Veronique Tamaccio

Veronique Tamaccio: ‘The Armenian Influence Was Definitely Strong at Home!’

2010
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YEREVAN / ZURICH, SWITZERLAND — Veronique Tamaccio was born in 1982 in  Marseille. She is a Switzerland-based ballerina and dance teacher with Italian and Armenian roots. At the age of 8, she stood out in dance competitions in Montpellier, and Paris, then participated in various ballet contests in France and abroad.

Tamaccio studied at the Studio Ballet Colette Armand and Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Danse de Marseille under the direction of Colette Armand.

In 1998 she won a scholarship to the Lausanne Ballet. In 1999–2000 she performed with the English National Ballet (“Coppelia,” “Raymonda,” etc.) and with the Jeune Ballet de France (Milady in “The Three Musketeers,” Pas-de-deux in “Diana and Actaeon,” etc.). Since 2001, Tamaccio has performed with the Birmingham Royal Ballet, participated in “Swan Lake,” “The Nutcracker,” “Façade,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Apollo” and in other performances. Later, Tamaccio worked also with the Dutch National Ballet and the Zurich Ballet.

Currently she resides in Zurich with her husband and two children, running the Ballet for Everyone dance center, where she teaches children and adult classes both for beginners and advanced students in various classes (Adult Ballet for Beginners, Intermediates, Advanced, Barre Workouts, Choreography, Stretching Classes, Little Ballerinas Classes, Ballet Together Classes, etc.). In her teaching Tamaccio combines ballet, Pilates and stretching to provide an optimal opportunity to improve posture and flexibility.

Dear Veronique, you have danced since you were 3, so can we call you a dancer by birth? Although Fred Astaire said: “Some people seem to think that good dancers are born, but all the good dancers I have known are taught or trained.”

I would say I could dance before I could walk. Dancing was always very natural to me. My mother told me when I was 3, I told my dance teacher I was born in first position (the famous ballet position). As a little girl, I was dancing everywhere, in the streets, in the sea, on the beach in Marseille, in the pool, in our house everywhere and every day. It was a big part of my life. I grew up surrounded by classical music. My uncle, Jacques Semizian, was always playing the Nocturnes from Chopin on his beautiful piano and my favorite thing to do was to dance as he was playing. Often, Jean Ter-Merguerian and other famous Armenian violinists were coming to his house and I was dancing along as they were rehearsing for their upcoming concerts. I cherish these precious and very special childhood moments.

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You have danced in large European ballet companies. It seems classical dance should be the same everywhere, especially in Europe, yet you can see some characteristics in each country. What is the difference between ballet scenes in the different countries where you danced?

Yes, that is right, every ballet companies have its own specificities and influences. Each country is influenced by their culture, society and custom. For example, when I was dancing with the English National Ballet and the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the influence of famous English choreographers such as Frederik Ashton, Sir Kenneth MacMillan was very strong. Additionally, we were dancing the classical masterpieces ballet productions of the wonderful Sir Peter Wright who kept the essence and beauty of classical ballet at his very best.

When I was in the Netherlands, dancing with the Dutch National Ballet, the repertoire was also very classical, and we performed all the wonderful classical ballets such as Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker and so on. On top of that, we had the privilege to have Dutch choreographer Hans Van Manen in the house and his great work and influence was palpable within the company.

In the Zurich Ballet, the company was successfully directed by famous Swiss choreographer Heinz Spoerli, who is also a wonderful choreographer. Mr. Spoerli has an exquisite taste in classical music, he made some beautiful ballet and pieces, among his famous work on the Goldberg variations from Bach with very pure and classical lines. He also restaged some of the classical ballet such as “Swan Lake” and “Nutcracker” with a modern, very tasteful and sophisticated touch.

What you like more in your artistic career?

Being a professional dancer working with major companies in Europe was to work with amazing and very talented dancers, choreographers, teachers and ballet masters from all over the world. It was such a rich experience to be taught different styles and learn from different schools, backgrounds and cultures

In 1995 you acted in a film, “Danse avec la vie” by Michel Favart. How was this experience?

Yes, that was such a delightful experience. Especially because in the movie I was the student of the great Patrick Dupond, who was at the time one of the biggest ballet stars in the dance world. I keep a beautiful memory from this experience and I am very grateful to have been part of it

Now you have your own dance school, Ballet for Everyone. After working with professionals, is it not challenging to deal with just dance fans and enthusiasts?

Not at all, my aim is to share my passion and knowledge with as many people as possible. I started with Ballet for Everyone right after I stopped with my career as a professional ballerina in 2012 and my goal was to make ballet accessible to everyone and show people how wonderful ballet is and how great it makes you feel. I love to see my students, making progress, feeling better about themselves. I am very proud of them! Some of them never did ballet before, or did it as a child, then they come to my school and experience the great benefits of ballet. It is wonderful!

Veronique Tamaccio leading a class

American dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey once said: “Dance is for everybody. I believe that the dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people.” However, 10 years ago I was in a small American city for a while, where I decided to attend amateur ballet classes. But I gave up the idea when entered the hall and saw only women and not a single man. Are your attendees also mainly women?

I truly believe dance is for all the people, this is why I called my school Ballet for Everyone, but it is a fact that 95% of my students are women. There is still this preconceive idea that ballet is a girl thing. I had last week a little boy who stopped coming to the classes because his friends at school were making fun of him. It is such a shame, that in 2021 we are still at that point. It is surely better nowadays but we still have a long way to go.

In 1998 you won the prestigious Prix de Lausanne. That year young dancer Tigran Mikayelyan from Yerevan was also was an award-winner in the same competition. Did you meet Tigran at that time?

Yes, as well as Arsen Mehrabyan! My family was very happy to see three Armenian dancers in the finale of the Prix de Lausanne. It was a big pride!

By the way, in the same year 1998, my uncle Jacques Semizian invited violinist Astghik Vardanyan from Yerevan to come to Marseille when she was 15. We did a few concerts together, where she was playing the violin and I was dancing at the Armenian church in Marseille and a few Armenian associations in Marseille. She is so talented!

You are the daughter of Beatrice Kelechian. Does this impact you as an artist and a human?

Yes, absolutely! My late mother grew up with her parents only speaking Armenian; she and her sisters learnt to speak French when they went to school. Given that fact, the Armenian influence was definitely strong at home, when I was a little girl. I was christened, married and both of my kids have been christened in the Armenian Apostolic church of Marseille. My mother taught us the importance of family, we are very close with all my cousins, aunts and uncles and love to reunite over a good Armenian meal (beurek, lemejoun…) and a fun tavloo game!

Have you ever been in Armenia? If not, since this year there is a contemporary dance festival in Yerevan. Perhaps this is a good excuse to travel to Armenia?

No I have never been to Yerevan yet. And you are right — that would be a good time to go since this festival is taking place!

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