Having obtained its independence together with the independence of the country in 1991, Ukrainian ballet still flies the flag of one of the strongest schools of the world. Ukrainian troupes tour in the best European, American and Asian theatres and gather full houses. Audience rises in applause, brings hundreds of flowers and writes letters. Poets appraise the artistry and lightness of dancers in their poems, artists draw them on canvas and moviemakers shoots films about their lives. And if the profession of ballerina is always word of mouth, the males of Ukrainian ballet remain in shadow. In an interview with honored artists of Ukraine, premier dancer of National Opera house of Ukraine Serhiy Sidorski, ForUm has learned how to get to the big stage and how to work one's way up.

- In soviet times, Ukrainian ballet was a part of the All-Soviet Union ballet. What changes has Ukrainian theatre undergone after the USSR collapse?

- At first, nothing changed, but went as it used to be. Placement of graduates did not happen, but I was taken to the theatre immediately. My classmates had to look for job by themselves. For some it was a blessing, for others - a problem. The collapse of the USSR has brought its corrections. First of all, a border appeared between our countries. If earlier were a part of the Russian, soviet theatres, now our theatre is the first one in the country. Secondly, we are now independent, which brings both certain loss and gain. Inside the ballet world the things have not changed much. We still communicate, tour, visit each other, share experience.

Within the time the ballet itself is changing. It becomes more dynamic. Of course, the old base and classic rules remain and we try to keep alive performances, created during those distant times. The costumes get renovated, but not changed. Sometimes, choreographers introduce certain changes into classic performances, but such masterpieces as "Shadows" in "La Bayadere" or scenes from "Swan Lake", created by Lev Ivanov and Marius Petipa (French ballet dancer, teacher and choreographer - ed.) remain untouched. We also use new technologies and materials: instead of decor materials, we sometimes use moving pictures. Such technology is expensive, but we do not have to bring kilometers of fabrics for stage scenery. The ballet tries to keep up with the time and to preserve the best of it at the same time.

However, after the collapse, we feel the lack of something, as in soviet times the theatre had strong state support. Soviet ballet was a world crown jewel. The country was huge with many talented people. Theatres were competing and performed one better than the other.

It used to be 50 applicants for one place in a ballet school, but now they are not so many. If I am not mistaken, only two or three boys have graduated per 20 girls recently. The ballet had a certain level once. But now we have show-business and internet. Ballet is a live art. You cannot register the performance and put it on a big screen. People go to theatre to see live art with live music. Choreography is an art of graphic composition of a picture, it is a movement turned into art against the background of human lives and emotions.

With our art we express a human thought, spirit, emotion. We speak with our bodies, we declare love with our bodies, we express any emotion with our bodies. We learn to control our bodies from 10 years.

- In soviet times, the ballet was a pride of the nation. What is current state of Ukrainian ballet?

- The ballet is still the pride of our country. We remain a big, strong and respectful theater in the world. The world knows us. Our troupe numbers 170 people. The Big Mariinski theatre has more dancers, I believe. It's difficult to find similar theatres with 200 dancers in the world. There are troupes of 60 dancers maximum. The capacity of our theatre allows us to perform at home and send two troupes to make tours simultaneously. Our theatre is called "Kyiv-ballet" in the world, but we have other troupes (Donetsk, Odessa, Dnipropetrovsk). Our theatre is welcomed in Japan. We gather full house there.  It was nice to see sound poster of our theatre in Mexico - "Mariinski, Big, Kyiv". We went in Mexico for gala concert with other two strongest theatres of USSR times. It was interesting to see other schools dancing. It was like various 'dialects' of Russian ballet, and we even took notes of certain particularities of each school.

- Do young dancers have chances to get to the big stage in Ukraine?

- When there is a strong talented artist, he will always find support. The competition among boys is lesser. The competition among girls always has been and will be strong. However, if there is a more or less strong ballerina, she will be taken immediately. Moreover, we have such a big program, that there is enough work for all dancers. Artists must make their way up from the smallest parts to solo and leading roles. All he needs is sufficient amount of emotions, moral and physical strength.

- What moral and physical features are required for this?

- It should be, first of all, an emotional person. We have many strong and emotional heroes. Besides, he must know to love, to suffer and to feel. All performances are based on love - love to a woman, love to motherland, love to art. A dancer must understand what he does and what he has to do. A dancer must work on his body and on his character. The body is an instrument, which must be kept clean and functional. We always keep our bodies in tonus, even during breaks. This summer, for example, I let myself to relax for 2 weeks. When I came back to training, I could not understand how I could do all those things before. My body refused to perform, thus I had to torture myself with extra trainings for a while to get back in form.

There are certain requirements to physique. Earlier the parameters were different. In times of Taglioni the miracle of ballet lay in the ability of not thin ballerina to fly over the stage. Now the standards say dancers must be thin and tall and have long legs and arms. When people see me outside the theatre, they always say I look bigger on the stage. Thus, if I gain weight in life I will look even bigger on the stage. Moreover, white costumes visually magnify the proportions. Audience in the ground has worm's-eye view, and dancers look taller. When we jump it looks like we are flying, and people believe we use certain devices to jump like this. This is what the illusion of theatre magic is.

Feet are also important for ballet dancer. High arches are beautiful in the dance. We learn from childhood to point toes so hard to have a foot as one line. Ballet is a picture of lines. Dancers must know to point arms in such a way to make an impression they are endless. However, standards are not as important as the ability to control the body. We learn all this from 10 years old. We train the muscles and work on coordination.

However, there are artists who do not have any of this. You think how this man can dance, but then you see him on the stage and cannot but applaud. Even with all natural gifts, the dancer needs enormous will power to endure trainings. We can spend hours and days to make one step, and only patience and full control let us go further.

- How do you get to ballet?

- I started with sport gymnastics. In general, thanks to my parents, I've tried everything - swimming, fencing, acrobatics. In Veryovka's ensemble the teachers saw certain classic ballet qualities in me. My pedagogue advised to enter the ballet school, and she was my trainer before the exams. I was one of the best graduates, thus was taken immediately in the theatre. I started from the bottom, danced everything is all small parts.

I did everything with exaggerated eagerness, which caused a serious trauma. Once I jumped too high and landed really badly. I had the whole leg in plaster. For one year I was out of service. Some doctors were saying I would never dance again. I did not want to listen. I believe my youth helped me to heal and in one year I was back on stage. But since then I work more attentively and treat my body more carefully. The trauma doe not bother me anymore. The only reminder is a metal screw in the leg, but it keeps me on the ground. Now I use not pure emotions, but brains and professionalism.

- Did you have accidents when rivals put glass in ballet shows or rub fiber glass in costumes?

- I heard such stories. The competitions used to be hard, especially among women. May be such things happened, but I believe there are more talks than deeds. However, competition is good if it is healthy, as it makes dancers to work harder. In our theatre, I believe, there is healthy competition. If similar cases happened before, they were very rare.

- Are there many talented Ukrainian stars who left for Moscow, Saint Petersburg or European capitals?

- There was such tendency immediately after the collapse of USSR. When the 'iron curtain' fell down, people started to leave because they could. At the beginning I also had thoughts about leaving, but then I decided I was doing fine at home. The country was recovering, my salary was increasing and I was making career. Besides, salaries are bigger abroad, but expenses are also bigger - food, taxes.  I am used to our system of work. Abroad I go on tours. Other theatres invite me as a solo performer. I stopped wanting to move abroad.  Grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. You can search for better place forever and will never find it.

Tetyana Hryhorieva


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