Valentina Kozlova (born August 26, 1957) is a Soviet-born Russian American ballerina and founder of Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition. In 1979, while on tour as a young principal dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet, Kozlova defected to the United States, where she became a principal dancer with New York City Ballet and later, opened her own ballet school. Perhaps best known as a lyrical and expressive ballerina, Kozlova is also renowned as a private coach, producing students who have gone on to garner prestigious prizes and positions in companies such as Boston Ballet, American Ballet Theatre Washington Ballet, Stuttgarter Ballet, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Universal Ballet, and the National Ballet of Cuba.
USSR and Early Career
Kozlova was born in Moscow to Russian parents. Encouraged by her mother, a technical supervisor for the phone company, Kozlova joined a children’s ballet company at the age of seven and was accepted, at nine, into the Bolshoi Ballet School, where she studied until she was asked to join the company in 1973. She was quickly promoted to principal, in 1975, and danced all of the major classical roles.
In 1979, while in Los Angeles on tour with the Bolshoi, Kozlova and her then-husband, fellow principal dancer Leonid Kozlov, defected. They guest-starred internationally for the next few years, and Kozlova briefly became a principal dancer with The Australian Ballet. In 1982, she made her Broadway debut in the revival of On Your Toes, featuring George Balanchine’s ballet Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. Balanchine asked Kozlova and Kozlov to join New York City Ballet in 1983, where she remained a principal dancer until 1995, when she left the company. While with NYCB, Kozlova was praised for her strong technique, flexibility and exuberance. Describing Kozlova's performances in Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream, The New York Times' critic Anna Kisselgoff commented that her Titania "has the virtue of her strong dramatic projection and a supple quality that Russian dancers call plastique." Further, Kisselgoff notes that "the glamour and high extensions that are hallmark [...] also attracted contemporary choreographers, including Jerome Robbins, who have cast her in their works."
In the wake of glasnost, Kozlova returned to Moscow in 1991 to perform at the Kremlin with dancers from NYCB, New Jersey Ballet and Paul Taylor Dance Company. She returned again in 1992 to perform the premiere of a solo, “Blue Angel,” created for her by American choreographer Margo Sappington.
Sappington and Kozlova immediately connected and formed a touring company together that was first called from Bolshoi to Broadway, recognizing Kozlova’s own transformation, and was eventually named the Daring Project to emphasize the hybrid nature of the group; as Kozlova told The New York Times in 1996, "in each concert, members dare to perform everything from classical excerpts to sexy modern ballets."
Film and Television
Kozlova has also frequently appeared on television, including talk shows and entertainment programs around the world. She also appeared in a stage version of A Christmas Carol as the Ghost of Christmas Future, along with movie legend Tony Randall and Broadway star Ben Vereen, at Madison Square Garden. Peter Marks of The New York Times noted that Kozlova brought "a seasonal elegance to the proceedings."
In 2003, Kozlova founded Valentina Kozlova’s Dance Conservatory of New York, where dancers are trained in the traditional Vaganova method, married with Balanchine footwork. The school annually presents their version of The Nutcracker—featuring a female Baroness Drosselmeyer—and a spring performance at New York’s Symphony Space theater.
Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition
An experienced juror at international ballet competitions, Kozlova founded her own competition in 2011. The first edition of the competition—then known as Boston International Ballet Competition—took place in Boston from May 12th to the 16th, 2011, presided over by a jury made up of such acclaimed ballet professionals as Violette Verdy, Andris Liepa and Mikko Nissinen. The competition, managed by the non-profit Dance Conservatory Performance Project, aims to showcase young talent, pushing them to learn new repertory and furthering their careers by putting them in front of an esteemed jury and Artistic Board. In 2014 Ms. Kozlova expanded VKIBC to have its FIRST EDITION: Contemporary Dance and Choreography Competition in NYC, April 28-29th (2014) at Symphony Space in the Upper West Side. She has renowned judges hailing from places like Alvin Ailey, Juilliard, Marth Graham Company, etc. Currently Ms. Kozlova and her staff are quickly expanded VKIBC into a huge international competition, with foreign semi-finals. The regular classical based competition will be in NYC 2015. Competitors have won numerous scholarships to dance school and summer programs, and have won contracts to companies such Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet, etc. Choreographers competition in VKIBC's Contemporary and Choreography competition have won many commissioned works for numerous international contemporary dance companies.
- Anderson, Susan Heller, "Chronicle", "The New York Times", 1991-02-25
- "Former Bolshoi Stars Reunite for 30th Anniversary of their Defection to the U.S.", "Broadway World"
- Vespa, Mary, "Ballet's Kozlovs Leapt from the Bolshoi Straight into the Arms of a Suburban Mortgage", "People magazine", 1980-11-03
- "About the Director"
- Anderson, Jack, "Reviews/Dance; An Abridged 'Swan Lake' With a Regal Odette", "The New York Times", 1991-02-04
- Kisselgoff, Anna, "BALLET REVIEW; Titania of High Spirits and High Extensions", "The New York Times", 1995-06-23
- Spiegel, Jan Ellen, "An Itinerant Troupe That Embraces the Extremes", "The New York Times", 1996-11-03
- "IMDb", "Internet Movie Database"
- Marks, Peter, "Singing Ghosts and Indoor Snow: Must be Dickens", "The New York Times", 1996-11-28
- Sulcas, Roslyn, "Land of Sugarplums is the Bread and Butter of the Holiday Season", "The New York Times", 2008-12-15
- Cargill, Mary, "Youth's Promise", "danceviewtimes", 2011-04-19
- "Judges 2011", 2011-06-22
- "VKIBC Homepage", 2013-06-10
- Valentina Kozlova at the Internet Movie Database
- About the Director
- Valentina Kozlova in Dance Magazine
- Valentina Kozlova in Dance Teacher Magazine