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Politics and ballerinas


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#1 delibes

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 09:01 AM

Hope people are not getting bored of this but for my politics homework I translated two interviews with Bolshoi ballerinas who were considering the balance of politics and art: I precis them (I put dots where I cut) I do not imagine that British theatre people have such considerations, ever.
Svetlana Zakharova in the New News (Novy Izvestya) 3rd March :
Q: This season has been special for you, your triumphs on London and Paris, then winning the State prize, the MP's seat. Has something switched on in your sense of who you are? A: Yes, it has switched on. I always knew that to be the first ballerina of the first theatre in the state was a special position, but when you think that besides this you represent not only the theatre but the state, this is a totally different feeling. And a great responsibility ... I do not understand why an artist should not be a political deputy. In the Duma there is a Culture committee. Who should be on it if not people in the art world? And I am a ballerina and know better than anyone what it is to work in the theatre ... I sense the envy of some of my colleagues, but that is their right.
Q: Are you attracted to the political life? A: I do like it a lot. I don't want to be a coach or repetiteur when I stop my dancing career. I would much prefer to lead, to direct, to organise. I would very much like to work in future in the Kremlin or the Culture Ministry. The Duma is my first step.
Q: When you enter the theatre and go on stage, do you consider yourself the best and the first ballerina? A: I always think that I must be the best. Also I have always thought that I must keep a large distance between me and my colleagues. This helps me to work. It helps me to go to morning class, it helps me to overcome tiredness after a show. If I were ever to think that I was already the best, that could stop me in my tracks.
Q: Are you preparing any new roles in the Bolshoi? A: Soon I plan to debut in Spartacus as Egina. I've dreamed and thought about this for a long time. I think also about contemporary ballet productions created specially for me. I met an interesting choreographer, we are looking for a theme and music for a new work. Beyond that, this season (artistic director0 Aleksey Ratmansky did not schedule any premieres for me whatever. ... Ratmansky has done a lot for the theatre, he's had his triumphs and his defeats in the job. I cannot say that I have liked everything he has done. ...
Q: Do you go out to fashionable nightclubs? A: No, that's absolutely not me ... I don't like noisy and smoky places. I love ceremonial halls and ceremonial occasions- such as the Georgievsky Hall in the Kremlin whee I received my State prize. I'd like to relive those feelings again and again.


Maria Alexandrova in Moscow Young Communist (Moskovsky Komsomolets) 7th March:
Q: it's sometimes seemed to me that ballet dancers lead an existence without personal rights. Is it so? A: You are thinking of the Bolshoi theatre as a monster! If it is a monster, then I love it. I applied every effort to get in here, and when they accepted me (after winning the Moscow international ballet competition) they made it quite clear to me that success at school is one thing, but life in the Bolshoi was another ...
Q: The imperial ballet has always been interrelated with power. How do you experience that? A: It's the truth. The Bolshoi Theatre is a part of the state- its shop window. Without the state this type of theatre could not come into existence, would not attain the heights that it has reached. It creates a quite distinct specification. That was always so. In the 19th century actors in all the imperial theatres got their living by charter, and if they infringed discipline in some way, they were sent to the guardhouse.
So Matilda Kshesinskaya got rid of her rival, the Italian Pierina Legnani, with the help of the Foreign Ministry. They simply did not renew Legnaniís residency, even though Swan Lake and Raymonda were staged on her.
If you work in the Bolshoi, it's necessary to understand that besides the privilege, to be a prima imposes on you very real responsibilities. Obligations too. I understand this, and I treat all politico-cultural demands on me with full responsibility. Not long ago I flew out of Paris, where the theatre was on tour, for a single day in Sofia where they were putting on a government concert in honour of the visit of our President.
But personally it seems to me that it's always dangerous for an artist to take too great an interest in "romancing with power." However unwittingly, a substitution can happen, what is primary, what is secondary, where creativity comes, and where something else. I should say, though, that the Bolshoi ballet fully reserves the right for you to choose for yourself. Speaking of which, Maya Plisetskaya became a legend in the harshest Soviet times, while on principle not becoming a "state ballerina". Her example pleases me even now, especially as it is becoming all the more real.

#2 bart

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Posted 11 March 2008 - 11:14 AM

Hope people are not getting bored of this [ ... ]

Lord, NO! This is fascinating. :clapping:

Even the information that there is still a publication called something like the Moscow Young Communist provides insights about Russia. And your Zakharova interview casts light on the current political situation in Russia, as well as a possible politics of celebrity, that I haven't found elsewhere.

