Following the footsteps of parents can be tough. When your parents wear pointe shoes and are renowned ballet dancers, pirouetting behind their footsteps can be exceptionally difficult.
But one Renton boy is pulling on his tights and leaping across the stage to make his parents proud.
Danil Zinovyev, 13, is performing with Emerald Ballet Theater, and he’s starting to show his true ability at this year’s performance of “The Nutcracker,” where he plays the Nutcracker and the Snow Prince.
Zinovyev is the son of Roman and Tatiana Zinovyev, ballet dancers who were trained in Russia and have found success performing with various ballet companies in America. Currently settled in Renton, the couple now teaches at EBT where Daniel and his brother Maxim, 7, take classes.
Having started learning ballet when he was 7 years old, this eighth grader from McKnight Middle School is used to being at the studio practicing whenever he has a spare moment. It has become the center of his life; it’s his school, his playground and his home.
“Most of my friends are here. So this is my home,” Zinovyev said. “This is where I love to be. At school, I do have friends there. But I’m able to balance it all out.”
That is the discipline of ballet, said Sarah Jacobsen, EBT’s program director and assistant choreographer.
“[Ballet] is not only artistically and technically demanding, but it also pushes students to use their time well,” she said.
When Zinovyev isn’t busy catching up on his homework, he’s at the studio either working on private lessons or preparing for competitions like the Youth America Grand Prix. Last year, Zinovyev won the Grand Prix regional competitions, earning him a scholarship to go to New York to work with renowned international dancers.
For the past couple months, he’s been preparing for his Nutcracker performance, a role he said he’s both excited and nervous about.
“I was kind of scared at first, because I knew there was a quick change and I had to do one whole big dance for 10 minutes,” he said. “So I knew I was probably going to be really tired and that it would be hard. But I was excited since I’ve always wanted to do the Nutcracker because it was the main part — it’s what the whole show is called. I was excited and nervous.”
The Nutcracker and the Snow Prince are physically demanding roles that often are played by principal dancers or teenage girls in youth ballet. However, over the last year, Jacobsen said that Zinovyev had physically and technically evolved to the point that the EBT team decided to give him both parts.
“This is his first year where he just grew so much and he’s strong and he carries himself very amazingly well for such a young boy,” Jacobsen said. “Obviously, he has a lot going on genetically with his parents… but he really has that desire inside of him. He’s worked really hard.”
For Zinovyev, ballet is an art form he plans to have lifelong love affair with, much like his parents.
“It’s a part of my life,” he said. “My parents have done it and brought it to me. Now, it’s kind of fun.”
And when he steps into the studio with his costume on during rehearsals, his parents watch anxiously from the sidelines, observing his every turn, leap and pirouette. They record his performance one their phones and struggle to hide their smile as he assists and lifts his partner in the air.
Turns out, he’s following the footsteps of their pointe shoes just fine.