Joffrey dancer Victoria Jaiani knows a thing or two about ballet — she’s been training in the art since age 10. Since joining the Joffrey Ballet in 2003, she’s gone on to perform roles such as Giselle (Giselle), Juliet (Romeo and Juliet), Terpsichore (Apollo) and many more.
Though she’s well-seasoned in ballet, Jaiani is new to the world of opera. Currently appearing in Orpheus and Eurydice, she had the opportunity to answer our questions on working with opera singers, as well as her insight on the daily life of a ballerina.
Describe your background and training prior to joining the Joffrey.
I began my ballet training at the age of 10 in the Republic of Georgia, in the former Soviet Union. My ballet school was Georgian, but very much Russian-based and as close to [the] Vaganova [method] as possible. I studied there for about six years and then received a full scholarship offer to join the Joffrey Ballet School, which was in New York at the time. I did three years with them, which really opened up my perspective of ballet and to new styles of dance, such as modern. Then I got a job offer with the Joffrey Ballet and I’ve been with the company for 15 years.
What does a typical day look like for a Joffrey dancer?
We start with company class, which is vitally important. It’s how we keep our muscles warm, as well as keep working our technique, and progressing and getting better. It starts about 9:45am usually and last for about an hour and 30 minutes. We always start at the bar with warm-ups and exercises. And then we have rehearsals, which go up to six hours per day. We could be rehearsing multiple ballets at the same time, which can get kind of intricate — performing one thing and rehearsing another all in the same day.
Is it a challenge to focus on multiple shows at once?
It can be. I’ve performed Juliet before, but I’m not performing it in Los Angeles, which gives me time to focus on Orpheus and Eurydice. It’s just a matter of really being present in the room for what you are rehearsing, and being completely, 100 percent dedicated to the work. It’s important also to be able to switch gears fast when you go from rehearsal to rehearsal. You need to be focused and present in the moment, and hopefully maintain all the information you’re given, like changes in the choreography or adjusting to a different maestro for each show.
What are the major differences between Orpheus and Eurydice and Romeo & Juliet?
It’s completely different — different style, different mood, different story. Romeo and Juliet is choreographed by Krzysztof Pastor and Orpheus and Eurydice is choreographed by John Neumeier. The mood and the essence of movement also differs greatly. It’s like, we are the same people dancing, but it’s different personas.
Have you been in an opera before or is this your first one?
I have! I’ve been lucky enough to have been in an opera before. The Joffrey has collaborated with the Cleveland Orchestra in the past. A few years ago, we did Bluebeard’s Castle by Béla Bartók, where I was one of the wives. We had three ladies from the Joffrey playing each of the wives. That was my first time being part of an opera, and Orpheus and Eurydice is my second. And I love it! I always say, in ballet, it’s the music that drives us. Music is so expressive, and the music drives me so much and tells a story of its own. So to have the singers onstage, feeling their emotions and feeling how they process the music, is really inspiring and creates a great vibe.
What would you say is the most interesting thing about working with singers?
I would say the most interesting part is seeing how in control opera singers are all the time. I mean, they’re also human beings and they make mistakes, but the way they present themselves and walk onstage is quite different. Their process is also a little different than a dancers. It’s little things, like how they take their [rehearsal] breaks, or even trying new things and taking risks in rehearsals. I really love their energy. They seem very calm, yet very focused. Even in Orpheus, when I’m mirroring Eurydice’s movements in the Elysium scene, we are supposed to look the same. We are both standing facing the audience and our movements are identical, so it’s been lovely taking the time to work together. It’s been great to find that common ground and moving similarly. We had a different singer sing Eurydice in Chicago, and it’s been so interesting seeing the role interpreted by another. Even Neumeier is inspired by the new cast and has made changes based on the energy of the cast. The great thing about this whole collaboration has been seeing that process through the weeks and weeks that we’ve all put in together. The result is that we are all inspired by each other.LA Opera is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the greater good.