The Australian Ballet

Season 2024 has been revealed. Explore the season.

The emotional evolution of Prince Siegfried

Misha Bow

Coryphée Misha Barkidjija digs deep to connect with the emotionally exhausting role of Prince Siegfried.

TAB Melbourne Donq Print CRW2023 47 1

Misha Barkidjija, Hugo Dumapit and Jake Mangakahia in rehearsal for Don Quixote (Nureyev) 2023
Photo Christopher Rodgers-Wilson

You joined The Australian Ballet in 2022, how has the experience been so far?

Since coming to Australia my experience has been really positive. The company has been so welcoming and supportive, and it truly does feels like a big family. It's also been incredible to have the opportunity to work with so many talented choreographers and I love how much variety there is in the company's repertoire. I really feel that Melbourne has become my home.

Was there anything about Australia that surprised you?

I have only visited a few cities so far, but what has struck me most is how beautiful and unlike anything I have ever seen before Australia is. There are so many incredible animals and wildlife and I love how nature is valued and incorporated into city life. I've been enjoying taking strolls or deliberately taking the long way just so that I can take it all in.
That being said, getting swooped by a magpie and snuck up on by ibises in the gardens was a uniquely Australian experience I wasn’t prepared for.

230916 Swan Lake Kate Longley 424

Amy Ronnfeldt, Misha Barkidjija and artists of The Australian Ballet, Swan Lake (Woolliams) 2023
Photo Kate Longley

At only 21 you’ve already performed an impressive amount of roles in the world’s premiere ballet companies, do you have a favourite?

After studying at the Vaganova Academy in St Petersburg, I joined the Mariinsky Ballet where I danced the role of the Prince in The Nutcracker, which was a highlight. I loved performing the fairytale prince to Tchaikovsky's beautiful music. It's such a joyful and celebratory ballet that creates a wonderful energy in the theatre. Also, dancing Prince Siegfried with The Australian Ballet is special and meaningful.

You’re currently in the Coryphée but have been cast in the leading role of Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake, a role usually performed by Principal Artists. How did you feel when you found out you’d be performing the iconic role?

I was surprised, excited, grateful, nervous, happy. It’s a massive responsibility, and I knew it would be challenging and would require a lot of hard work, but I felt ready to take it on.

Misha and Sharni SL 2023

Sharni Spencer and Misha Barkidjija, Swan Lake (Woolliams) 2023
Photo courtesy of Misha Barkidjija,

Is there extra preparation or anything special you need to do when learning a principal role?

For sure. Not only is more time given for rehearsals to refine the technique for both the Pas de Deux and variations, but also for analysing and understanding the meaning behind each movement and gesture. I also find it helpful to watch videos of other principals who have danced the role. The audience’s investment and connection to the story depends on the storytelling, so the intentions and emotions need to be clearly communicated. From the very first entrance to the end of the performance, the audience should be engaged and living through the story with you.

We’ve had some incredible guest coaches on Swan Lake, who has helped guide you in your performance?

It’s been a team effort of amazing coaches who helped prepare me for this role - wonderful mentors like Fiona Tonkin, David Hallberg, Steven Heathcote, Kirsty Martin and guest coach Sylvie Guillem. Having Sylvie return to coach Swan Lake was incredible. So much of her focus was helping us find our own story within the context of the ballet and we would often make changes in the many nuances to make it as organic and meaningful as possible.

Swan Lake Stage Dress Rehearsal Melbourne BJ 12

Grace Carroll and Misha Barkidjija, Swan Lake (Woolliams) 2023
Photo Brodie James

Prince Siegfried is an idealistic person, searching for meaning in his life, how do you think his character evolves throughout the story?

I find one of the toughest parts of dancing Prince Siegfried is the emotional evolution he experiences throughout the ballet. The weight of his obligation to become King means he can never let his mind rest, not even on his birthday. With this burden weighing him down, he seeks something or someone that will give a deeper meaning and purpose to his life. While out hunting, he is soon completely enthralled by the beautiful swan queen before him. His fascination delicately turns into a soulful bond between him and Odette, which grows stronger and stronger throughout the second act. His love for Odette is the antidote to his misery, but it is ripped out of his hands at the end of the act. In the third act, his bliss turns into despair and his world crumbles before our eyes. In the fourth act Siegfried realizes that the one thing that brought him meaning and happiness is gone. He is left numb and empty. The only option is for him to end his suffering. There is nothing left to live for anymore.

Swan Lake Stage Dress Rehearsal Melbourne BJ 29

Photo Brodie James

What is your favourite moment in Swan Lake?

The lead into and first interaction between Odette and Siegfried. I wait to meet Odette with a nervous excitement fluttering in my chest. I’m fascinated by her tender yet strong beauty. I then step out and we make eye contact. So much can be said in that initial connection between us. I was fortunate to partner with Sharni Spencer, who really made this moment so genuine and special. Those few seconds feel like forever. And from that moment on our story begins.

What was it like to take the final jump at the end of performance?

It’s the end of the fourth act and you’ve given it your all. You’ve experienced a rollercoaster of emotion throughout the ballet. The transformation of Siegfried and the tragedy of it all left me emotionally drained. It may sound odd, but I felt a bit of me died every time I made that final jump.