Joffrey Ballet MIDSUMMER NIGHTS DREAM Insights – Interview with Valeria Chaykina

Picture this Post recently spoke with Joffrey Ballet dancer Valeria Chaykina about the Joffrey Ballet's production of Alexander Ekman's MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. Chaykina trained at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg and Miami City Ballet. She performed with the Leonid Jacobson St. Petersburg State Academic Ballet Theatre, and Moscow Ballet, before moving to Chicago to join the Joffrey Ballet. 

Read the Review of Joffrey Ballet's Midsummer Night's Dream on Picture this Post-- Joffrey Ballet Presents MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM Review – A Wild Dream


PTP: What is your background working with Alexander Ekman?

Chaykina: My experience working with Alexander Ekman began when he came to Chicago last year to create a new work for Joffrey dancers — JOY. I immediately fell in love with the way he works and creates. There is so much energy when he’s in the room, it’s electric and so much curiosity about what your body can achieve with a certain movement. Since then Alex has become one of my favorite choreographers, so I was excited when I heard that Joffrey was going to be doing his Midsummer Night’s Dream.

How is Ekman’s Midsummer Night’s Dream similar or different to Shakespeare’s?

There are no similarities with Shakespeare’s story. This Midsummer is all about Swedish traditions and celebrations of the longest day of the year. If you think you know what you’re going to see, you’re wrong — this is something you’ve never experienced before. 

Valeria Chaykina PHOTO: Cheryl Mann

How would you describe Ekman’s choreographic/movement style and how does it differ from other choreographers that the Joffrey works with?

Alex is something else. He’s not like anyone I’ve ever worked with before. He’s not afraid of crazy moves and experimenting, which I really appreciate. He pushes you beyond your abilities and, before you know it, you’re doing something you never knew you could do. He is very different from other choreographers in the best way possible. He always ends up creating ballets that speak to people. You won’t leave the theatre without feeling something after seeing Alex’s work and that is very important. That’s how it should be. 

Could you describe the rehearsal process for Midsummer Night’s Dream?

The rehearsal process for Midsummer was a blast. We had the best people all the way from Sweden that were putting it all together — Preston McBain, Joakim Stephenson, Marie-Loise Sid Sylwander, and of course Alex, who came just a few weeks before the premiere. It was such a positive experience and it’s safe to say it was one of my favorite rehearsal times in the studios. We spent a few weeks getting to know each other and by the end we became a family. There was absolute trust between dancers and the repetitieurs (stagers). They helped us find a reason why we dance and move like that, they helped us find our character, and I personally want to thank them for making this experience amazing. 

Joffrey Ballet in rehearsal Photo by Todd Rosenberg

Midsummer Night’s Dream is a combination of theater and dance, how has that made this ballet different from other ballets you have performed with the Joffrey?

It is a combination of everything and that’s what makes this piece so great and so different.  You don’t just see a ballet with a story, there is humor, moving scenery, talking, and yelling. You don’t usually do that while on stage in any other ballets. Also, there are lots of props which makes this production massive. Alex’s work allows you to be free, yet honest and generous with your emotions. 

Ekman’s choreography is said to have a lot of “humor”— is this a new challenge for you /other dancers to convey? How does it make performing this work unique?

There is a lot of humor in this production. Being able to talk and express your emotions and feelings out loud while on stage is one of my favorite parts of this piece. It is also Alex’s signature, he uses it in a lot of his work. I think it might’ve been quite a challenge for other dancers to be comfortable talking on stage because you don’t ever do that. We usually speak with our bodies, but not here. It is also hard to not go on “autopilot,” to be real and honest with your emotions after doing and rehearsing it over and over again. The differences you’ll see in this ballet are indeed unique.

Are there other choreographers that you think have inspired Ekman’s work?  

A work like this can’t be born without inspiration from something. I think Alex is inspired by people around him and their personalities, music, and different cultures around the world. His influences may stem from companies he’s danced for like Royal Swedish Ballet. He finds structure within the elements of the theatre and dance and I think he also finds inspiration from little things we don’t usually notice or appreciate. 

Do you have anything else you would like to add that you think our readers should know?

I would just like to add that working on this ballet was a special experience for all of us and we want to share it with all of you, so if you are in Chicago, definitely come see this. I’d like to thank Alexander Ekman for this amazing production and for constantly reminding us that we dancers have the best job in the world. 



Read the Review of Joffrey Ballet's Midsummer Night's Dream on Picture this Post-- Joffrey Ballet Presents MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM Review – A Wild Dream

Valerina Chaykina in Cinderella Photo by Cheryl Mann


Now playing through May 6.

Evening performances begin at 7:30pm, matinee performances begin at 2pm.


$34.00 - $159.00

For tickets and more information visit the Joffrey Ballet website


The Auditorium Theatre
50 E Congress Pkwy
Chicago, IL 60605


All  slider photos by Todd Rosenberg; All other photos per credit line.

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