A festival dedicated to the anniversary of the career of Vladimir Vasilyev, a world ballet legend, took place at the Voronezh Opera and Ballet Theatre from October 19 to 27. For a week, ballet performances and choreography nights staged by the maestro were held on the stage of the theatre.

Vladimir Vasilyev told the RIA “Voronezh” correspondent about how he liked working in Voronezh, about his attitude to modern choreography and the most important factor in his choice of parts to play.

– Today, the Voronezh Opera and Ballet Theatre is the only one the repertoire of which includes five of your plays. How did it happen? And is your connection to our city really special to you?

– It is always pleasant to go where you’re waited for and loved. And this initiative usually comes from the supervisor. It is exactly was happened to me. In 2006, Director of the Voronezh Opera and Ballet Theatre Igor Nepomnyashchy called me, and his world were so passionate and convincing, that I agreed to come and stage “Cinderella”. With this ballet, the theatre immediately went on a tour to America. The experience turned out to be so successful, that our collaboration continued for the next seven years. And I’ve staged five plays here. I am also thankful to Alexey Vasilyevich Gordeev for his attention to our works and support which is so important in theatre.

– At the Platonov festival in 2013, you hosted a creative workshop which resulted in a modern choreography night based on Andrey Platonov’s works. Tell us how you “tamed” these texts, how you searched for the dance language for embodying them on stage together with young choreographers?

– The idea to stage contemporary plays based on Andrey Platonov’s works was born in Voronezh after watching one of the modern choreography plays of a troupe brought here from France. It was a plotless ballet with an indistinct choreographic performance. I thought: why do we pay so little attention to our local contemporary choreographers, but are always willing to lay a red carpet for anyone “from the outside”? This is why the purpose of that workshop was to attract attention our own talented artists, give them an opportunity to stage something. And not just to stage, but to take great literature which always enriches any type of theatre art. Both certain Platonov’s works and the music for them were picked by the choreographers themselves along with the creation of choreographic texts. I simply guided their aspirations and gave advice from time to time in order for the atmosphere of Platonov’s world and characters to live in their works. That’s the most important thing. I assembled their mini-ballets into a single play, combined them with a text of Platonov himself, made drafts of a multimedia scenographic solution. And judging by the reviews from viewers and critics, we had succeeded. Platonov was given a life in the modern ballet plastique.

– Today, the contemporary dance (modern onstage dance based on improvisation, moves adopted from jazz dance, yoga, and eastern martial arts – RIA “Voronezh”) is gaining great popularity. The young choreographers in your art workshops also work with this style rather than classical ballet. What is your attitude to this trend? Have you thought of staging a play in the contemporary style?

– I’ve seen a lot of contemporary in my life both in America and Europe. After all, it started a long time ago, not just recently. I’ve seen amazing examples of this style and not so good ones. Contemporary is one of the variety of trends in modern dancing, neither better nor worse than others. I like it when it is finely done. But, to tell the truth, I don’t see it very often. I don’t like gibberish. But this style is often used as a representation of some strange “stream of consciousness” which claims to be incomprehensible to mere mortals at that. Just like André Maurois wrote: “Have you seen a river flow?” If anyone hasn’t read his story “The Birth of a Master” – I advise you to. You’ll immediately understand a lot about many pieces of contemporary art. As for my own art, it’s just not my style.

– A dance troupe was recently created in the Voronezh Chamber Theatre. Have you seen its plays? What do you generally think about a contemporary dance troupe created under the roof of a drama theatre instead of a music one?

– I haven’t seen the new dance troupe of the Chamber Theatre. But I’m all in favor for dance to appear everywhere, under any roof. Of course, it is important what and they do how, what they do it for. It is great if dancing is being included in drama plays. At a certain point, I was the initiator of a rhythmics class at the Lenkom Theatre after I staged the whole choreography for famous musical Juno and Avos directed by Mark Zakharov. I remember how interesting it was to work with incredibly flexible Nikolai Karachentsov and Alexander Abdulov. In fact, nowadays many artists of the Lenkom can dance. It really helps on stage and provides more opportunities in staging modern plays.

– What do you suppose are the development prospects of classical ballet in Russia? Is it a dying art gradually giving place to more up-to-date things or an everlasting classic which will never disappear?

– I am no foreteller, of course, but I’ve already said many times that, to my mind, the reason a classic is called a classic is that it is for all time and for everybody. It is an elite art in the sense that not everyone can do it unlike, for example, the more egalitarian contemporary dance. The classic dance has strict requirements for the performer, his abilities and technique.

– Opera and ballet artists often say that a part to them is not a role but a set of technical characteristics since it is musical theatre and not drama with its deep character development. Do you agree with that?

– All great artists, both in opera and ballet, that I have seen in my lifetime – and I’ve seen quite a few – were notable not only because of their magnificent mastery of voice or physical abilities, but also because of their great acting skills onstage. Without a character there is no art, only exercises. A technique is necessary basics a major artist must have complete mastery of, but creating an artistic image, a character is the point of the craft of any actor. This is exactly what I’m trying to teach those who are willing to listen.

– You are often asked about the parts which have become your favorites or significant to you, and you always respond that there were too many of them to distinguish just one. Maybe there were parts you best remember for, on the contrary, not being “your thing”, ones that you couldn’t make a go of, couldn’t “tame”? What were they and why did they turn out to be this way?

– In my life of a ballet artist there were many parts I cherish: heroic ones, lyrical ones, comic and tragic ones. But as a young man I had too much energy boiling in me, my emotions often went ebullient. So it wasn’t that interesting to me to dance just for the sake of dancing, for the beauty of pure lines. Among such parts were, for example, the Young Man in La Sylphide, the Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty. This conditionality weighed me down, I crave life, I wanted to play parts with something to play as an actor, with a character. Even as a student I thought I would be a character dancer – this is how much I loved such roles. But meeting great classic dance masters – Ulanova, Yermolaev – made me turn to the classic. It was my teachers who taught me to look for my own solution to a character in any part. You just need to be able to find such features and nuances to breathe life into them and to add personality to any character. I guess, this is why all my characters were in some way different from the way they were played by other artists.

– What is more interesting to you – perform onstage as an artist or work as a choreographer?

– To me, the work of a choreographer is an extension of my artistic life onstage. Even when I used to dance myself, I never did exactly what other did before me – I always came up with something new. Such an example is my part of Basilio in Don Quixote which I’ve added many new things to, and now this version is considered canonical all over the world. And I’ve always offered some of my own versions of the dance when working with almost all choreographers. Even as I create a dance, I always start with visualizing the way I would do it myself, and only after that I apply it other artists. And then it becomes clear whether it suits a certain artist or something else needs to be done. So these two lines of work, an artist and a choreographer, are inseparable to me - and both are precious and interesting.