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Stepping Out with a Kirov Ballerina

Svetlana Zakharova is a ballerina—make that prima ballerina—with the fabled Kirov Ballet of St. Petersburg, Russia. When the troupe performs at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York from June 28 to July 10, Svetlana is set to dance the title roles in Giselle and The Sleeping Beauty and lead roles in The Fountain of Bakhchisiray as well as Balanchine's Apollo and Symphony in C. This is repertoire that most ballerinas would die for; she's living it.

We caught up with Svetlana backstage at St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theater, where she took a break from rehearsals to tell us what it's like to be a 20-year-old classical ballet star on—and off—the road.

WHEN A TUTU'S TOO MUCH Fortunately the company packs the tutus! I'd hate to be responsible for them. Some of the underskirts are made of more than 30 yards of lace and ruffles. They have to be laid flat in special ventilated trunks.

THE POINTE OF IT The company handles the toe shoes too, but I always carry my own supply. I may use four or five pairs a day, depending on my schedule and what I'm dancing. So I fill a couple of extra suitcases with them, just to be safe.

BIG TOE-SHOES TO FILL At my home theater, the Mariinsky, you can practically feel the ghosts of the great dancers of the past—Balanchine, Nijinsky, Pavlova. I'm always aware that I'm on the same stage they danced on. But if I let myself be daunted by them, I'd never get out of bed in the morning.

TIME TRAVEL I'm performing in the Kirov's opulent new production of Tchaikovsky's Sleeping Beauty, which reproduces in virtually every detail the 1890 premiere choreographed by Marius Petipa and attended by Czar Alexander III.

Metropolitan Opera House, 212/362-6000; www.metopera.org; Kirov Ballet tickets $30-$125.

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