Of Love and Dance

Amrita Prasad
Thursday, 15 March 2018

Director and producer of Russian Ballet Swan Lake, Anatoliy Kazatskiy talks about how the 100-year-old work continues to charm the audience.

Unless you have been living under a rock, you must have seen or at least heard of the much-acclaimed Hollywood film Black Swan starring Natalie Portman. But how many know what was the inspiration behind this cult film? 

The plot of the film revolves around Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Ballet. Swan Lake is the most beloved and quintessential classical ballet, a timeless story of good versus evil. From the first yearning bars of Tchaikovsky’s score, it transports you to another world, with its bewitched swan queen, doomed prince, glittering villainess and drifts of white tutus. Beautifully crafted and sensually romantic — it’s simply stunning. 

The twinned role of the radiant white swan and the crafty and deceitful black swan tests the full range of a ballerina’s powers. Adored by audiences for over a 100 years, Swan Lake is the most famous ballet in the world. Following the resounding success of Swan Lake’s Indian premiere in September 2017 in Delhi, Navrasa Duende has brought Swan Lake ballet to Mumbai where a set of 15 shows are being held at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) Auditorium, Mumbai till March 25.

Swan Lake Ballet is being choreographed by Vladmir Troschenko while the young troupe is bringing alive the spectrum of emotions that Tchaikovsky’s musical score is famous for. It has been directed by Anatoliy Kazatskiy, who is one of the leading soloists of the Royal Russian Ballet and Kharkov National Academic Opera and ballet theatre.
Excerpts from an interaction with Kazatskiy:

What is it about ballets that continues to wow audience despite there being so many other avenues of entertainment?
The appearance of themes and elements from classic ballet in popular culture and movies has helped greatly in intensifying the curiosity around this dance form among the younger audiences. Older generations, already acquainted with ballet, continue to extend their patronage towards this art form. It is extremely important that younger audiences learn to appreciate, and support the classical performing arts. In the recent past, ballet companies around the world have managed to reach new audiences by constantly reinventing the way they tell these popular stories. 

Swan Lake Ballet was composed in 1875 and since then it has continued to rule hearts all over the world. Why do you think it has become such an everlasting and iconic ballets of all times? 
Swan Lake has survived the test of time for a simple reason. If well-executed, it’s a magnificent dramatic story with several layers. The many different states of mind of the characters, as well as the powerful, emotional moments make it an almost cinematic experience. Swan Lake, at its very core, explores themes related to love, the conflict between good and evil, and the freedom to choose who you love — all of which are extremely relevant in the modern world. Everyone who sees the ballet has their own interpretation of the play and try to find some hidden meaning in the story that they relate most strongly to. 

Over the century, have there been changes in the direction, production, execution, set and the music etc made in Swan Lake?  
Throughout the long and complex performance history of Swan Lake, the 1895 edition of Petipa, Ivanov, Riccardo Drigo has served as the basis for productions through the decades till the present. Nearly every ballet master or choreographer who has recreated Swan Lake, has sought to make changes to the ballet’s plot points, while still maintaining to a considerable extent the traditional choreography for the dances, which is regarded as virtually sacrosanct. Likewise, over time the role of Siegfried has become far more prominent, largely due to the evolution of ballet technique and the increasing significance of male characters and dancers in the modern ballet styles.

How does the production differ while showcasing the ballet in different parts of the world?
We do not make any changes. We follow the structure and choreography of Petipa-Ivanov revival from 1895, except for a few minor changes, when necessary. On the other hand, we usually try to make some changes to the costumes and set decorations depending on the audience we are performing for.

The ballet has been conceived by Tchaikovsky, however, we want to know how did you perceive each character differently from how they were originally imagined? 
One of the primary thoughts in my mind when directing a classic like Swan Lake is that there is a huge responsibility to ensure a performance that does full justice to the genius of Tchaikovsky. I try my best to combine my aesthetic sensibilities, making sure that the sublime essence of Tchaikovsky’s original piece and the choreography are intact.

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