TRAVEL: THE PLACE THAT CHANGED ME - IREK MUKHAMEDOV

In London the Russian dancer found his freedom but in Brazil he found true love

London is the place that has had the most profound effect on my life but I have very special memories of Rio de Janeiro.

It was on my second visit to Brazil that I fell in love with the place, or rather I fell in love with my wife, Masha. I was on tour at the time with the Bolshoi and although we did not get to see much of the place, outside of rehearsal studios and theatres, the atmosphere there was incredible. There is a sort of "love bug" in the air. Every time you breathe in you fall hopelessly in love with someone or something.

It's a very hot place and you can't help but feel utterly lazy. Only your heart works and your body gives in to lying on the beach. This is not something that is natural to a dancer but I didn't mind. It was the first time in my life that I would rather have been doing something else - spending time with Masha - rather than dancing.

Though I met Masha 15 years before, at ballet school in Russia, it was in Brazil that I realised that I was not only in love with her but that I could not live without her. I told her and immediately moved into her room. It was like a huge rucksack being taken off my shoulders.

Leaving the Bolshoi was the most difficult thing I had ever done but deciding to leave my wife (I was married at the time) was an incredibly long and painful decision, and the final moment came in Brazil. Up until then my heart had been heavy and my soul and spirit had been squashed. All I had thought about before was ballet - ballet had been my life. Brazil made me realise that there was more to life than dancing.

I would have liked to have experienced some more Brazilian culture, to go out dancing etc, but it is pretty difficult when you know that you have the KGB standing next to you. Not exactly relaxing. We did go to some clubs but the experience was not my own, as I was seeing it through the controlling eyes of someone else.

So I spent my time walking on the beach with Masha between shows and during sleepless nights. From that point on I have always had, in the back of my ear, the wonderful sound of the Portuguese language. Somehow, the "shhh" sound seemed familiar - not unlike Russian - although I couldn't understand a word. I get wonderful little flashbacks of Brazil and the beach every time I hear that language.

But perhaps London is the place that changed me the most. It was here that I found my liberty and professional freedom. Again I was on tour with the Bolshoi and within a few days I had fallen for the easygoing atmosphere, language and people. I appreciated the way that I was treated in shops and in the streets but this feeling was not unique to me; all my co-dancers felt the same.

As soon as we had landed in Heathrow I knew that this was the place that I would stay. Four years later I defected. I will never forget the first time that I saw Big Ben. Even after seeing it in pictures, I was shocked how impressive it was. It will always be a symbol of London for me.

But the most beautiful aspect of the place has to be the people. I expected that when I arrived in London as a resident I would be received differently. Yet nothing changed and, aside from being a cultural centre, it is the people of London that make me glad I made my decision to leave Russia.

Irek Mukhamedov & Company will be performing at Sadler's Wells Theatre, 19-23 October. Box office (tel: 0171-863 8000).

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv'The Last Kingdom' embraces politics, religion, warfare, courage, love and loyalty, say creators
Sport
Sergio Romero saves Wesley Sneijder's penalty
world cup 2014But after defeating the Dutch, Lionel Messi and Argentina will walk out at the Maracana on Sunday as underdogs against Germany
Sport
Scoreboard at the end of the semi-final World Cup match between Brazil and Germany at The Mineirao Stadium in Belo Horizonte
Sport
'Saddest man in Brazil' takes defeat with good grace, handing replica trophy to German fans
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Glamour magazine hosts a yoga class with Yogalosophy author Mandy Ingber on June 10, 2013 in New York City.
newsFather Padraig O'Baoill said the exercise was 'unsavoury' in a weekly parish newsletter
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman and Lauren O'Neil in Jamie Lloyd's Richard III
theatreReview: The monarch's malign magnetism and diabolic effrontery aren’t felt
News
peopleThe Game of Thrones author said speculation about his health and death was 'offensive'
Extras
indybest
News
people'She is unstoppable', says Jean Paul Gaultier at Paris show
Sport
Alexis Sanchez and apparently his barber Carlos Moles in Barcelona today
football
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips
video
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
In his own words: Oscar Wilde in 1882
theatreNew play by the Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials - and what they reveal about the man
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m
filmWith US films earning record-breaking amounts at the Chinese box office, Hollywood is more than happy to take its lead from its new-found Asian audience
News
The garage was up for sale in Canning Place Mews for £500,000
newsGarage for sale for £500,000
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Chris Froome pulls out of the Tour de France
tour de france
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Corporate Sales Manager, High Wycombe

    £30K- £35K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

    A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    The German people demand an end to the fighting
    New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

    New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

    For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
    Can scientists save the world's sea life from

    Can scientists save our sea life?

    By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
    Hollywood targets Asian audiences as US films enjoy record-breaking run at Chinese box office

    Hollywood targets Asian audiences

    The world's second biggest movie market is fast becoming the Hollywood studios' most crucial
    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app - and my mum keeps trying to hook me up!'

    Grindr founder Joel Simkhai: 'I've found love on my dating app'

    Five years on from its launch and Grindr is the world's most popular dating app for gay men. Its founder Joel Simkhai answers his critics, describes his isolation as a child
    Autocorrect has its uses but it can go rogue with embarrassing results - so is it time to ditch it?

    Is it time to ditch autocorrect?

    Matthew J X Malady persuaded friends to message manually instead, but failed to factor in fat fingers and drunk texting
    Westminster’s dark secret: Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together

    Westminster’s dark secret

    Adultery, homosexuality, sadomasochism and abuse of children were all seemingly lumped together
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Dulce et decorum est - a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    Dulce et decorum est: a life cut short for a poet whose work achieved immortality
    Google tells popular music website to censor album cover art in 'sexually explicit content' ban

    Naked censorship?

    The strange case of Google, the music website and the nudity take-down requests
    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    Howzat! 8 best cricket bats

    As England take on India at Trent Bridge, here is our pick of the high-performing bats to help you up your run-count this summer 
    Brazil vs Germany World Cup 2014 comment: David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    David Luiz falls from leader figure to symbol of national humiliation

    Captain appears to give up as shocking 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat threatens ramifications in Brazil