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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

A jewel of neoclassical ballet

The title that the Teatro Colón Ballet had announced for September was La Fille Mal Gardée, a charming ballet-comedy by the English choreographer Frederick Ashton. But was replaced by Oneginby John Cranko, a work that has been part of the repertoire of the Ballet del Colón for many years, but that as of 2016 had not been revived.

To do so, he was invited as a repositor Thierry Michael, who was born in France, but developed a very important career as a dancer and teacher at the Stuttgart Ballet. He is also a fine connoisseur of the work.

wonderful news: Onegin It is one of the most extraordinary works of the neoclassical trend of the 20th century. and his absence was already felt on the stage of the Colón.

Thierry Michel, the French choreographer is a great connoisseur of "Oneguin" and its creator, John Cranko.  Photo Juan Manuel Foglia

Thierry Michel, the French choreographer is a great connoisseur of “Oneguin” and its creator, John Cranko. Photo Juan Manuel Foglia

A little history

The great creator John Cranko (1927-1973), of British origin, was born in South Africa and did his first dance training there. He began composing works at a very young age and staging them for prestigious international companies.

In 1961 he was appointed director of the Stuttgart Balletand gave such a decisive impetus – not only to the company but to the country’s ballet – that later it will be said of him that he achieved the “miracle of German ballet”.

Onegin It is based on the novel in verse Yevgeny Onegin of Alexander Pushkin and account a romantic story with a dramatic ending: the young Tatiana, who belongs to a wealthy family from the provinces, falls in love with the enigmatic Onegin, who visits the country house of this family accompanied by his friend Lensky.

This young poet arrives there to see his girlfriend Olga, Tatiana’s sister. Olga will be the involuntary trigger of a tragedy. Tatiana’s naive love is coldly rebuffed by the cynical and sophisticated Onegin and when they meet again years later, Tatiana is already married to Prince Gremin. Onegin, now in love with her, begs her to run away with him but it is too late.

One of the "Oneguin" rehearsals, with Thierry Michel, the stockist, from behind.  Photo Máximo Parpagnoli/Colón Theater

One of the “Oneguin” rehearsals, with Thierry Michel, the stockist, from behind. Photo Máximo Parpagnoli/Colón Theater

Agneta and Victor Valcu were, from the first time, the official repositories of Onegin in the Columbus, always very loved by the dancers of the Theater thanks to their wise knowledge of the work, its depth and its subtleties. Now it is Thierry Michel who is in charge.

The following interview was held with him; in it he comments on very interesting aspects about “Oneguin” and how to interpret it.

Michel, admirer of Cranko

“Unfortunately, I did not meet Cranko –this is how Michel begins the talk-. I started dancing around the time he died, in 1973, and I was 12 years old. But then I met practically all the people who collaborated with him”.

Thierry MIchel, enjoying the Teatro Colón.  Photo Juan Manuel Foglia

Thierry MIchel, enjoying the Teatro Colón. Photo Juan Manuel Foglia

-And what did you learn through them?

-That he worked in a very unique way. For example, she would come to the rehearsal room, set up the pas de deux of the third act in barely an hour and he was leaving. He had already set up like a skeleton of the work to be sure what things were going to work; but at the same time, if a dancer did, perhaps by mistake, something different, Cranko could say to him, “oh, this is even better than my idea”. And he incorporated it.

-Was there then an exchange with the dancers?

-Always give and take from them. And he also adapted the role to the different performers: he had created a character, for example, for Marcia Haydée, but when he had to pass it on to another dancer he would say, “no, don’t do it this way, it’s not for you, it’s not for your personality”.

This is what I find so wonderful about Cranko’s ballets: the choreography is always the same, but there is a kind of freedom for interpreters to adapt to themselves.

-And you, as a repository, follow the same line?

-Exactly. When a dancer begins to learn the role of Tatiana I tell her: “You are not going to ‘do’ Tatiana; you are going to ‘be’ the person who will experience what happens to the character. And not only that: I also tell her to interpret it according to how she feels today, which is different from how she was yesterday and how she will feel tomorrow”.

-And that does not imply that the choreography changes?

-No. The steps do not change, but rather how the emotions of the precise moment in which the artist finds himself are projected; because today we come to rehearsal happy, another day disappointed, another day sad or angry. Dance is a living art. For certain roles it is necessary to search in one’s own memories, in things that have been experienced.

A rehearsal of "Oneguin", on the stage of the Teatro Colón.  Photo Máximo Parpagnoli/Tetaro Colón

A rehearsal of “Oneguin”, on the stage of the Teatro Colón. Photo Máximo Parpagnoli/Tetaro Colón

-What do you think is most interesting about your work as a repository, which is very intense?

-The exchange with the dancers; discover the people in front of me. Perhaps after organizing the various casts, a dancer is injured, I have to choose another one and I see that it is even better than the one I had chosen first.

I want to add something: dance is a selfish art; one dances for oneself. Forget about the public, who only have the privilege of participating by looking through a transparent fourth wall.

-Do you communicate this kind of thing to the dancers?

-Of course. And I also tell them that when they dance they have to rediscover the role every day and every moment. As if they really don’t know what is going to happen to their characters in the next instant. And I ask them to show me different things, of course always within the framework of the role.

Could you refer to the characters in the play?

-Onegin is a worldly, arrogant man who lives in a big city. His friend Lensky is a poet, in love with Olga; a pure soul inhabiting a perfect world. Onegin and Lensky are friends perhaps thanks to these differences.

Tatiana is an innocent girl in the first act, but appears as a woman who has grown and matured in the second; she is already married to Prince Gremin, who has placed her on a pedestal.

Thierry MIchel is a fine connoisseur of "Oneguin", the ballet that is revived at the Colón.  Photo Juan Manuel Foglia

Thierry MIchel is a fine connoisseur of “Oneguin”, the ballet that is revived at the Colón. Photo Juan Manuel Foglia

-When Tatiana rejects Onegin at the end of the play, how do you interpret it?

There are people who believe that it is an act of revenge: thus reject the one who has been the love of his life. Not for me; what moves her is loyalty and respect for her husband, Prince Gremin, a more episodic character but not secondary at all.

I discovered among the dance corps a young dancer David Juárez, who can magnificently do this role. Of course with a lot of makeup work to make him the mature man that Gremin is. There are three divisions with different protagonists in the main roles.

-Did you find differences between the three dancers who will play Tatiana in the following performances?

-Happily yes! Each had a completely different approach to the role; They also have very different personalities.

Camila Bocca simply “does”, as if she had never reflected on her character. Ayelén Sánchez is a bit shy and needs to be encouraged: “You can do it, you can do it for sure”. And Natalia Pelayo reflects on every aspect of the role. So in her case my comments are of this type: “You don’t have to reflect, you have to do it!”.

-And about the other characters?

I don’t want one to look like the other. I don’t want three alike Olgas, or three alike Lensky, or three alike Onegin. That’s why I don’t want you to watch the versions of the Stuttgart Ballet on YouTube either. In any case, the staging, but not the interpretation.

Information

the premiere of Onegin It is Thursday, September 1, at 8 pm, at the Teatro Colón (Libertad 621, CABA). This cycle of functions concludes on September 11.

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Reference from clarin www.clarin.com

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