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Lopatkina at 35The Izvestia Interview


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#1 drb

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Posted 23 October 2008 - 10:17 PM

While the Mariinsky Prima Ballerina does not find 35 (October 23) to be any special milestone, she granted Izvestia a particularly long interview with Svetlana Naborschikova that the paper titled Ballerina Ulyana Lopatkina: "The fate of former dancers - psychological death" I will summarize parts and quote others. Especially when she gets philosophical, i.e., almost always, I apologize for my inadequate translation.
http://www.izvestia..../article3121837
(Even if you don't read Russian it is worth the click to view an extensive (11) photo set.)

After discussing upcoming events, including galas in the dancer's honor (she preferred not to discuss what she would dance, wanting the audience to be surprised), she began talking about what she would like to do in the future. "I want to dance modern ballets. They permit one to express the power of human experience..." She wants to be open to experimentation and finds that classical ballet performances require a rigid beauty; inside she finds a mass of unused energy.

We all wear a holiness
When asked how she felt about being called an icon of Russian ballet she becomes philosophical and finds that this applies to dancers more generally, that there is a hope, desire, even a prerequisite longing for a higher state. "We all wear a sainthood, it manifests in varying degrees within dancers, but this potential is placed in each of us." Perhaps people who speak in terms of icons are particularly sensitive to art and they are formulating a feeling they may have experienced during a performance. When asked whether living almost her entire artistic life this way is easy, she said that conforming to this high level is always difficult, doing this work with soul and body... "Choose the way. Do not deviate. The internal goal is always important... the perfect image coincides with my inner desires." But she cautions about basing goals on ideals, speaking of a simple human task of living and moving forward. She warns of idolizing creation, it can be like a disease when people blindly love someone or something, their actions aimed only at the loved subject, and she would not like to be like that, but instead respects the talent of every person, although it is possible to bow in admiration of someone.

Asked for examples of artists to whom she bows in admiration she answers

I can think of a lot of them. The composer Rodion Shchedrin. Yuri Bashmet. Mikhail Baryshnikov--not as a genius of dance, but as a man who continues his creative life, opening up the talents of others. I was in his New York arts center. Young directors and choreographers are freed to rehearse, perform. This left an indelible impression on me.


There is then a long discussion of living in St. Petersburg. She was born in the Crimea and in her early years she found the city cold, with poverty, decay and terror--all this deepened by her loneliness away from parents while spending eight years at the ballet school. However the city's revival has changed that and now its beauty amazes her. She speaks of the city in terms of Peter. And still only feels like a guest in Peter's house. When Moscow is mentioned the interviewer recalls seeing her at the golden wedding celebration of Rodion Shchedrin and Maya Plisetskaya.

For me, this union is unique. Two legends with the same fate. History is full of examples where one bright personality destroyed another. But in this case, two unique people were able to coexist with each other, inspire each other. The fact that I live at the same time with them, that I can communicate with them, hear the composer perform his works - is already happiness. My seat was next to where the prima Maya Mikhailovna sat, and next - Rodion Konstantinovich. An interesting experience, touching their human energy! To feel they are near. Whew - shoulder to shoulder ... I am convinced that Shchedrin is the absolutely brilliant contemporary Russian composer. Hard to understand, but he very deeply reflects the essence of today's Russian man. We are unable to define what we have, but the works of Shchedrin is it, and he does not need verbal explanations.


Asked if she could imagine herself dancing onstage at 82, as Maya Plisetskaya just did, she answered that she had not yet thought about it, that she tries to live today. When then asked what is next for her, when the day comes to leave ballet:

This is not an easy issue for me, and for many of my colleagues. Since the age of 10 years, our life - ballet. All is put into its service.. And when the term of the instrument, your trained body, ends the question arises: how to apply your professional skills next? What to do? Teachers are not required in great quantities. Profession of choreographer - a special talent. And in the end? Psychological death. I dreamed all my life to paint, design, to master foreign languages, but not far enough. I now no longer am of an age to desire to make a new profession. So, what are you - spent, but not nearly the material ready for recycling? [she then discusses this problem in other countries]. The tragedy of Retired Persons...