Would love to hear from our Russian ballet experts on both of these interviews.

#3 Mashinka

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Posted 12 March 2008 - 06:32 AM

What an incredibly overweening woman Zakharova comes across as. First ballerina? Not in my book. If she is, itís not through any personal merit as there are at least half a dozen dancers in Moscow superior in technique and virtually all of them have warmer on stage personalities. In London she inexplicably gets to be first cast for almost everything when the Bolshoi tours and her lukewarm reception in Corsaire on the first night last year was embarrassing when compared to the storms of applause that greeted Alexandrova on the second night.

I sense the envy of some of my colleagues,


Really? Dislike I can begin to understand but I suspect it is resentment she picks up on rather than envy as she certainly occupies a privileged position in the company that is far from justified.

I always think that I must be the best. Also I have always thought that I must keep a large distance between me and my colleagues.


Fun to work with too.

Aleksey Ratmansky did not schedule any premieres for me whatever. ... I cannot say that I have liked everything he has done. ...


What about making you first cast for everything? Thereís gratitude for you. No wonder Ratmansky wants out.

I love ceremonial halls and ceremonial occasions- such as the Georgievsky Hall in the Kremlin whee I received my State prize. I'd like to relive those feelings again and again.


Had a British dancer spouted such fatuous rubbish in an interview, the press would have had a field day with her and she would have been ridiculed and lampooned within an inch of her life throughout the media. Has there been any response in Russia I wonder, or is the press still nervous about commenting on embryo politicians?

Finally, reasons to be cheerful:

I don't want to be a coach or repetiteur when I stop my dancing career


Thank goodness for that, the idea of yet another generation of hyper-extended acrobats posturing as ballet dancers is something I could certainly do without.

Many thanks to Delibes for this fascinating piece, the last thing Iíd call it is boring.

bart, Moskovsky Komsomolets has been a popular publication for years and despite the title I donít think itís overtly political.

#4 printscess

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Posted 12 March 2008 - 06:43 AM

Mashinka,
I enjoyed your candor. Thanks for not holding back.

#5 Cygnet

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Posted 12 March 2008 - 07:36 AM

Mashinka,

I also thank you for bringing everything to the table with your accurate assessment of Zakharova.
IMO she is a very poor imitation of her coach Ludmilla Semenyaka - particularly as Raymonda &
Aurora. Moreover, Aegina in "Spartacus" would be a huge miscast for her, except for the split in
Act 2. The Bolshoi has far more technically superior artists: Masha Alexandrova, Masha Allash
and the gifted Natasha Osipova. At least these ladies, and Zakharova's "hero," Sylvie Guillem
are 1) alive, and 2) themselves onstage.

#6 Solnishka79

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 07:59 PM

Oh my. Isn't someone very full of herself.

#7 Paul Parish

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 05:55 PM

Thanks, Delibes.

THese are fascinating -- I think (though I'm certainly no expert) it would be a mistake to take Zakharova's remarks as "sincere" -- they may well be a profession of tractability to Putin. And Alexandrova's may also. (Kremlinology 101).

Let me recommend The Rise to Power of Louis XIV" ( movie by Rossellini, who was I THINK an Italian communist) to anyone interested in these questions -- esp since Alexandrova is so refreshingly clear about understanding that the Bolshoi is hte shop-window of communism. She has a penetrating mind. Louis XIV's political use of the power of spectacle in general, and ballet in particular, to control his subjects was I suspect studied by the Soviets.

#8 canbelto

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 09:11 AM

My favorite:

And I am a ballerina and know better than anyone what it is to work in the theatre


My god she is full of herself.

#9 PeggyR

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 09:46 AM

...Also I have always thought that I must keep a large distance between me and my colleagues. This helps me to work.


That comment strikes me as a good way to end up dropped on your head by a partner.

Peggy

#10 vagansmom

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 10:05 AM

I have never seen Zhakarova dance, and I know nothing about her other than the interview excerpts I just read on this thread. I didn't take her comments to be vain statements at all. With all due respect to Delibes, I thought that they illustrated the difficulty of understanding the emotional content of text that's been translated, especially since her statements are excerpted.

The question was, "This season has been special for you, your triumphs on London and Paris, then winning the State prize, the MP's seat. Has something switched on in your sense of who you are?" Zaharova answered:

Yes, it has switched on. I always knew that to be the first ballerina of the first theatre in the state was a special position.

Wasn't she just stating the facts there? If she has been constantly first-cast, then yes, she IS the first ballerina of the "first theatre in the state."

