On February 12th and 13th there was an event held in the Palace of Culture Lensoveta which is likely to get into newspapers and articles a century later in the same manner like today they write about well-known “Diaghilev’s Russian Ballet”. We are speaking about a non-repertory company by Irina Chistyakova.
The admirers of Terpsichore don’t need Irina Chistyakova to be introduced. She wasn’t just only one of the leading ballerinas of Russia and Saint-Petersburg but also a bright talented energetic person, though in the Mariinsky Theatre, she got determined to revive the Russian Seasons which hadn’t been on stage for almost a century by that time and which had brought Russian art a great success.
As far as I remember myself, - Irina Chistyakova says, - and my memories date back to when I was four, the only wish I had at that time was to represent something, to dream up something to the music. It amused everybody around a lot, but no one took it seriously until when I was six years old and I started missing my English lessons in one of the Palaces of Culture and spent all that time standing by the doors of choreographic hall and then inside when people got used to me being there. I was found out with all my adventures shortly afterwards. It became clear that wherever I went - I would end up being there where the dance was. At that time children under seven years didn’t use to be taken to choreographic groups. But being impressed by my respectful interest to the dance the choreographer decided to do an experiment and to open a group for six-year-olds. That was how I got into ballet. And since then all my life has been devoted to dance: to college, to theatre, competitions, rehearsals. I was preparing for the performances, sometimes cried, sometimes felt glad and so on…
- Irina, please sorry for a bit unusual question but what is the saddest for you in your profession?
- I think it is the fact that everything is decided for you - what you will dance and what you will not. And if ballet isn’t just a job, it isn’t just a way how to earn money for a living, then it is very difficult for a dancer. So you’ve come over sufferings, you’ve worked out something and want to show it to the spectators but the ballet-master says: «It is not interesting. I see you different, the way I want you to dance and nothing else is to be added». Unfortunately it is one of the rules for all theatre companies. It is so rare to find such a ballet-master or a director who is into doing experiments and it is even rarer to work with the one who listens to others, lets actors prove themselves, even though at first sight it looks as if nothing will work out because a usual line of a character for this actor is really far from what’s meant to be in the intended role. It is the way how Mikhail Schweitzer saw Mozart in Valeri Zolotukhin as well as he saw Don Juan and Fon Koren in Vladimir Vysotsky.- Are these problems common for other actors too?
- At first there were evening with actors held outside the theatre stage which had to be agreed with the director as well, but then we wanted something more interesting. There added one more reason - one day young and talented actors started a tendency to leave the theatre because thy disagreed with the policy of dictate. They took their own ways and spread all over the world and I tried to invite them for my evenings and every actor brought the most valuable for them and tried to show it on stage. That was how we came up with an idea to unite all graduates of our Vaganova Academy even those who emigrated because they gained such a rich experience that we lacked for.
- Irina, as far as we know, at the beginning of the century there already existed Diaghilev Non-Repertory Theatre which was a breakthrough of Russian art to the West. What you created carries the name «The Non-Repertory Theatre by Irina Chistyakova»; the analogy is obvious.
- The full flowering of Diaghilev Non-Repertory Theatre was in 1902-1909. Ninety years have passed since then. I felt so pity that no one is reviving this idea because it is a wonderful idea! It is much wider than just a union of ballet actors. I have so many acquaintances, interesting people who are into art, design, costume design, art photography. I constantly happen to work with great conductors, musicians, composers and many of them are not famous to the vast audience. Our idea is there to unite all those people connected to art and give them an opportunity to fulfill their potential.- I can’t clearly understand how exactly to put in all to practice.
- It is pretty simple. The majority of the spectators arrive to the theatre in some time for the performance. So this time could be used for observing the interiors, but not all of them are like in Mariinsky. Believe me, people would be interested in attending an art exhibition, getting acquainted with the works of fashion designers, listening to good music… and what about ballet photography?! It is such a rarity for us so you can imagine how interesting it would be for the spectators to look through the photographs of their favorite ballet dancer and buy them. And what if this person has an opportunity to get an autograph at the same time? It will be such a great memorabilia for years! That is the idea.
