Born in Odessa, Ukraine, Larissa Ponomarenko trained at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in Saint Petersburg and graduated under legendary Ninel Kurgapkina. In 1993, she joined Boston Ballet as a principal dancer, where she was hailed as “a great dance-actress” (The Boston Globe), “poetry in motion” (Boston Magazine), and “a symbol of harmonious order” (Boston Herald) throughout her 18-year dance career with the company. After retiring from the stage in 2011, she joined Boston Ballet’s artistic staff as Ballet Master and Coach.
Ponomarenko’s vast repertory includes principal and title roles in ballets by Petipa, Bournonville, Cranko, Ashton, MacMillan, Balanchine, Kudelka, Tudor, Taylor, and Caniparoli, as well as Jiří Kylián, Twyla Tharp, Mark Morris, Nacho Duato, Elisa Monte, and countless others. Ponomarenko originated roles in ballets by Christopher Wheeldon, Helen Pickett, Stephen Baynes, Daniel Pelzig, Viktor Plotnikov, and Boston Ballet’s resident choreographer Yorma Elo, for whom she served as muse and whose roles also involved speaking and singing on stage. Throughout her career, she has been lauded for her “true gift for comedy,” counter to her “triumphant dramatic portrayals in such ballets as Eugene Onegin and Giselle” (Boston Herald). She has appeared in numerous international gala performances and festivals including Dance For Life in Toronto, Vail Dance Festival, and the 100th anniversary of Ballet Russes in New Orleans, and has performed as a guest artist with companies such as Teatro Comunale of Florence in Italy, English National Ballet of London, NBA Ballet Company of Tokyo, and Opera Theatre of Rome.
In 2019, as Ballet Master and Coach, Ponomarenko debuted her adaptation of the full-length Giselle for Boston Ballet, resulting in a “traditional and resplendent” production staged by the “formidable” artist (The Harvard Crimson). Besides Boston Ballet, Ponomarenko has taught and coached at Washington Ballet, and at Harvard and Yale universities. Ponomarenko has been involved in masterclass workshops held in Prague in the Czech Republic; Essen and Dresden in Germany; and Palermo, Italy. She taught at summer intensive courses in schools at San Francisco Ballet, Boston Ballet, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Kansas Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet, Colorado Ballet, First State Ballet Theatre in Delaware, Festival Ballet Providence in Rhode Island, and Southland Ballet in California.
Ponomarenko was nominated for the Benois de la Danse award in 2005 for her interpretation of the role of Marguerite in Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias and is a recipient of the E. Virginia Williams Inspiration Award.