On November 24, the world premiere of the two-act ballet “The Snow Queen” will take place at the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Musical Theatre. On the eve of the premiere, the artistic director of the ballet troupe and choreographer of the performance Maxim Sevagin told Tatiana Kuznetsova about the role of animation in his plan, how Tchaikovsky's symphonies are combined with children's ballet, why the orchestra rebelled and how its choreography differs from traditional classical choreography.
— “The Snow Queen” is a win-win choice: we have very few children’s ballets, and they are always in demand. But you are too ambitious as an author to limit yourself to a children's audience. What in your performance is intended for adults?
— A fairy tale is not always a children’s genre, if you read the unadapted texts of Perrault and the Brothers Grimm. Sleeping Beauty gave birth to two children while she slept. In Cinderella, the sisters cut off their fingers to fit their foot into a shoe. In principle, fairy tales are very cruel stories. But I think the kids like it. Yes, remember the popular cartoons - “Well, wait a minute!”, “Tom and Jerry”, where the characters’ abs smear into a cake. I am also inspired by animation: how the images of the characters are revealed, how the characters interact, and in what ways they influence the viewer. I thought for a long time, what is the Snow Queen herself in this fairy tale? For me, this was the most difficult image, because it is not revealed at all by Andersen. Well, she appeared, kidnapped Kai, and simply disappeared in her palace.
— She flew to Italy to sprinkle snow on “black holes” - volcanoes. So does Andersen.
- Well, this is strange, don’t you think? No conflict, no fight with Gerda for Kai. Essentially, there is no resolution. In the end, I decided for myself that she is nature itself. It is the very test that we face in life due to external circumstances and from which we need to get out.
— Will it be possible to understand that the Snow Queen is nature itself without reading the libretto? According to the action of the play?
— This is my first experience of writing a libretto. And I would advise you to read it as a kind of fairy tale from me. After all, it doesn’t just list scenes, it is written quite artistically and is a special part of this ballet. We have a beautiful booklet, complex, very artistic, it will have transparent pages...
— What I mean is that nowadays few choreographers know how to stage story ballets - so that without a libretto it is clear what is happening on stage. For a very long time, choreographers were taught that narrative is bad form, that real ballet is pure dance. As a result, choreographers have lost the simplest directing skills: how to bring a character onto the stage, how to act, how to develop the plot in mise-en-scène.
— To be honest, it always seemed to me that I was not a director at all. But I understood many things when I worked with Konstantin Bogomolov on Romeo and Juliet. That is, he opened my eyes to many things. I realized that I shouldn't be afraid of simple techniques. Because the viewer, as a rule, understands simple techniques. And very often the simplest solutions are the most correct. Just don't be afraid of your ideas. And gradually I began to discover some directorial skills in myself. And although drama is not my thing at all, I don’t like watching drama theater, but for the sake of technical techniques I started watching.
— And which directors do you prefer?
— I usually end up at performances by chance - when I’m invited. I went to see the same Bogomolov at the Theater on Malaya Bronnaya, I watched Butusov, Lepage - the Theater of Nations is nearby. “Lefty”, which Didenko did in Maly, is a wonderful work, interesting, although the choreography, of course, is not. Actually, in “The Snow Queen” I wanted to avoid mise-en-scène and pantomime; my task was to dance the entire plot as much as possible.
- Like in the 60s...
— After all, gestures can also be dance, they can be included in the music, they can be contact. It was in this direction that I worked.
- It's clear. This means we can’t do without a libretto. And yet, what will please adults in “The Snow Queen”?
“It seems to me that what children like will also be liked by adults.” There are many bright characters, whom I strive to make as expressive as possible, as different as possible. Plus, the performance is filled with a large number of choreographic special effects. Structural special effects and techniques.
— What kind of choreographic ones are they? Fouettes, great pirouettes?
— No, my choreography is not entirely academic.
- But pointe shoes?
- Yes, but I use many different techniques. And the duets are staged in a very modern way. For this performance I took an assistant - Rinat Khanjyan from the modern troupe Context. His duet dancing skills help me a lot. In my previous works, I came up with all the duet fragments myself in my head. And then he came to the hall and realized that the artists could not do this. We had to redo it, it all took a lot of time. And now the duets turned out the fastest for me. Rinat and I come up with everything in advance and just show it to the artists. I might not have been able to create a two-act play with such speed. The first act, for example, ends with a very long, extended duet of Gerda and Deer.
— So the Deer appears already in the first act? What will happen in the second?
— Expanded grand pas in the Snow Queen's castle for 20 minutes. In total, the second act lasts 45 minutes, and the first is an hour; it has a very high intensity of changing scenes.
— Probably, turnover is achieved through video?
— Video artist Sergei Rylko is doing a great job. Essentially, this is two hours of an animated movie: a slow, smooth change of image within one scene, be it the flower garden of a sorceress or the dark forest of robbers. But the image is non-specific, very symbolic - as if the intertwining branches are moving slightly. Plus, we have modern solutions like a laser cage, where the Robber places first Deer, then Gerda, and then we find ourselves inside the cage. In principle, minimalism in decoration. But there are also material objects that are quite large. For example, in the palace there is a huge birdcage, there is a prince and a princess...
-...they live like in a golden cage. Metaphor, obviously. So, for adults - the second act of the “symphonic dance”. But the music is not for children either: Tchaikovsky’s Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Symphonies. Why did you choose them?
