine
By James Hickie
Focused Ambition
Ballerina Daria Klimentova talks photography,
motherhood and jet-setting stalkers.

Sitting 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 at repertoire.

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.

Daria's keen 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 ahead.