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"Onegin" Masterclass with Egon Madsen

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Last Sunday Egon Madsen gave a Masterclass in Munich, for the roles of Olga and Lenski

Dancers were Barbora Kohoutkova and Lukas Slavicky who have both not danced these roles before.

Parts of the rehearsal:

1) First appearance of Lenski and his solo

2) first pas de deux Olga – Lenski

3) „fare well solo“ Lenski

Cranko Style

E.M. stressed how important it is not to walk and gesture like a dancer, but like ordinary people. He did not want to see any ballet poses or preparations for pirouettes – it should all look natural and coming from inside (this reminded me a bit of the Manon Masterclasses we had before). When they created Onegin (and also Romeo), they watched a lot the acting company and tried to copy parts of their gestures. Watching Lukas, we noticed how hard it can be for a dancer to “switch” between classical ballet and “normal” movements.

Inspiration from Pushkin

To give Lukas a short break between the pdd and his final solo, Ivan Liska asked E.M. how he prepared for the role, if he studied Pushkin’s book etc. He also told us about a performance he (Ivan Liska) danced with Natalia Makarova: When he knocked at the door of her dressing room before the performance to wish her good luck, when he opened the door, he found her putting on her point shoes and at the same time looking at the open book which was placed on her desk. E.M. agreed that Pushkin is a huge source of inspiration, especially for every Russian dancer in this ballet, but also said it was very difficult to find his own Lenski. He even admitted he felt he only found him when he stopped dancing, at the age of 40 – almost 20 years after he had created the role.

One of the most difficult scenes (which was not rehearsed on Sunday) he called in act 2, when Lenski is standing front left (seen from the audience), the playing cards in his hand, Olga is flirting with Onegin, and he has to walk across the whole stage to the other side. There is no choreography, he must neither do too much nor too few, just walk – and express through his body what he is feeling.

First appearance Lenski

At first, Lukas was too wild – „Lenski is a poet!“ – „He doesn’t simply come on stage – with your first steps you tell your whole story.“ – “No poses – not: I’ve done the steps, I have finished” – it’s all fluent between ballet steps, walking and acting (easily told, but so difficult to do…)

Pas de deux

„Contact – with the eyes, even when you are back to back. Lukas – you know that she is there!“

This first pas de deux of Olga and Lenski must tell the audience how much they are in love, how happy they are – and about the character of their love. If it is danced well, it’s all looking easy, happy.

Fare Well Solo

Key Words for Lenski: „Moonlight – Farewell – Floor“

Here E.M. used a lot of very vivid images that still sound in my ear – a few of them were: “The whole variation is one cry.” – “Your body is crying.”

Dancing into the floor – and after the last arabesque: „You are dead now. Empty.” – „You don’t know where to go. It’s all over.”

And all this in such a tricky variation – which must not show any effort, but despair – with soft landings, with long, smooth movements...

General remarks

It’s amazing how fit Egon Madsen is – now 60, but still active with NDT 3 – he showed many parts with an incredible energy! He was good humoured, giving very clear images of how he thought things should be done, clapping on the dancers’ shoulders, but sometimes it was the unspoken that was more important than what he said – I felt he was not (yet) happy with Lukas’ interpretation of Lenski’s character, so it was a tough masterclass, especially for Lukas – and for us, the audience, it gave an impression how hard rehearsals can be. Now we’re looking forward to Barbora’s and Lukas debuts tomorrow (with Maria Eichwald’s debut as Tatiana, partnered by Norbert Graf who has danced Onegin a few times with Elena Pankova.)

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Last year, I saw Onegin both at NDT and ABT. The Lenski at NDT (a young Italian) did a much better job in conveying the sense of being a person and using natural movements than did Corella atABT. In the final solo, I felt Corella was showing us how many pirouettes he could do - not the feelings of a young man about to die in a duel. Thanks Jasper for you report.

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liebs, thanks for your reply! Showing off how many pirouettes one can do is in my opinion about the worst possible approach to the role... :) you don't remember by chance the name of the young Italian, do you?

(By the way, on 4 Nov, another Italian will hopefully dance Lenski in Munich: Alen Bottaini. And I am looking forward a lot to his portrait since he's a fine actor who catches the spirit of roles very well!)

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