In June, one of the stars of the National Ballet of Canada will be taking his final bow with the company after 23 years. But for now you can see the elegant, versatile and always expressive Aleksandar Antonijevic in the title role of the brooding hero Onegin (he performs March 20 and 22; see national.ballet.ca). See listing.
Why retire now?
It feels right, and I'm ready. There are ballets that are very dear to my heart, and I get to dance them now: Onegin, A Month In The Country and the second detail, to name a few. I'm very excited about the second part of my life.
Knowing what you do now, what would you have told yourself two decades ago?
I guess to chill out a bit and not take everything so seriously, which at the same time resulted in my success and the commitment and work ethic that I demanded of myself.
Dramatic roles like Onegin mean a lot - they're why I started dancing in the beginning, to express, to move a viewer and go on a journey together. The abstract works like Chroma also feel like a "second skin" and have given me much pleasure. Being intellectually challenged by the amazing choreographer Wayne McGregor made me look at movement in a new light at the late stage of my career.
Favourite offstage ballet moment?
Meeting Lady Diana after a gala performance in London, England. Such poise, elegance and grace. We were all in awe.
This month you're playing Onegin, one of the most dramatic parts in the repertoire. Do you relate to him at all?
Yes. This was a role I desired to dance for a long time, but I was told I looked too young and romantic and was better suited to the role of Lensky. Once I got the part, I immediately understood him, feeling misunderstood and alienated, his elegance mistaken for coldness and arrogance. It's the perfect full-length story ballet, and for once the male lead is developed and complete. It's a delicious piece of art to sink your teeth into.
Key to avoiding serious injuries?
You can only prevent injuries by being a smart dancer, using your brain every day and understanding technique and training. It's very important to cross-train and work outside the studio to offset the repetitive nature of the ballet training. Consistency is key.
It's June, and three minutes before your final performance in the second detail. What's going through your mind?
"Let's get the ball rolling!"
...and three minutes after?
"Get me a drink and let's celebrate. Let's not look back but forward into the exciting unknown!"
If fans want to bring bouquets, what are your favourite flowers?
I don't like cut flowers, as I know they're already dying. Plant a flower or a tree - it would give me the greatest pleasure.
You've developed a second career as a photographer, with an exhibition called Till We Meet Again - A Love Letter at the Berenson Gallery in May. Any connection between dance and photography?
As a dancer, I have been around photography as a medium my whole life. The way we train is very much like looking through a viewfinder. It feels like a natural and organic transition.