Canada's Ballet Jörgen SaniyaMy name is Saniya Abilmajineva and I’ve been dancing with Canada’s Ballet Jörgen for eight years. With the company I usually dance in Bengt’s style, and I like Bengt’s style of classical ballet but I miss the Eastern folk dances which I was also trained in. That’s why last year I asked Bengt for the chance to choreograph a duet for Junior Company. I love choreographing, but I wasn’t sure if I’m at a good age or have enough experience to be a choreographer, so I started with just a duet. After he saw my work, Bengt told me that I have an interesting way of choreographing. It gave me confidence to can try and create bigger pieces and tell a bigger story, so this year I am trying to create a group section.

My piece this year is called Boléro, from the name of the music written by Maurice Ravel. Ravel wrote the music in a Spanish style, but I feel I can hear Eastern elements in the music too. When I choreograph I always love to have a story behind my piece. In Russia we have the phrase, “if you chase two rabbits, you’ll catch neither,” I’m combining the idea of this phrase and the music and that’s where I got the idea of my piece. It is about a conflict between Spanish woman and Eastern women for the attention of Spanish men. In this piece I’m mixing classical ballet with elements from folk dance, the women from the East being very soft and elegant, and the Spanish women are powerful and independent, trying to dance and hold the men in their arms. It’s such a big difference and of course the Spanish men are being pulled on both sides. Before we started dancing, I told my Junior Company dancers the story, the characters and what I want to see in each of the characters; I want the audience to feel the tension from the strength of the Spanish women, really hot from the Spanish men, and jealousy from the beauty and grace of women from the East.

It is a good thing that they are young dancers because they listen very well. If I tell them to do something and it’s hard, and it doesn’t work, they don’t give up, they keep trying and they push. I see that they want to learn something new and I see the fire in their eyes. Since I have been dancing for a long time I can do the movements and character easily and I sometimes forget that they can’t, I have to keep reminding myself that they may not yet be ready.

CBJ Saniya Junior CompanySaniya instructing Junior Company dancers

The challenge for me is that the dancers just got out of school and don’t have much experience doing duets. When I’m creating a duet what is really difficult for me is explaining the technique to the male dancers. I can explain technique to women very well but I’m not sure how to explain it to men, so I am lucky to have Daniel [Da Silva] helping me. He can understand me with one word, I can just point and he knows what I want. Then he can explain the techniques to young male dancers. It’s a problem and I need to learn more about men’s technique for the future.

I want to show people dancing from my country, not just classical ballet but folk elements from different countries wrapped into classical ballet. I want to try and be a choreographer so that I can create dances in different styles, not just classical ballet. Last year a lot of people told me that the duet was beautiful, and very different. They told me that I chose beautiful music which was also from the East. It made me feel confident and very happy and I am excited to try again this year!


See Saniya’s original work at the Junior Company Showcase on Friday, August 4, 2017!

Our anniversary marks 30 years of commissioning original work from young choreographers like Saniya. Please consider joining us in our 30-year birthday celebration with a gift of $30. Until July 31st, KPMG is generously partnering with us to match all gifts up to $5,000.