- … so this is a non-repertory theatre with your name?
- My name it is to some extend a visiting card, but there is the second name for it - «The Russian Seasons XXI», this is a look into the future, into the twenty-first century.
- It says in your show bills that apart from the extracts from the famous ballets you are going to present choreographic miniatures of the modern ballet-masters…
- There are a lot of really great works staged at the conservatory and generally speaking presented as qualification works for the exams, but they are never seen by the vast audience though our leading ballet dancers take part in them. So they just remain performances of one-time only. But we want them to live on.
- Irina, you just mentioned «the leading ballet dancers», don’t you think that these days people aren’t going to the theatre to see one or another particular dancer in different roles?
- You are right to some extend. It seems to me that everything which is early ripe is as a rule short-life. The real art takes time. Of course ballet is the art for the youth but it has «a golden age» too when a required mastery is gained. I’m in favor of the youth, but if you want to give something, you owe to have it first. Sometimes I feel pity when I see a young girl from the college. Yes, she’s very talented and very beautiful but she’s not ready yet for working under emotional press and not ready for the physical exertion required for the leading roles.
I feel pity for her, for the spectators and for the ballet too. Recently I have seen the program of Maksimova and Vasilyev. When you see their dance you feel such a relax, such a great emotional and esthetic pleasure, hard work isn’t seen at all! Everything is so light, so gracious and natural! That is a secret of ballet mastery - the audience should go to the theatre to get this pleasure but not to think if her dancing elements are performed correctly or not.- Does it mean that in the Non-Repevrotor Theater by Irina Chistyakova the roles will only be given to those actors who are completely ready for them?
- I want to give an opportunity to everyone who needs it. Life is not always fair which is so true for so many great actresses, maybe life is so unfair to them like to no one else! They need to be given their second chance and to prove themselves in their best works which could be shown on stage. The spectators in Saint-Petersburg are so grateful, so loving. But we can know if it was done at a high level only post factum, sometimes within a few years.
- It appears that you’ve remembered something from your own experience?
- Yes, there dramatic and interesting things happen. As I remember it now, once we were in London and right before the performance I found an armful, no, it was a whole bush of roses on my table. There was a note attached. At first I thought it wasn’t for me. But it turned out that one man had attended my performance many years before that and still remembered it. Such things are worth working for.
- Did you get to know with that man who sent a million of roses?
- Sure, we met. Such people help you understand the importance of what you do. We to some extend go overboard of commonness, give an opportunity to switch off the reality with all its everyday problems and unpleasant routines or sad situation in life.
- Irina, may I ask a traditional question? Which role you treasure the most and why?
- I’ve always lacked for dramatic roles during all my professional career. I’ve always been seen in absolutely classical, dilute, meaningless comic roles. I’ve danced in «Don Quixote», «Le Corsaire», «The Hussar Ballad». The ballet master saw a she devil in me but not a romantic and tragic actress. But I wanted to create a role showing high, strong emotions. That is why I danced Esmeralda in «Notre Dame de Paris», but my favorite role is Giselle. That’s where I could show a life path of a heroine from a simple, naive, impressive girl becoming a woman who was sharing her heart with great, feminine all forgiving love, the love that conquered death itself. You get an amazing emotional charge.
- Sometimes it is said that you don’t need any emotions for ballet, the most important is to master the choreographic technics!
- Then it is better to attend the gym and see free calisthenics, there you can see more advanced technical achievements. The West was impressed by the Russian Ballet just because they tend to represent that technical performance and it is not common to put a focus on emotions and if so all emotions would be «put in feet». On the contrary to it our non-repertory theatre had been creating great emotional roles which led to such a great furore. It was due to soft, less obvious romantic aura connected to thoroughly hidden but truly existing soul string in each individual person. And Paris got conquered.