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All the world’s a stage


The renowned Belarusian choreographer Valentin Yelizariev is presenting a new version of Spartacus ballet by Aram Khachaturian that was first staged in Minsk in 1980. The production will be played on October 31 at Belarus’ Bolshoi Theater, opening the celebrations of the choreographer’s 70th anniversary. where Minsk talked to Valentin Yelizariev on the eve of this fabulous revival.

— How much has Spartacus changed and why have you decided to revive the production?

— Performances, as living beings, have their birth dates, peaks and periods of decline. Spartacus has been on the theatre’s repertoire for 37 years. It was created by a remarkable team including conductor Yaroslav Voshchak and artist Yevgeny Lysik. Composer Aram Khachaturian made a special version for the Belarusian theater. Do you know how it appeared? Yevgeny Lysik, the scenographer, and I, the author of the libretto and choreography, came to Moscow to meet the composer, one of the most famous Soviet musicians, a legendary man holding numerous awards, already an elderly person. Khachaturian met us with caution. We told him about our vision of the ballet on the Minsk stage and asked him to make a special version of his music to fit our idea. He answered immediately: “No, I will not make another version!” However, we did not give up and explained him in detail which characters would remain and which ones would appear. Apparently, our perseverance melted his heart. After thinking for a while he pulled out two bottles of Armenian cognac, put them on the table, and we spent a wonderful night fantasizing about a new Spartacus. He prepared a special version for our theater and was even going to conduct during the first night, but it did not work out. This ballet has lived a glorious life, we have shown it in more than twenty countries. I staged it abroad three times: in Japan, Turkey and Egypt. However, now the production needs updating. We need to revise costumes and decorations as well as some scenes. I want to breathe a new life into it and to prepare performers who will receive the information firsthand, which is extremely important.

— According to many art critics, male dance has always been very powerful in the Belarusian ballet while in Spartacus it seems to reach its pinnacle.

— In the 18th-19th centuries, women ‘reigned’ in ballet throughout the world. In the 20th century, men began to dance on par with ladies in terms of exercise. So far, this trend continues. In the Belarusian theater’s repertoire there is much men’s dance: we have many interesting men’s parties in various performances, including in Spartacus. I worked with men a lot and, without false modesty, contributed in the male dance development. However, it is women who have always inspired me. You can convey much more through female characters than through male ones.

— Do you think that contemporary ballet resembles sport in a way?

— Being a ballet dancer implies significant physical exertion for both men and women. Indeed, the line between ballet and sport is very vague today. Why? I believe that some ballet performances lack spirituality which is the most important thing in ballet and in art in general.

— What is your attitude towards contemporary dance and modernism?

— The meaning of ‘modernism’ is quite prosaic - ‘new’. One famous choreographer of the past defined classical dance as dance in pointe shoes. Modernism denies dance in pointe shoes. Unfortunately, there are few major modernist performances. Most often, it is just ordinary miniatures. I support everything new if it is performed in a talented way, and I think that all the best that exists in folk, classical and modern dance should be on the surface. I do not build my life on the denial of something, I believe that interpenetration of all choreographic genres enriches each of them. 

— Is drama of interest to you?

— I try to go to see all premieres in Minsk. I think that Gorky theater is a very intelligent one. I really like our Philharmonic, they host performances by amazing collectives, soloists, musicians. I am one of those spectators who treat this venue with great respect. Also, I like the TeArt festival. This year I’m looking forward to seeing a performance by Angelin Preljocaj, an Albanian of French descent. I would say that any talented work in the field of choreography is of interest to me. 

Date: 10/11/2017


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