— I was about 15 years old when I began to actively listen to Tchaikovsky’s entire repertoire. And in the first part of the Sixth Symphony I heard the beginning of the plot of “The Snow Queen”. I realized that this is where the trolls come out and break the mirror. Then a bright theme appears - Kaya and Gerda, the beginning of a wonderful life, such friendly love. And then - the ominous theme of the Snow Queen. The second part of the Sixth Symphony is a magical garden of flowers. And then for many years I selected suitable music for the remaining scenes from parts of other symphonies. I had a lot of layout options. I once dreamed of including the tragic final movement of the Sixth Symphony in the ballet. But I realized that its sound did not correspond to the plot of the fairy tale. And in the end, I end the performance very lyrically and melancholy - with the second movement of the Fourth Symphony. This is a duet of Kai and Gerda, who have matured and become simply lovers. That is, they find themselves in the future.
—Who put together all these parts of the symphonies?
- I myself. The layout is entirely mine. And this is also a conceptual story. At some point, I walked past a bookstore and saw the cover of The Snow Queen, on which it was written that it was “a fairy tale in seven tales.” And indeed, each location in which Gerda finds herself is a separate story. And this went well with the music: each part of the symphony is a separate chapter. I have eight of them - with a final duet that is not in the fairy tale.
— How did the musicians react to your arrangement? And what about the conductor, who will have to keep ballet tempos in the symphonies?
— I found records that I liked and began to play on these records. The quality of the orchestra's sound is important to me; I don't even always pay attention to the tempos. And if something seems a little fast to me, I bet anyway - with the expectation that I can play slower. Fedor (conductor Fedor Beznosikov.— "Kommersant") goes to rehearsals all the time. And he immediately said that the notes of Vladimir Yurovsky that I gave were close to him. At first the orchestra rebelled: they generally doubted that they could play it, it was simply very difficult due to their endurance. But in the end, when they completely ran through the performance, everyone realized that it was real: well, they would die, but not completely.
— In such a big ballet, the whole troupe is busy?
— Yes, 60 people, no less. We have three casts for the main parts, and I’m preparing a fourth. Natalya Somova and Erika Mikirticheva are rehearsing The Snow Queen. And another young girl, very promising, Enkhmunkh Oyunbold, she will be on our poster. Gerda practically never leaves the stage; it’s a very difficult part – Ksenia Ryzhkova, Anastasia Limenko, Elena Solomyanko. Our chieftain will be a man - Georgi Smilevski in the first lineup. Kai - Innokenty Yuldashev, Evgeny Zhukov, German Borsai. Deer - it turned out to be a very serious game, with variations, with great duets: Denis Dmitriev, Arthur Mkrtchyan and again German Borsai.
— “The Snow Queen” will compete with another “winter” ballet, “The Nutcracker”?
— We decided that “The Snow Queen” is not a “winter” ballet. There are different seasons there, and it will go on all season. And “The Nutcracker” is beyond competition - all our tickets have already been sold out. The artists can barely make it through this New Year's episode - they start to get sick and get injured. Last year, for the last “Nutcrackers,” we kept almost the same cast. At the beginning of the season, at the beginning of the season, I took 12–13 people into the troupe as a backup.
— In addition to “The Nutcracker,” your repertoire includes other hits by modern Western authors: “Minus 16” by Ohad Naharin, “The Little Death” by Jiri Kylian, “Autodance” by Sharon Eyal. Were you able to renew your licenses?
— Yes, we are constantly extending it, but difficulties also arise. These ballets need to be “cleaned”, quality maintained, new artists introduced. Right now we are trying to get Kilian’s assistant to come and work on A Little Death.
— At the end of the season, will you present a program of new one-act ballets?
— There will be Posokhov’s ballet “Reflections,” I watched many of his performances, and I liked this one the most. It’s very popular, super solemn, and there are a lot of men dancing there - I want to somehow pull the men up, because in our country, compared to good female soloists, men sometimes lose. “Duende” by Nacho Duato will be the second performance. He offered me 150 options, he likes completely different works of his, but this one is very beautiful, to the music of Debussy - my favorite since my studies at the Vaganova Academy. The third was supposed to be a ballet by Marco Goecke, but, unfortunately, due to the scandal, this idea was covered with a copper basin.
— The scandal was when Goeke smeared shit on his beloved dog, ballet critic Wiebke Hüster, when he met her at the Hannover Opera House, where he worked as artistic director?
- Well, yes. She had been persecuting him in her articles even before this story, and now she would have eaten him alive if he had given his ballet to Russia. She immediately raised everyone's ears as soon as she heard that we were going to conclude an agreement. Even Laurent Hilaire in Munich had to push back his project with Goeke. It’s just a disaster: in Europe they are very sensitive to criticism in the press and social networks - and everyone is afraid of this woman.
- And who will be instead of Göke?
— Anastasia Vyadro. I originally planned for her to stage a separate full-length play in heels for girls. But now, in connection with this situation, I decided that the one-act film would be calmer, because this is a crazy experiment in a sense. Vyadro is a choreographer of absolutely modern dance. She is from television, but left there a long time ago, she worked as an actress in immersive shows, and also stages her own plays. This is a super person who inspires confidence, it is so interesting to communicate with her, she has incredible plasticity and energy. So she will complete the summer tri-team instead of Goeke.