This eventually leads to the rumors a while ago that she might lead the Mariinsky Ballet.

Rumors are rumors. With regard to the specific facts, to date, I am prima ballerina of the Mariinsky Theater. We have the theater's artistic director Valery Gergiev, and the acting head of the ballet troupe is Yuri Fateev. Now the question is who will become the ballet's artistic director. It is expected that this should be a choreographer. Certainly I do not have enough to be an artistic director: lack leadership impact on the level of artistic process. The questions are many - what to perform... the importance of acting for the dancers. They must act. Otherwise, ballet crumbles... It requires sense. [otherwise] it becomes like a sporting event, but without the inherent "sport" and the desire for victory. So why spend time on this spectacle? For example, I dance parts in known ballets. I am more interested in their emotional content, the drama of all the participants in the performance. To ensure that the art of ballet is of human concern, is part of the routine, day-to-day responsibilities of a company's leader. This is in addition to the primary goal - to create new productions, search for interesting choreographers ... In short, what constitutes artistic direction.

When asked whether Valery Gergiev does not want to share authority, Ms. Lopatkina says "I don't have such an impression. He is searching. Finding an artistic director for a company with the scope of the Mariinsky Theater is a heavy task."

The interview concludes with a "blitz" of short questions.

Q: What are the weaknesses you're willing to forgive in yourself?

A: Restlessness.

Q: What quality do you most value in women?

A: Kindness, wisdom, patience.

Q: And in men?

A: Generosity, responsibility.

Q: Your idea of happiness?

A: The love inside you and the love of you.



#2 Sacto1654

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Posted 24 October 2008 - 07:17 PM

Thanks for mentioning that interview! :thumbsup:

I think she's being very humble from the tone of the interview. She has enough "old time" knowledge of classic ballet and the "right connnections" (she's beloved by almost everyone in the Mariinsky management and inside the Vaganova Academy) to eventually get the position of Deputy Director of Ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre if she wants it down the road. She would be better suited for this future role than to become Artistic Director of the Vaganova Academy (I don't see her as a "teacher type").

By the way, I am particularly impressed she is following in the footsteps of Maya Plisetskaya, more willing to do something more experimental and modern (Plisetskaya was doing a lot of modern ballet work with Western ballet companies by the early 1970's). I can tell she is impressed by the 50th anniversary of the marriage of Rodion Shchedrin and Maya Plisetskaya, two persons who have mightily contributed to the arts in Russia during the Soviet era (famous as Lopatkina is now, she's nothing compared to the achievements of Shchedrin and Plisetskaya).

It's interesting Lopatkina mentions all the changes to Saint Petersburg since the end of the Soviet era, mostly because because she mentioned this in an interview with the Times of London back in 2005. Mind you, she was disappointed with all those McDonald's showing up all over Saint Petersburg, though. :clapping:

#3 leonid17

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Posted 25 October 2008 - 09:12 AM

She(Uliana Lopatkina)would be better suited for this future role than to become Artistic Director of the Vaganova Academy (I don't see her as a "teacher type").


I have seen nothing in Lopatkina's performances to indicate that she might have directorial abilities and as Altinai Asylmuratova(in my opinion a muich more distinguished ballerina) is only 47 years old and has run the Academy brilliantly, I do not see how the Directorship comes into the equation.

#4 Sacto1654

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Posted 25 October 2008 - 10:41 AM

I have seen nothing in Lopatkina's performances to indicate that she might have directorial abilities and as Altinai Asylmuratova(in my opinion a muich more distinguished ballerina) is only 47 years old and has run the Academy brilliantly, I do not see how the Directorship comes into the equation.


