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Ballets in Black & White

Ballets in Black & White

In February, the State Ballet of Georgia will tantalise. Czech-born Jiří Kylián’s three one-act ballets – Sechs Tänze, Petite Mort, and Falling Angels – will feature on Kyiv stages

The Black & White series was created by one of the world’s most inventive choreographer’s: in addition to changing the perception of contemporary dance internationally, Jiří Kylián was artistic director of Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) for nearly a quarter century. Showcasing here in Kyiv for the first time, his creations will be complemented by France’s Medhi Walerski’s
Petite Ceremonie.

To learn more, What’s On talks to Nina Ananiashvili, Artistic Director of the State Ballet of Georgia, a world famous ballet dancer who herself has worked with the Bolshoi Ballet, American Ballet Theatre (ABT), and Houston Ballet.

Where did you first see Kylián’s ballets?

I discovered his choreography in Varna where I – a very young student then – took part in a competition. Modern ballets were the most exciting part. A senior group featured Canadian Evelyn Hart who performed Kylián’s incredibly beautiful dances. Extraordinary choreography captivated me once and for good, and I remembered his name. Many years later, when I was working for the Bolshoi Ballet and other theatres as well, we met in Japan, and then at ABT. It was a great pleasure to watch Kylián at work. We made friends. Strikingly, he spoke to me in Russian.

Georgia was the first Post-Soviet country to stage Kylián’s ballets. Why do you think he trusted you with it?

I never danced his ballets either at Bolshoi or at ABT. When I headed the ballet troupe of Tbilisi’s Opera State Theatre in 2004, I started negotiating with Kylián about the possibility to perform his ballets in Georgia. It took me more than two years to convince him. His assistants came over to check if my troupe was up to the task. Kylián’s cautious attitude was justified – in the USSR, we were not taught any contemporary movement and not entitled to dance anything else except the ballets of Petipa and Grigorovich. Once Kylián’s assistants realised we were well prepared, we got his permission. I have a dream that he visits Georgia and sees my troupe for himself. However, he is scared to fly.

Why was staging his ballets so important to you?

At that time, Kylián had already earned world recognition. If a troupe mastered his pieces, it would serve as a quality guarantee. Consequently, our reputation soared. Other choreographers were eager to cooperate with me. The attitude towards us changed, but, above all, my troupe became stronger, more skilled. Real artists should reveal unexpected sides of their personalities. Performing only classical and/or third-rate modern dance leads nowhere. We have very little time to unleash our full potential. High-profile repertoires attract both audiences and amazing masters to the theatre.

What are Kylián’s Black & White ballets?

It was George Balanchine (Ed. one of the most influential 20th century choreographers) who came up with a format of powerful black and white ballets staged under one title. It became fashionable to stylistically combine three-act ballets, as Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky have done. Kylián’s black and white ballets differ from each other in terms of music and choreography. Yet, as they all look so stylish and harmonious their monochrome format does not annoy. One-of-a-kind plasticity enables dancers to express themselves. In Kyiv, we will perform four pieces demonstrating how the world lives. I understand why Kylián’s ballets were never shown here earlier: Ukrainian theaters do not include them in their repertoires and bringing in those who do is expensive.

Anything left to wish for?

Kylián is a genius who raised several generations of artists and choreographers, including Medhi Walerski. NDT is a factory of talents: we maintain friendship with Kylián and NDT’s next generation. He is also known for creating a unique three-stage system for young, mature, and senior dancers. Once I even thought about joining the group past the age of 40 to get a chance to dance his ballets. He only laughed and replied, “No rush Nina, you have a whole life ahead of you.” As I still perform, it may happen yet!

Contemporary Choreographic Masterpieces (CZ, FR, GE)
13, 14 February at 19.00
International Centre of Culture and Arts (Nebesnoi Sotni 1)
250 – 2 100 UAH

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