Semyon Velichko
Photo: Sebastien Galtier

Semyon Velichko


Karate and drawing. These were Semyon Velichko’s passions as a young child. He was living with his grandma in Kulunda, Siberia, about 450 kilometres from his hometown of Novosibirsk, due to the serious illness of his mother. Following the death of his mother, when he was seven, his father brought him back to Novosibirsk, where Semyon swapped his karate training for classes in character dance. “I was sold immediately. My father often said that I could only go to dance classes if I studied hard, so I did my very best at school as well.”

At one of his dance performances, when he was nine, Semyon was discovered by teachers from the State Choreographic College. He was allowed to audition there and was accepted – partly due to the flexibility and jumping power he’d developed through karate. “I didn’t know a thing about ballet, but my father convinced me. Not just because I loved dancing so much, but also because it would allow me to escape the rather poor neighbourhood we were living in, as well as military service.” 

Never forget to dance 

Semyon was the only boy in his year to pass his dance exams, in 2008, after which he got a soloist contract with the Novosibirsk Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, led at the time by Igor Zelensky. Already in his first year there, Semyon was promoted to principal and danced roles like the bronze idol in La Bayadère and Albrecht in Giselle. “Zelensky was a great coach. He taught me how to conduct myself on stage and how to stride across it, how to be an elegant partner and that although technique is important, you must never forget to dance.” In 2011, Semyon followed Zelensky to the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Dantshenko Academic Music Theatre, in Moscow, where he danced main roles not only in the classics, but also in productions by Jiří Kylián (including Wings of Wax), Pierre Lacotte and Natalia Makarova. Meanwhile, he got his diploma as a teacher/ballet master from the famous GITIS Institute, and a degree in financial management from Moscow University.

No regrets 

The transition to Moscow brought Semyon’s goal of dancing in Western Europe closer, and after four years of dancing in the Russian capital, he decided it was time to take that step. In order to develop further, he wanted to work with other choreographers and get to know other dance styles. More or less intuitively, he chose for Dutch National Ballet. “Because I knew it was one of the best companies in the world, with a great repertoire, but also because my father had always dreamed of living in the Netherlands – prompted by a Novosibirsk district that was inspired by Amsterdam architecture.” 

As there wasn’t room for a new principal at the time, Semyon started out as a soloist with Dutch National Ballet in 2015. His plan to rapidly prove himself – and then get promoted anyway – was initially thwarted by a serious ankle injury. But although it was tough being off for a while, when he looks back on the experience, Semyon has no regrets. “I came out of it so much stronger – as a person and as a dancer. I live much more for the moment, and whereas I used to dislike studio rehearsals, now I enjoy every step and every stage of the creative process.” 

Van Manen, Van Dantzig and Arqués 

Hans van Manen and Rudi van Dantzig are now among his favourite choreographers. “You can put so much of yourself into Van Dantzig’s ballets – such as Romeo and Juliet, Swan Lake and Voorbij gegaan. And Van Manen’s Grosse Fuge and 5 Tangos were also a reason for me to come to the Netherlands. Hans’s style and taste are unique. The movements he creates might appear simple, but there’s so much more to them. Hans hates it if you simply dance a step; he wants to see your soul.” 

Among the younger generation of choreographers, Semyon feels a special click with Juanjo Arqués. “I feel incredibly free in his work. He dares you not to dance neatly within the lines, but to cross them and exceed them by far. When I dance his ballets, I feel how much I’ve grown in recent years.” 

Guardian angel 

The classical roles he has danced with Dutch National Ballet are all highlights for him: Albrecht in Giselle, following which he was promoted to principal, and Jean de Brienne in Raymonda, a role that Rachel Beaujean created on him. But the absolute highlight, he says, was his performance as Prince Siegfried in Rudi van Dantzig’s Swan Lake, in the spring of 2023. Because his wife (and colleague) Nancy Burer was watching in the wings, pregnant at the time with their first child – daughter Mila. “I was really dancing for both of them that evening.” And for his mother, to whom he dedicates each performance in his mind, and who is always with him – in the form of a tattoo of an angel on his shoulder.


Place of birth: 
Novosibirsk, Russia

With Dutch National Ballet: 

Career with Dutch National Ballet: 
Principal (2020), soloist (2015)

Previously danced with: 
Novosibirsk Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre (Russia, 2008-2011), Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Dantshenko Academic Music Theatre (Moscow, Russia, 2011-2015) 

Novosibirsk State Choreographic College