To the question, "When you enter the theatre and go on stage, do you consider yourself the best and the first ballerina?" Zaharova answered: "

I always think that I must be the best. Also I have always thought that I must keep a large distance between me and my colleagues. This helps me to work. It helps me to go to morning class, it helps me to overcome tiredness after a show. If I were ever to think that I was already the best, that could stop me in my tracks.


Mashinka quoted only the first two sentences in the reply, and seen in that light, it could make it look as though Zakharova is mean-spirited, but in looking at the whole reply (that I just quoted), I think what Z. meant is a lot clearer. I took that first sentence to mean she's always thinking she has to strive to be the best with every performance. I thought her comments state that it is a heavy responsibility, a difficult mantle to wear. Her comments about keeping a distance between herself and the other dancers tell about how responsible she feels to live up to that title, that she has to deny herself certain pleasures, can't do the normal pleasures of socializing because she feels beholden to take care of her body at all times. My opinion is that she confesses quite the opposite of Mashinka's interpretation. With her last statement in the above quote, Zakharova is saying that she CAN'T think of herself as the best or else "that could stop me in my tracks." That's a humble statement, not one of bravado. I took that to mean that she's always worried that she has to prove she's the best. We all know the mantra in Olympics and other sports competitions about how hard it is to be the defending champion, that you have to live up to the title you've been given, and that everyone is looking for you to fall. I thought Zakharova's statement reflected a certain amount of fear of the weight of such a title rather than hubris.

About Zakharova's comment:

And I am a ballerina and know better than anyone what it is to work in the theatre ... I sense the envy of some of my colleagues, but that is their right.

I would love to have read her thoughts in between those two sentences. Any chance you can supply them, Delibes? In any case, again, I did not read that first sentence as hubris; I simply read it as factual. All ballet dancers know what it is to work in the theatre. Perhaps she should have said, "I know as much as anyone" rather than "better than anyone" but hers was an oral interview (correct, delibes?), not a written one. We, most of us, don't phrase our thoughts perfectly every single time. I liked her comment about sensing the envy of colleagues -that envy is a natural part of ballet company life. She seemed to just accept it.

And I agree with Zakharova's opinion about avoiding smoky, noisy clubs and preferring ceremonial events. I much prefer the latter myself.

Note: this is my edited version of my first posting. I had to take it down and rework because my keyboard has a tendency to jump my sentences into the wrong passages sometimes. What came out in my first posting was a crazy, mixed-up version of the order I'd actually written it in.

#11 Ostrich

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 11:24 AM

I like your perspective, vagansmom. Many of her comments certainly appear in a different light when read in context.

#12 drb

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 12:09 PM

...About Zakharova's comment:

And I am a ballerina and know better than anyone what it is to work in the theatre ... I sense the envy of some of my colleagues, but that is their right.

I would love to have read her thoughts in between those two sentences. Any chance you can supply them, Delibes? In any case, again, I did not read that first sentence as hubris; I simply read it as factual. All ballet dancers know what it is to work in the theatre. Perhaps she should have said, "I know as much as anyone" rather than "better than anyone" but hers was an oral interview (correct, delibes?), not a written one. We, most of us, don't phrase our thoughts perfectly every single time. I liked her comment about sensing the envy of colleagues -that envy is a natural part of ballet company life. She seemed to just accept it.


Actually, there are four and a half sentences in place of the "..."s, saying more about why her experience is relevant to her position of deputy, and that there are also other (than the arts) duties specific to the region she represents, and how she is helped by other deputies whose experience she envies. Nothing about ballet, so I see why omitted by Delibes (and, yes, great thanks to you , Delibes!). Here's the full article, ready to be placed into the Google or Babelfish translator. The referred text is early in the interview:
http://www.newizv.ru...08-03-03/85634/

#13 vagansmom

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 12:54 PM

Sorry, I hope my post wasn't interpreted as critical of delibes. Not at all, I am very grateful to you, delibes, for taking the time to translate and share this with us. It's very enlightening to me that being a Russian ballerina, even now, after communism's (mostly) demise in Russia, still means in some respects that one is a kind of politico. I had thought that died out with the former regime. I just got so interested in the interviews that I wanted to see it all. Thanks too, drb, for pointing the way to the original article. I will head off now to put it into a translator.

#14 Andrei

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Posted 15 March 2008 - 02:21 PM

... Also I have always thought that I must keep a large distance between me and my colleagues. This helps me to work....

Actually, it's not correct translation. She said :"I have to be a head of my colleagues".


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