It has been long time the Russian ballet has opened its doors to the world, and our domestic theatres confirm the statement. The companies have become very multinational: with the dancers from Korea, Japan, Brazil, USA and Europe. The foreign names are so hotly favourite to the Russian audience, and we’ve been already watching the dancers graduating from Russian academies. La Personne team has met seven foreigners, dancing in Mariinsky Theatre, and created extended photo stories about future (and current!) heroes of the Russian stage. We were wandering with them by the windy Neva costs, we got behind the scenes and to the studios and even asked to be allowed to visit the secret art and sculpture workshops of St. Petersburg.
Author Olga Ugarova
Photos: Julia Mikheeva
I was born in Seoul. There were so many activities we practiced with my younger brother! Football, skiing, taekwondo – I may continue the list for a long time. We came to ballet accidentally, but we loved dancing from the beginning, although it wasn’t popular in Korea. When I turned 11, Vladimir Kim and Margarita Kullik became my teachers, they had been invited to Seoul as coachers. Ten years later I moved to St. Petersburg with them.
We, the Koreans, have a problem – we are not used to show the emotions. Yeah, inside we are passionate and even similar to Russians where the depth of feelings is concerned, but outside we are very reserved. And in performing… the emotions add the most important nuances to a role – only then the audience may feel something special. In the beginning I was very shy to demonstrate my feeling – I learned it only with time.
When I got to Mariinsky Theatre, from the beginning I tried not only to dance well, I strove to cognize the Russian Culture. Everything connected with St. Petersburg made importance to me. I started to learn Russian almost immediately. The more you understand Russian culture, the closer audience and dance become to you. There is no other way, I suppose (smiling). When I just arrived, many people said: “What a good pupil Volodya and Rita have!” But only after I started to widen my knowledge of Russian art, I began to feel the audience but not just to perform the jumps and pirouettes onstage.
St. Peterburg audience isn’t cold – the people are just intelligent, they’ve seen a lot and they are very well educated. The audience here is very responsive and kind-hearted, but it also can be strict as jury. If you dance badly, you will not get applause. More over, the audience is very flexible, I always feel its energy.
It happens sometimes that we see just a number of stunts – the acrobatics instead of ballet. This can’t be named the art, there is no sense in it. You need to fill every movement with meaning and emotions, and the stunts should be like passing by, without emphasis on how strong you are or how great your jumps are. Then they become a tool, but not a goal and this is important. And, of course, the sense of music – no way without music. It’s not so complicated for dancers to show something – it all already exists in music. You just need to listen and to decode: the tints of gloom and sadness, passion and rage – they’ve been put into the score from the beginning and we just have to catch them and to demonstrate. Recently I’ve just come across a beautiful symphonic performance of The Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky and I’ve been listening to it for a few weeks. This is very funny, because for us this creation has become something ordinary – a routine. But this is the outstanding music and we should be happy to dance it onstage.
The dramatic, profound roles are very close to me. I love very much a part of Solor in The Bayadere by Marius Petipa, Ferkhad in The Legend of Love by Yuri Grigorovich, the Young man in the one act ballet The Young Man and Death by Roland Petit, Schurale in the so-called ballet by Leonid Jacobson, where you can show your temper. Of course, I can also dance the plotless Spirit of the Rose by Michel Fokine and Symphony in C by George Balanchine, but still I suppose that a stage type is quite important, because everyone has its specific character in dance.
Fine art by Peter Reichet (1953 -2013) and Peter Ignatyev (1945 – 2020)
The shootings inspired by and based on The Young Man and Death.
Special thanks to PR-department of the Mariinsky Theatre and Vitaly Kotov in person for assistance in creating the material.
Special thanks to Pavel Ignatov for assistance in creating the material.