Valentina Kozlova is known to be a major innovator in the international ballet world. Her passion for dance, and for the choreographers and dancers who create and perform, have led her to find new outlets for their talents. Born in Moscow, Russia, Ms. Kozlova was trained at the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet School. She was invited to join the Bolshoi Ballet Company in 1973 and was promoted to Principal Dancer in 1975. She danced all of the major classical roles with the company.
In 1979, she defected to the United States while on tour with the Bolshoi. As a student, she had already performed in Western Europe and the U.S. but had remained intrigued by what she saw. Her quest for artistic freedom and growth led her to seek a career that would offer new roles by Western contemporary choreographers while still preserving her classical background. She was immediately in demand as a guest artist internationally.
She made her Broadway debut in the leading role for the revival of On Your Toes, learning the part from its original creators: George Abbott and George Balanchine. Her performance led Balanchine to invite her as Principal Dancer with New York City Ballet in 1983. She accepted and performed with the company until 1995, dancing the classics along with leading roles of works by Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Peter Martines, Eliot Feld and Richard Tanner. From the suggestion of Balanchine, she had also worked closely with Alexandra Danilova while Danilova was a teacher at the School of American Ballet, restaging and rehearsing Swan Lake for the school.
The list of Ms. Kozlova's guest appearances with major international ballet companies is impressive, including Spoleto, La Scala, Florence Opera House, English National Ballet, Paris Opera, Basel Ballet, Australia, Ballet de Santiago (Chile), Tearto Colón (Buenos Aires), and Hong Kong. She also appeared in ballet galas in Africa, Greece, England, India, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Don des Etoiles in Canada, Taiwan, Korea and Japan. Her performances on video include the Pavlova Special (CBS), La Fille mal Gardée (Philips Video, Germany), and Spartacus (VEAR Productions, Argentina).
Ms. Kozlova has appeared on television, including talk shows and entertainment programs around the world. Following Glasnost, she made a triumphant return to Moscow in 1991, with NBC News covering her performances at the Kremlin Palace. She returned to Moscow in 1992 to perform again as a guest artist. She formed Ballet: The Daring Project, a ballet company dedicated to creating new works. She has also danced in A Christmas Carol with Tony Randall and Ben Vereen.
In 2003, Ms. Kozlova opened her dance coservatory, Valentina Kozlova Dance Conservatory of New York (VKDCNY), a professional school that provides students who have the talent, determination and ability the opportunity to receive the quality of training needed to pursue professional careers. Additionally, she founded Dance Conservatory Performance Project, a venue to produce performances for her dancers.
In 2009, Ms. Kozlova presented One Magical Performance: The Legacy Gala at The Joyce Theater in New York in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of her defection. Principal dancers from New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theater were guest artists, performing at the spectacular event alongside students from her school.
In 2011, Ms. Kozlova presented the debut of another new organization: the highly acclaimed Boston International Ballet Competition (BIBC). The competition took place again in Boston the following year. In 2013, it was renamed as the Valentina Kozlova International Ballet Competition (VKIBC) and was presented in New York. The competition has now benefited well over a thousand dance students worldwide.
In March of 2016, Ms. Kozlova launched the non-profit organization, Valentina Kozlova Dance Foundation, Inc. (VKDF) in order to support talented dancers and choreographers and their achievements. In 2017, VKIBC became an official member of the Federation of International Ballet Competitions that include Lausanne's Prix Benois de la Danse.
On July 4th, 2018, Ms. Kozlova was recognized as a Great Immigrant/Great American by the Andrew Carnegie Foundation for her dedication to dance. This award was given to a total of 38 distinguished immigrants who have contributed tremendously to the enrichment of American culture. The New York Times published a full page dedicated to her and the awardees.
The competition in 2020 should have marked the 10th year of the competition and also the 40th year of Ms. Kozlova's defection to the United States. Due to the pandemic, VKIBC 2020 was cancelled.
In 2021, VKIBC took place live, online, worldwide. It was the first time ever a dance competition was shown live, through various time zones, all over the world. VKIBC 2021 was very successful and confirmed how much young dancers needed to get back to 'normal.'
VKIBC 2022 finals were held again at Symphony Space in New York City, the only dance competition happening live, in a theater, in the city in 2022. Close to 150 young dancers, from all over the world participated in front of a panel of 20 distinguished jury members. True to her mission, Ms. Kozlova continues to help the new generation of dancers getting company contracts, trainee positions, scholarships and exposure.