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Cyprus talent goes to Austria

feature 2 main photo wienerstaatsballettashley taylor
Photo Wienerstaats ballett Ashley Taylor

From tragic to comic, leading ballet dancers will play them all. SARA DOUEDARI meets the Principal Dancer of the Vienna State Ballet, who has journeyed from an island more often celebrated for its historical sites than its ballet traditions

Born in Nicosia, a place where ballet opportunities are limited, Ioanna Avraam’s rise to the top of the ballet world – she is currently Principal Dancer at the Vienna State Ballet – is a story of relentless dedication and a deep sense of pride in her cultural roots.

Ioanna comes from a family that deeply values the arts. Her parents studied in the former Soviet Union, renowned for its strong cultural heritage, and made sure to expose her and her sisters to a variety of cultural events from a young age, stressing that true wealth includes cultural richness and moral depth, not just material success. Ioanna’s mother harbored dreams of becoming a ballerina, and this unfulfilled aspiration became a source of inspiration for Ioanna to venture into the world of ballet.

feature2 1I’ve always had a profound love for dance; it was natural to me, and I knew from an early age that it was my destined path,” she said. This innate passion for dance was supported in an environment where the arts were highly valued. With dance running in the family, her aunt, dancer and teacher Nadina Loizidou played a crucial role in Ioanna’s early development, laying down the foundations for her future success. “Her school felt like my second home,” Ioanna said.

She trained at the Nadina Loizidou school of ballet in Limassol, and was part of the Diastasis cultural association with which she performed in Cyprus and abroad. Her studies took her to the Heinz Bosl Ballet Academy in Munich during which time she first performed with the Bavarian State Ballet. In 2008, her exceptional talent was recognised by the Vienna State Opera Ballet, setting her on a path that would see her become a demi-soloist in 2010, a soloist in 2014, and ultimately, a Principal Dancer in 2022. Her repertoire has included lead roles in Don Quixote, Giselle, Giselle Rouge, Onegin, Roméo et Juliette, showcasing her versatile talent but also her contribution to the global ballet scene.

Her story to get there is not just one of talent and determination, it’s also a narrative about overcoming the odds in a country where ballet as a career is not mainstream. “Unfortunately, Cyprus lacks the substantial material and technical infrastructure found in the major European and global theatres,” Ioanna said, pointing out the absence of a state ballet company or academy in Cyprus. This environment compels talented individuals to seek opportunities abroad, as Ioanna did.

But leaving Cyprus to enter the competitive world of ballet didn’t intimidate her. With a robust foundation and a scholarship in Munich, she quickly secured a spot with the Vienna State Ballet. She recognised early on the necessity to adapt and thrive among some of the best talents from around the globe, including Russia, France, the USA, Japan and beyond, who were also part of the Vienna State Ballet’s diverse ensemble.

photo2 wienerstaatsballettashley taylor
photo Wienerstaats ballett Ashley Taylor

“Dance offers an endless exploration of new dimensions, embodying the essence of freedom in both movement and emotion,” she explained. “In the world of ballet, dancers take on roles that range from the tragic to the comic, delving into the different facets of human experience, such as love, conflict, power, and truth. Having the opportunity to perform both classical and contemporary pieces, including significant roles like Tatiana in Onegin, has been a defining aspect of my career.”

Her success abroad is a source of national pride, showcasing the potential of Cypriot talent on the global stage. Ioanna’s journey can serve as a symbol of hope for young Cypriots, illustrating that it is possible to achieve international acclaim. “I hope my journey and achievements inspire more young people in Cyprus interested in ballet, but mostly push the competent authorities of our state to invest more in arts and culture,” she said. Beyond her individual achievements, Ioanna is keen on contributing to the cultural enrichment of her homeland.

Along with her sister, also a distinguished dancer, she organises seminars on classical ballet and modern dance in Cyprus, inviting renowned educators and dancers with international careers. These initiatives are aimed at sharing knowledge and experiences, providing guidance to talented youngsters, and supporting future generations of artists. “We advise talented children, especially on technical training.”

As she continues to captivate audiences in Vienna and beyond, Ioanna’s story remains a reminder of the power of passion, and the importance of cultural support in shaping the careers of young artists. Cyprus may be a small island, but its cultural ambassadors like Ioanna Avraam are making significant marks on the world stage.

 

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