Asylmuratova was actually kind of lucky that her career peaked just when the Kirov company started to tour the West again starting in 1986. As such, she's really well-known to older Western balletomanes, and a number of her performances have been recorded on video or film. She has done very well heading the Vaganova Academy, and I can see over the next 4-7 years a really good generation of dancers coming out of the Academy. :clapping:

However, I still think Lopatkina--based on the people who know her well from what I've read--is eventually going to be the type of person the Mariinsky Theatre wants as Deputy Director of the Ballet company (not now, of course!). Lopatkina's clear understanding of the history of the Kirov/Mariinsky troupe makes her a good choice maybe 10-15 years from now to do this role, in my humble opinion. :thumbsup:

#5 ngitanjali

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Posted 25 October 2008 - 05:03 PM

Based on what I've read of her/by her, I think that the Mariinsky could do much worse. The fact that she has so much RESPECT for the classics and the ballet tradition is so important and is one of her best qualities, I think.

#6 Sacto1654

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Posted 25 October 2008 - 05:38 PM

Based on what I've read of her/by her, I think that the Mariinsky could do much worse. The fact that she has so much RESPECT for the classics and the ballet tradition is so important and is one of her best qualities, I think.


One thing people forget is that in most of the ballets Petipa choreographed when he worked for the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre, it was mostly a major showcase for prominent female characters in the ballet (Paquita from the ballet of the same name, Giselle from the ballet of the same name, Medora from Le Corsaire, Aspicia from The Pharaoh's Daughter, Nikiya from La Bayadere, Princess Aurora from The Sleeping Beauty, Clara from Nutcracker, Odette from Swan Lake, Raymonda from the ballet of the same name). Since she has danced many of these roles herself, Lopatkina understands how important they are worth preserving, even in a modernized form. This is one more reason I am hoping she gets a chance to become the Deputy Director of the Ballet Company about 10-15 years from now. :)

#7 Cygnet

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 07:13 AM

Not only does Lopatkina respect the classics, but she is one of the late Natalya Dudinskaya's greatest products.
Dudinskaya was taught by Vaganova; so there's a direct line back to the source. Lopatkina has voiced her
opposition to Vikharev's Petipa reconstructions, "Bayadere" and "Sleeping Beauty." To date she has refused
to dance Lilac Fairy in the 1890 "Beauty." She has only danced in Konstantin Sergeyev's production, (who was
Dudinskaya's husband). I believe one of the main reasons she's so beloved and influential, is that she's loyal to
her late teacher and Sergeyev's work.

#8 Sacto1654

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Posted 27 October 2008 - 10:47 AM

Not only does Lopatkina respect the classics, but she is one of the late Natalya Dudinskaya's greatest products.
Dudinskaya was taught by Vaganova; so there's a direct line back to the source. Lopatkina has voiced her
opposition to Vikharev's Petipa reconstructions, "Bayadere" and "Sleeping Beauty." To date she has refused
to dance Lilac Fairy in the 1890 "Beauty." She has only danced in Konstantin Sergeyev's production, (who was
Dudinskaya's husband). I believe one of the main reasons she's so beloved and influential, is that she's loyal to
her late teacher and Sergeyev's work.


Remember, the original performed versions of Spyashchaya Krasavitsa and Bayaderka were major, complicated productions that even the Imperial Mariinsky Ballet performed rarely in their heyday. That's why during the Soviet era, both ballets underwent major changes to make them less expensive to perform on a more regular basis.

From what I've read about Dudinskaya, she was one of the most beloved ballerinas in the Kirov company during the 1930's and 1940's (probably only Galina Ulanova was more beloved with the Kirov company before Stalin transferred her to the Bolshoi company in 1944), with a career unfortunately cut short because of her poor physical health during her dancing days. Dudinskaya became even better known for her teaching and coaching work with the Vaganova Academy, and of course her husband Konstanin Sergeyev set the standard for ballet choreography in the Kirov troupe for several decades, including several well-known versions of famous ballets (of which the 1950 version of Lebedinoye Ozero is certainly the best-known).

