This is a sensation for three reasons. The independent production company MusArts presents Olga Smirnova, Vyacheslav Lopatin and other Bolshoi stars on their home stage; the project was nominated for the Golden Mask as the best ballet of the year; choreography was choreographed by Sidi Larbi Sherkawi, Alexei Ratmansky, Wayne McGregor, Paul Lightfoot and Sol Leon – the main icons of contemporary choreography. RG spoke with the winner of two Laurence Olivier awards and other prestigious awards, Sidi Larbi Sherkawi, about his ways of seeing the world and about Russian artists.
The POSTSCRIPT project is a collection of the best opuses by contemporary choreographers, and only your “Faun” has a historical reference, and even to the Russian Ballet by Sergei Diaghilev.
Sidi Larbi Sherkawi: I really liked Debussy’s pulling music. I asked the composer Nitin Sonya to dilute it with his own fragments in order to slide from one time to another, from the layer of culture of a century ago to today – so the trail of Vaslav Nijinsky’s creation to the music of Debussy does not interfere with the modern viewer. Of course, I was inspired by Nijinsky, I read a lot about him, I thought how difficult it was for him to keep in himself an artist who was so openly related to the world. I directed Faun to celebrate the centenary of Diaghilev’s Russian Ballets at the Sadler’s Wells Theater in London.
In the Bolshoi, “Faun” was presented three seasons ago at the “A Play for Him” evening, and the artists were the same – Vyacheslav Lopatin and Anastasia Stashkevich.
Sidi Larbi Sherkawi: I was happy to work with them. They are very musical, and this quality is especially important with the magic of this music. Moreover, we did not talk much about technique – they are very technical, rather about how to keep balance or conserve energy. And of course there was no need to tell who the faun was.
In my opinion, this couple simply blows up the space with their energy, and against the background of their constant repertoire – mostly academic, with smoothed emotions – this effect is unique.
Sidi Larbi Sherkawi: Yes, I hope this story is electrifying. Both Faun and Nymph do nothing frank, but there is a powerful bond between them. People today are desperately shy about their sensitivity, sensuality, sexuality, this is something like a taboo topic. And it was important for me to understand how contemporary dancers relate to her. Through the “natural” mythology of a half-man-half-animal faun, I wanted to bring sensitivity not as a provocation, but as a magical principle, endless and eternal energy. Together with the magic of music, it is felt like a smell, like water. And since we talk about it through dance – as a transformation of form. The finished form is not mine, I wonder how it changes in different cultures and at different times. It is interesting for me to connect different themes and traditions, to show exactly the process of transition from one to another. With Faun, this is perfectly visible – each artist works in a different way, brings something in and transforms. They are sometimes like clouds, and sometimes like awakened children.
You started talking about the combination of different cultures long before the topic became fashionable. At a superficial glance, this is due to the origin of the semi-Moroccan-semi-Belgian. But I drew a different line: you were educated by Anne Theresa de Keersmaker, and she by Maurice Béjart. Unlike academic ballet, contemporary dance is much calmer about the topic of “who studied with whom”, but in any case, you are Bejart’s grandson in your profession. But it was he who first spoke loudly about the narrowness of ballet Eurocentrism and about the sacredness hidden in the East. How do you like this pedigree?
Sidi Larbi Sherkawi: Very impressive, but I’m a different generation and a different style. I came from modern dance and am always looking for other ways, but I have nothing against academics. It’s just that when you get older and see more, wider, deeper, it is more interesting to work with different spheres. For choreography, I am looking for resources in yoga, in qigong practices, and I am really curious about that (the play “Sutra” staged by Sidi Larbi Sherkawi, Anthony Gormley and monks from the Shaolin Monastery was shown several times in Russia – “RG”). Different experiences and openness allow you to feel the performance and be precise. It’s generally great to mix styles in your own logic.
Moreover, you are ideally involved in the given circumstances – I mean “The Nutcracker” by Dmitry Chernyakov at the Paris Opera, where you composed a dance among the hypertrophied toys of the Soviet era.
Sidi Larbi Sherkawi: I’m glad when you can play in different ways, maybe this is a way to control life. And Dmitry is amazing, it was very interesting for me to work with him. Specifically! We collided, he said something to me, I – to the dancers, in the end something added up to a picture. I would love to work with him again.
But you are leaving the Royal Ballet of Flanders to lead the Bolshoi Theater in Geneva with a bunch of personal projects, and, frankly, there are not many chances for performances in Russia.
Sidi Larbi Sherkawi: Well, I have known this city since my youth, I hope it will be easy for them with me. And this does not mean that I will not be able to work with Russian artists. By the way, Yuri Grigorovich, who is now 95 years old, was kind to me and allowed me to perform his “Spartacus” at the Royal Ballet of Flanders, and in my company Eastman I was able to work with Natalia Osipova from the Royal Ballet Covent Garden. She is a real artist, rehearsing maniacally all the time, fighting for the best, I love her very much. It turns out that I worked with many from Russia and it was always interesting for me. So it may very well be.