“Trust yourself, you can do so much more than you think you can.” –Maria Kochetkova
Maria Kochetkova did not want to be a dancer. She wanted to be a gymnast. But her parents encouraged her to try ballet, arguing that dancers had longer career prospects than gymnasts. Kochetkova hated the idea at first, but came to appreciate dance and proved talented enough to be accepted into the Bolshoi Ballet’s school. Still, she found ballet hard and training at the school intense and often intimidating. She also came to learn that her height of five feet would limit professional opportunities in her home country.
Against the wishes of her teachers, she entered the Prix de Lausanne competition at age 18. The plan paid off–she won an apprenticeship to the Royal Ballet. She took it, as the Bolshoi did not offer her a job. But life in London wasn’t easy. She felt restrained in the company and her contract was not renewed. She left to join the English National Ballet where she rose to the rank of soloist. Eventually, though, she felt restrained there as well and desired to explore a more contemporary and diverse repertoire. She had her eye on San Francisco Ballet and sent them an audition tape. She did not hear back. In the meantime, she serendipitously crossed paths with choreographer Christopher Wheeldon who happened to be searching for a short female dancer for San Francisco Ballet. He was impressed by her work and recommended her to the artistic director, Helgi Tomasson. She was soon offered the position of principal. She has been with the company ever since.