As such, it's not far-fetched that Ulyana Lopatkina maybe around 15 years from now becomes the Deputy Director of the Ballet Company at the Mariinsky Theatre. She has GREAT respect for the 20th Century history of the troupe and wants to keep that legacy going well into the 21st Century.

#9 pherank

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Posted 16 October 2012 - 09:28 PM

Not only does Lopatkina respect the classics, but she is one of the late Natalya Dudinskaya's greatest products.
Dudinskaya was taught by Vaganova; so there's a direct line back to the source. Lopatkina has voiced her
opposition to Vikharev's Petipa reconstructions, "Bayadere" and "Sleeping Beauty." To date she has refused
to dance Lilac Fairy in the 1890 "Beauty." She has only danced in Konstantin Sergeyev's production, (who was
Dudinskaya's husband). I believe one of the main reasons she's so beloved and influential, is that she's loyal to
her late teacher and Sergeyev's work.


This does conflict a bit with the notion that Lopatkina 'respects the classics' when she dances only the later versions of ballets, the ones re-staged by Sergeyev, rather than reconstructions that try to emulate the originals (obviously perfect reproductions would be impossible, but they restore scenes/choreography that haven't been danced in a century).

She demonstrates great loyalty to her teacher, but hasn't shown an interest in exploring older choreography. In her interviews she often mentions her interest in modern ballets (as long as they display a humanist quality), so I think that is her real focus at this point of her life.

#10 Mashinka

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 01:26 AM

She(Uliana Lopatkina)would be better suited for this future role than to become Artistic Director of the Vaganova Academy (I don't see her as a "teacher type").


I have seen nothing in Lopatkina's performances to indicate that she might have directorial abilities and as Altinai Asylmuratova(in my opinion a muich more distinguished ballerina) is only 47 years old and has run the Academy brilliantly, I do not see how the Directorship comes into the equation.


I don't either. A number of people have speculated on her becoming director and I think that is more out of desperation to see the back of Yuri Fateev, but there are better candidates for the job within the company.

I would say there is a question mark over how well Asylmuratova has run the Academy, Kirov style as I recognize it has become seriously diluted over the years within the company ranks. Of course it is possible that the same conditions apply to actual entry into the company as apply to the acquisition of roles once a company member. It is also worth remembering that some of the very best graduates turn up elsewhere; for my money I'd rather see Elena Glurjidze or Irina Kolesnikova any day rather than the present crop of Kirov principals.

#11 Birdsall

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 04:00 AM


Not only does Lopatkina respect the classics, but she is one of the late Natalya Dudinskaya's greatest products.
Dudinskaya was taught by Vaganova; so there's a direct line back to the source. Lopatkina has voiced her
opposition to Vikharev's Petipa reconstructions, "Bayadere" and "Sleeping Beauty." To date she has refused
to dance Lilac Fairy in the 1890 "Beauty." She has only danced in Konstantin Sergeyev's production, (who was
Dudinskaya's husband). I believe one of the main reasons she's so beloved and influential, is that she's loyal to
her late teacher and Sergeyev's work.


This does conflict a bit with the notion that Lopatkina 'respects the classics' when she dances only the later versions of ballets, the ones re-staged by Sergeyev, rather than reconstructions that try to emulate the originals (obviously perfect reproductions would be impossible, but they restore scenes/choreography that haven't been danced in a century).



I understand what you are saying, but there are pros and cons to the reconstructions. For example, although it is a later addition, I find the Nikya and the Slave pas de deux in the Sergeyev version of Bayadere so beautiful. Also, the Golden Idol is sorely missed in the reconstruction (although I hear they sometimes stick him back in during reconstruction performances).

Basically, what I mean is that whichever way you go you win some things and you lose some things.

#12 Helene

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Posted 17 October 2012 - 09:49 AM

Although having coaches that are from 1.5-3 generations before their students helps to mitigate this, in an art form with an oral tradition, especially, there's often a myopic vision of what "history" and "tradition" are.


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