Born in Ukraine, Svetlana Zakharova studied at a local dance studio where she mostly practised folk dancing from the age of 6. Aged 10 she joined the Kiev Choreographic school, where she trained mainly with Valeria Sulegina.
In 1995 she entered the International Young Dancers’ Competition in Saint Petersburg. She won the second prize for her performance of Princess Florine in the pas de deux of the Blue Birds in Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty, the variation of George Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux and the first variation from Paquita.
Following the competition she was allowed to continue her training at the “Agrippina Vaganova” Academy in Saint Petersburg. Instead of the expected second course, she was admitted directly to the third, the graduating course (in the class of Yelena Yevteyeva, the distinguished Kirov ballerina of the previous generation). While still a student at the Vaganova Academy Svetlana performed the Shades Act of La Bayadère, Masha in The Nutcracker, the Queen of the Dryads in Don Quixote, and Dying Swan on the stage of the Mariinsky Theatre.
In June 1996 Svetlana graduated from the Vaganova Academy, performing Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. She immediately joined the Mariinsky Ballet, where she was promoted to principal dancer a year later.
Her vast repertoire at the Kirov included the leading roles in: Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, La bayadère, Don Quixote, Le Corsaire, Les Sylphides, Shéhérazade, The Fountain of Bakhchisaray (in Rostislav Zacharov’s version), and Romeo and Juliet (in Leonid Lavrovsky’s version). She has often held the leading role in the following ballets by George Balanchine: Apollon musagète (Terpsichore), Serenade, Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, Symphony in C and Jewels. At the Kirov she has also danced in MacMillan’s L’histoire de Manon in the title role. She has danced the leading role in the following creations: Poème de l’extase by Alexei Ratmansky, Now and Then by John Neumeier, and Young Lady and the Hooligan by Konstantin Bojarsky.
Svetlana took part in all the major tours of the Mariinsky Ballet and from 1999 on she was invited as a guest star by the main ballet companies of the world, including New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Paris Opera Ballet, Teatro alla Scala, English National Ballet, and New National Theatre Ballet in Tokyo.
As of October 2003 Svetlana started dancing as a principal with the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow. At the Bolshoi she is rehearsing her roles with Ludmilla Semenyaka, the star ballerina from the previous generation. There she has danced Giselle in Vladimir Vassiliev’s version and La fille du pharaon in Pierre Lacotte’s choreographic revival.
She has been awarded numerous prizes: “Agrippina Vaganova” at the third International Ballet Competition in Saint Petersburg (second prize) in 1995; special prize “Our Hope”, from the Baltica in Saint Petersburg in 1997; “Golden Sophit” in Saint Petersburg in 1998; “Golden Mask Award” for Balanchine’s Serenade (1999); “Golden Mask Award ” for The Sleeping Beauty (2000); “People of Our City”, special prize awarded by the city of Saint Petersburg for her achievement in ballet (2001); prize of the Italian magazine “Danza&Danza” (2002); “Benois de la danse” for her performance in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2005).