Maria Baranova – A European Creative from Finland

It is always inspiring and impressive when we meet Maria Baranova, the renowned principal dancer of the Bayerisches Staatsballett in Munich, with an extensive background in the performance arts. We spoke to her about the importance of ballet in her life, her early experiences with influential choreographers, and the pivotal roles that have shaped her artistic journey. She also reflects on the importance of discipline, the integration of varied skills and the elements that inspire and sustain her in the demanding world of ballet.

IRMA: How do you define the significance of ballet in your life?
MARIA BARANOVA: Ballet is my identity. It has been the determining factor in my life for as long as I remember, and there was never really a plan B. I love what I do and couldn’t dream of living any differently
IRMA: You were discovered by John Neumeier at the age of 16 and your career has taken you to work with many famous choreographers such as Jacopo Godani, Justin Peck and Pierre Lacotte, to name but a few. How do you reflect on these early experiences?
MARIA BARANOVA: John is my ”love at the first sight” director and he will always be a mentor, wherever my career will take me. Working with him personally was a life lesson. His pedagogical method focuses on dancers’ taste, style and the quality of the performance. Each role was always mastered to the fullest by focusing on the nuances of the character. This set me with a strong foundation to work with leading forces in the field of dance.

Maria Baranova wearing Jasmin Khezri Collection

IRMA: As a principal dancer, you have tackled a wide variety of roles. Can you share a moment or role that significantly shifted your approach to performance?
MARIA BARANOVA: At the age of 20 I was trusted with the part of Juliet in “Romeo & Juliet”, a pivotal role in my career. The emotional depth required high acting skills and once again Neumeier’s school helped me to deliver the part. This experience profoundly shaped me as an artist and influenced my approach to every role.

IRMA: With a diverse background in performance art, acting, teaching, and a degree in Business Administration from Northeastern University, how do these varied skills complement each other and enhance your career?
MARIA BARANOVA: Understanding the dance industry from various angles is crucial for me. My duty is to represent this incredible artform and eventually to pass it on to the next generation. You are never “done” with education, rather the journey goes on by learning and exploring more each day

Maria Baranova wearing Jasmin Khezri Collection

IRMA: Discipline and structure are essential in your life. Could you share your philosophy on integrating these elements effectively?
MARIA BARANOVA: Talent can only be maintained by discipline. Being a dancer is a way of life that you need to fully commit to in order to get the most out of it. You learn this at an early age, and it essentially becomes second nature. This is certainly not an ordinary way of living – but one that demands an incredible passion to remain successful and motivated every day.

IRMA: What is your routine for preparing for a performance, and how do you maintain focus throughout?
MARIA BARANOVA: I tend to prioritise a good night’s sleep, eating a good meal and stretching a lot throughout the day.
I also visualise the performance in my mind before the show, which helps me get in the zone.

Maria Baranova wearing Jasmin Khezri Collection

IRMA: Considering the physical and mental demands of your work, how do you maintain equilibrium among your mind, body, and spirit?
MARIA BARANOVA: I make sure to spend time with my family in Finland whenever I can. Being close to nature, the lakes and the forest keeps me grounded. I prioritise always listening to my body – it is my most important and only tool I have in this job after all.

IRMA: In what ways do costume and set design impact and inspire your artistic work, especially given the close ties between ballet, performance art, and fashion?
MARIA BARANOVA: Costume and set design are crucial in enhancing the ballet experience. Costumes extend the dancer’s body and movement, highlighting choreography and storytelling. For example, in “La Bayadere,” Indian inspired costumes and rich set designs create an immersive atmosphere, transporting me into the role and adding emotional depth. These elements inspire my artistry by providing visual and emotional stimuli that challenge and refine my technique and performance style.

Maria Baranova wearing Jasmin Khezri Collection

IRMA: What is your favourite spot in Munich for relaxation and unwind?
MARIA BARANOVA: Munich’s Olympic Parc is a very nice area to walk around and the Nymphenburg castle is surrounded by beautiful gardens, where you can escape the city’s hustle and bustle.


Maria Baranova is the Principal Dancer at the Bayerisches Staatsballett in Munich

Ms. Baranova started her professional training with the Helsinki Dance Institute in 1999. As a student she participated in the prestigious Prix de Lausanne competition where the renowned artistic director John Neumeier invited her to join the Hamburg Ballet School on a scholarship. Under Mr. Neumeier’s thorough guidance, she quickly moved to the graduating class and graduated within a year. At the age of sixteen, Maria won Helsinki International Ballet Competition in 2009 and joined the Hamburg Ballet. There, she performed many roles in Neumeier’s original creations as well as various soloist and principal parts. In 2011, Ms. Baranova won the Erik Bruhn Prize in Toronto with the pas de deux from the 2nd act of Giselle and Chopin Dialogues, a choreography that was created for her by John Neumeier. She was later invited to become the Principal Dancer at the Finnish National Ballet. In 2015, Ms. Baranova received an invitation from the artistic director Mikko Nissinen to join the Boston Ballet as the First Soloist. In Boston, Maria enriched her repertoire with neo-classical and modern ballets by George Balanchine, Jorma Elo, and William Forsythe. In 2019, Ms. Baranova joined the Bayerisches Staatsballett as a Principal Dancer. Maria’s repertoire spans from classical to neo-classcical and to contemporary ballets, as she worked with many of today’s leading forces in dance, including choreographers Justin Peck, Jacopo Godani, Pierre Lacotte, Patrice Bart, and David Dawson.