Jan 302015

Zvetlana Zakharova and Makhail Lobukhin in Le Corsaire

Culture connects people, and it is a thread which can’t be broken by political tensions. When the Malaysia Airlines Boeing was shot down over the Ukraine last year I was on tour with the Bolshoi in New York. I watched the news and listened to the comments by American politicians about Russia and, frankly, it was scary. Every day we were expecting problems at the Lincoln Center; after all the Bolshoi Theatre is a symbol of Russia. But nothing happened. In fact, the American public enthusiastically welcomed the Russian artists, and the run was sold out. After Spartacus, we received a 20-minute standing ovation! It’s worth a lot and says a lot.

Svetlana Zakharova was talking to the Russian weekly Argumenty I Fakty (AIF) after the surprising decision by the Kiev Ballet School to refuse the money raised by Zakharova and colleagues in a ballet gala at the Bolshoi last month.

They said that I support the policies of Vladimir Putin and therefore my help wasn’t wanted. It was unexpected, and even strange, because apart from me in the gala there were many European artists from the best theatres of the world with different political views. All they wanted to do was help the children of the Kiev school. Politics was not mentioned and we even called the evening Ballet Without Borders!

Zakharova decided to raise money after returning to Kiev to dance with Sergei Polunin. The evening before the performance they visited their old school, the Kiev Ballet Academy.

When we entered the building our hearts started pounding… there was the same smell, the same walls. Nothing had changed in the years since we’d left. They told us that in the winter there was a lack of heating and cold drafts came from the windows. Part of the roof was crumbling and rain entered the building.
…continue reading.

Jan 272015

Museo Teatrale cr Martiradonna (2)One of the most important music and theatre museums in the world will see its visitors increase exponentially from May of this year. La Scala’s Museum attracts around a quarter of a million visitors a year, but with more than twenty million people expected to attend Milan’s Expo, a good many will find their way to the city centre and to one of the world’s greatest theatres.

The opera and ballet season for the May to October period is ambitious, but the Museum – which is housed inside La Scala’s main building – will be offering special events too. One of these is to facilitate access for disabled visitors. The Accessibility Project is starting now and aims to be at the forefront of innovation among Italian museums for making this period structure accessible to all.

Alexander Pereira, the theatre’s General Manager and Artistic Director, said,

The Museum is considered to be one of the essential destinations for visitors to Milan. For this reason, and to celebrate Expo 2015, in addition to the permanent exhibition and the temporary exhibits that are dedicated from Salvatore Fiume, to Turandot at La Scala, to food in opera and to ballet, we have developed a series of exceptional initiatives: guided tours with chamber concerts, tableau-vivants dedicated to food, a photography contest and the restoration of two fortepianos belonging to Giuseppe Verdi. …continue reading.

Jan 252015

expo_milano_milan_2015_logoThe Milan Expo opens its doors to the world on 1 May 2015, and the plan was that La Scala too would be open for a Turandot under the baton of Riccardo Chailly However the unions have stated that the theatre’s staff should not be expected to work on the workers’ holiday… though I bet hotel workers will be looking after guests, and restaurants with will be welcoming diners. Theatre workers – according to Gramilano – know that they have to work when others are out of the office, otherwise theatres would be empty, wouldn’t they?

It’s not as though they will not be rewarded for their efforts. The technical and administrative staff would receive double pay, and the orchestra and chorus 140% extra. However, the Cgil, one of the biggest unions, are not having it, even though almost 95% of the musicians have signed a petition saying that they are in favour of performing.

Now the government has intervened, with the Culture Minister, Dario Franceschini, saying,

Seeing the importance of the event and the international attention it will receive, it seems important that the theatre is open on 1 May: we need to find the right balance for all the parties involved. …continue reading.

Jan 232015

Svetlana Zakharova

Svetlana Zakharova knows that a lot of jealousy surrounds her but she’s fought for her rightful position in the dance world since she was a child:

It was a tough struggle at the Vaganova Academy. I was ten, and several times I just wanted to leave everything to return home to my family. This does not mean that the world of dance is the one portrayed in the movie Black Swan, which I’d always avoided until I happened to see it on a plane en route to the United States.

No Black Swan episodes in Zakharova’s career then?

Well, one day at the Bolshoi, I found my costume cut in half, a minute before I had to go on stage. I remember how the wardrobe mistress’ hands were trembling as she tried to repair it seconds before I had to enter. I never found out who was the culprit. There is much invidiousness around me, but I try to not let such people get too close, and just ignore it.

Would she like to make a film?

I love the cinema. I love the stories of Kings and Queens… lately I watched Doctor Zhivago again and it was electrifying. However, just as I like the idea of making my début as an actress, right now I can’t afford to leave dance for a long period of time. Ballet is all-encompassing and demands self-denial. How many sacrifices… even food! I feed myself with vitamins, my diet is my job. Dance is my life.

…continue reading.

Jan 182015

Paul Seaquist

Paul Seaquist is a ballet impresario, which conjures up an image of a Diaghilev figure with a fur-collared coat and silver-topped cane. However, Seaquist is quite different physically: a recent television interview saw him in jeans and a V-neck T-shirt, and he’s quite a bit thinner, and certainly better looking, than the Russian impresario. His thinking is modern too:

I often think of Steve Jobs who, as a computer freak, didn’t only place his bets on one slot, he diversified. He understood things most of us can barely fathom – especially in the ballet world! – and by doing this he didn’t only revolutionise the computer industry, but the movie industry, the music industry, the mobile telephone industry, just to mention a few. This is the kind of leader the dance world needs: people who think outside the box.

What does ‘thinking outside the box’ actually mean for a ballet impresario?

Thinking outside the box is what makes something good become perfect… …continue reading.