Ballerina, Vienna State Opera

Life is short. A ballet dancer’s career is even shorter, as Vienna State Opera leading soloist Nina Poláková, 31, wistfully observes.  The Slovak beauty got her start at age 10, when after trying out for the Bratislava Dance Conservatory on a whim, she landed first place in every round. She chalked it up to destiny and her career path was set.

As a young girl, Poláková enjoyed putting on little performances to entertain her family. But her first career ideas leaned more towards becoming a doctor, because she wanted to help people. Instead, her undeniable talent led her to the stage, where she can help people in a different way.

“When you can find some release from everyday life while watching a performance, this can also be healing in a way.”

This is also the reward for the performer, Poláková finds.
A dancer can express a range of emotions on stage, such as love, passion, sorrow, even hate, far beyond what might be welcome on the street or at home.

This passion comes with a price: The profession is physically demanding and pushes one to the limit. “Even when you’re completely exhausted, you still have to get up every day and push yourself once again to the max, as you can’t improve otherwise.”

But it also has its perks. Aside from the extraordinary pieces she gets to perform, a prima ballerina in Vienna has the privilege of performing in and attending both the Opernball and the New Year’s concert, among many coveted events.

But as with all fairy tales, the endings are always a bit uncertain. For dancers in Austria, pensions are no longer provided, leaving many facing an uncertain future. But Poláková has no regrets.

“The time goes by so quickly. But that’s why you must enjoy it while you can.”