Naira Agvanean
Photo: Jan Willem Kaldenbach

Naira Agvanean


Soloist Naira Agvanean was born in Armenia, her father’s homeland. When she was five, she moved with her parents and two-year-old brother to Moldova, where her mother comes from, but she still went on regular visits to her Armenian grandparents. “I have lovely, warm memories of Armenia; of the mountains and of being completely surrounded by nature.” As her mother wanted her to learn to play a musical instrument and to dance, Naira had guitar lessons and was introduced to various dance styles.

When her mother heard from a friend that she was preparing her daughter for an audition for the National Choreographic College in the capital city of Chișinău, she decided to enter Naira as well. The nine-year-old Naira was accepted, but the other girl wasn’t. “My mother is quite decisive and I didn’t have much say in the matter.” It took Naira a year or two to find her feet, partly because she started getting good results then. “My teacher imparted her knowledge of the Vaganova method and its associated rules with such passion that it became a sort of holy bible for me. For example, the first-years were absolutely not allowed on stage. You had to be able to do a perfect ‘battement tendu’ first.” 

Emigrating to Germany 

Meanwhile, Naira’s father had already been involved for years in an emigration procedure. “My mother has a Jewish bloodline, which entitled her to move to Germany with her family. And as my parents wanted a better future for their children, my father spent years trying to arrange it all.” When Naira was fifteen, the family eventually moved to Straubing, about two hours by train from Munich, where Naira was accepted for the Heinz-Bosl-Stiftung (now called Ballett-Akademie der Hochschule für Musik und Theater). “All of a sudden, I found myself at boarding school not being able to speak a word of German or English, yet I loved it right away. I was living my dream: dancing all day long and living with all my new friends under one roof in the centre of Munich.” 

Naira Agvanean in Full Frontal
Naira Agvanean, Joseph Massarelli and Young Gyu Choi in Full Frontal (2023) | Photo: Marc Haegemanv
Naira Agvanean in Full Frontal
Naira Agvanean and Giorgi Potskhishvili in Full Frontal (2023) | Photo: Marc Haegeman
Naira Agvanean in Het Zwanenmeer
Naira Agvanean in Swan Lake (2023) | Photo: Sasha Gouliaev
Naira Agvanean in Het Zwanenmeer
Naira Agvanean, Edo Wijnen and Khayla Fitzpatrick in Swan Lake (2023) | Photo: Sasha Gouliaev
Naira Agvanean in Raymonda
Naira Agvanean in Raymonda (2022) | Photo: Michel Schnater
Naira Agvanean in Raymonda
Naira Agvanean in Raymonda (2022) | Photo: Michel Schnater
Naira Agvanean in 7e Symfonie
Naira Agvanean and James Stout in 7th Symphony (2021) | Photo: Hans Gerritsen
Naira Agvanean in Giselle
Naira Agvanean and Salome Leverashvili in Giselle (2020) | Photo: Altin Kaftira
Naira Agvanean in Giselle
Naira Agvanean in Giselle (2019) | Photo: Marc Haegeman
Naira Agvanean in Giselle
Naira Agvanean, Joseph Massarelli, Michaela DePrince and Sem Sjouke in Giselle (2019) | Photo: Altin Kaftira
Naira Agvanean in Het Zwanenmeer
Naira Agvanean, Edo Wijnen, Riho Sakamoto and Constantine Allen in Swan Lake (2019) | Photo: Marc Haegeman


When Naira started auditioning in 2007, it wasn’t plain sailing at first. “I did thirty auditions that year. I’m not a dancer who immediately stands out; I really need a chance to move full out in order to show my qualities.” But gradually, she learned how to present herself better. “When I auditioned for Dutch National Ballet the following year, I felt so comfortable and full of self-confidence that afterwards I actually knew already that I’d be accepted there.” 

She describes the years that have passed since then as a period of self-discovery and ups and downs. “There have been lots of challenges, not all of which were artistic ones. I got married, then divorced after a couple of years, and I’ve suffered injuries and setbacks. But I’m extremely grateful for all the security I’ve found here, and for all the great opportunities and experiences that have truly made me who I am today.” 

Naira Agvanean in Het Zwanenmeer
Naira Agvanean in Swan Lake (2023) | Photo: Altin Kaftira
Naira Agvanean in Giselle
Naira Agvanean in Giselle (2023) | Photo: Sasha Gouliaev

Up-tempo, high jumps, Latin temperament 

Her highlights definitely include working with choreographer Alexei Ratmansky. “His Chamber Symphony gives you so much freedom for your own interpretation, which really allowed me to show more of myself. The same applies to my role as one of Kitri’s friends in Don Quixote. I enjoy up-tempo movements, high jumps and Latin temperament. I regularly go to salsa and bachata classes with my current boyfriend, and I’d like to take it up more seriously one day.” Another thing Naira will never forget is the chance she had to work for several weeks with William Forsythe himself, in June 2023. “He’s totally unique in his approach, vision and musicality, and his ballets are so incredibly challenging and exciting. His Pas/Parts is one of my all-time favourite works.” 


Alongside ballet and Latin-American dancing, Naira recently developed another passion: coaching. “In a period when I found myself in a bit of a rut, I read a lot about personal development, which took me along the path of life coaching. Purely by coincidence, I’d just started my training as a coach when the corona lockdown was announced, so I was able to put all my time and energy into my studies.” Now she’s working several hours a month as a high-performance coach for professional dancers, who she helps to get the best out of themselves, their careers and their lives. Her initial fear that this might distract her too much from her dancing career has turned out to be unfounded. “It has brought me so much, both personally and as a dancer, that now I only wish I’d started it earlier.” 

Text: Astrid van Leeuwen


Place of birth: 
Yerevan (Armenia)

With Dutch National Ballet since: 

Career with Dutch National Ballet: 
Soloist (2022), grand sujet (2014), coryphée (2012), corps de ballet (2010), élève (2009), aspirant (2008) 

National Choreographic College (Moldova), Heinz-Bosl-Stiftung (Munich, Germany) 


  • 2004: Youth America Grand Prix in New York, place in the final 
  • 2004: Competition of the Österreichischer Tanzrat (ÖTR) in Vienna (Austria), third prize 
  • 2000: International Ballet Competition in Odessa (Ukraine), first prize