Over 100 young dancers from the various summer ballet programmes which begin in mid-August, join international ballet stars, including Myriam Ould-Braham and István Simon. I caught up with them during their preparations for scenes from Swan Lake and Giselle.
Myriam Ould-Braham – Well, some five years ago I was quite fortunate to dance Paquita at the Bolshoi with Nicolay Tsiskaridze, in Vladimir Vasiliev's version, but it's rare. Now I'm going to dance with István for the first time, here in Barcelona.
It is a wonderful experience, because it means meeting a new person and exchanging ideas and experience: we must agree on which pas de deux to dance, which version, which music.
GS – Did you decide on that in Barcelona?
MO-B – István came to the Paris Opera at the end of June so that we could rehearse together between company rehearsals. We only met twice to fix everything so, needless to say, we had to be very efficient and get to the essential points right away.
István Simon – It is amazing to work with Myriam. She such a wonderful ballerina, full of passion. I'm dancing Albrecht and Siegfried with her.
GS – You dance Giselle and Swan Lake a lot – what attracts you to these ballets?
IS – These stories show why one should be faithful and true to what they love. Both ballets are perfectly structured compositions of symbols that reflect on human nature and behaviour.
GS – You both have had a very different routes in ballet – István training at the Hungarian Dance Academy, and dancing as a Principal Dancer with the Dortmund and Dresden companies as well as the Hungarian National Ballet, whereas Myriam, you finished your training at the Paris Opera Ballet School rose through the ranks of the main company.
MO-B – As a little girl, dancing at the Palais Garnier, the Paris Opera House, was just a dream. I was appointed Étoile five years ago after a performance at the Opera Garnier and the same passion that had been driving me increased tenfold – at every moment and for every role it is there. Passion drives me on and helps me to cope in more difficult times.
GS – István, you've recently been dancing with another Paris Opera Ballet Étoile, Dorothée Gilbert.
IS – Yes, we danced Giselle and Manon together. On 25 September we will dance Giselle again, this time at the Kremlin Theatre in Moscow and after that in Vienna. I love the Paris Opera Ballet. It is always so exciting to be there and a wonderful pleasure to work with amazing ballerinas in a building with such an immense cultural heritage.
GS – Unlike Myriam, you are no longer tied to one theatre, as many people must be aware. What's it like being a freelancer?
IS – One of the great advantages is that I have a lot of freedom in many aspects, though a disadvantage is that I'm often far from home and can't always be with my family.
GS – So what's coming up next on your global travels?
IS – There are several big projects. I am working with Anreas Heise on a production of Schubert's Winterreise in cooperation with the pianist Alexander Krichel and Juliane Banse, the soprano. Besides dancing with various companies, I am participating on festivals and galas – a new partnership is on the way. I am also going to start to work with Anna Tikhomirova, the Bolshoi First Soloist, at the end of September.
GS – Myriam, how much opportunity do you get to leave your ‘gilded cage' in Paris and experience other theatres and companies?
MO-B – I've had the opportunity to perform in some famous ballets from the classic repertoire for other companies abroad, especially Sleeping Beauty, Paquita and recently Don Quixote in Tokyo. It is always a rewarding experience on a human level, and also challenging, pushing to surpass oneself, dancing with a new company and memorising a new version in a very short period of time, and often dancing it on the other side of the world.
GS – Barcelona is a little closer to home.
MO-B – Yes. The two extracts that I will dance with István are two great roles from the classic repertoire.
Giselle illustrates purity, the romantic ballet par excellence, and Swan Lake is magnified by the score of the Russian composer Tchaikovsky, the ballet tells the story of thwarted love between a swan princess and a human prince. In both extracts I must create the illusion that I have become a spirit, an ethereal being. For Giselle, it's abstract and immaterial, and for the white swan I must give the illusion of being a fragile character, in love with Siegfried but a prisoner of Prince Rothbart. Impossible, doomed love.
These are the most beautiful roles, as far as I'm concerned!
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.