CULTURE

Watching and listening to ballet

watching-and-listening-to-ballet

According to a New York Times review dating back to 1991, Helgi Tomasson managed to take a regional dance company, give it an extraordinary spin and turn it into one of the most sensational successes in the field of the American arts. In 2005, Tomasson will celebrate 20 years at the helm of the San Francisco Ballet. Thanks to its artistic director, the San Francisco Ballet is considered today one of the most prestigious troupes in North America. Kathimerini met with Tomasson at an Athenian hotel, just before the company began its performances at the Herod Atticus Theater – they end tonight. The performances, part of this year’s Athens Festival, were organized on the initiative of the American-Hellenic Arts Center of Halandri and the American Community Schools of Athens, with the proceeds to go to charity. What kind of memories do you have of your previous visit to Athens, two years ago? Very good ones indeed. It was at the Athens Concert Hall and what I remember was the audience. A wonderful audience. One way or another it is always exciting to perform in front of an audience that doesn’t really know you and vice versa. From all this, you can deduce that we are absolutely delighted to be back in Athens. At the Herod Atticus Theater you are presenting a program that combines classical and contemporary dance. Does this reflect the way you work at the company? In San Francisco, we stage approximately eight productions every season. From these, only one or two are classical ballets. The rest of the performances are a little bit like the Athens performances, half classical, half contemporary. This is something that audiences really enjoy. In your opinion, why is it that people are moved by a rather classical spectacle, such as ballet? There are many reasons. To begin with, it has to do with the music. Listening to beautiful music. In addition, there’s the beauty of artistic creation. Watching something beautiful that not everybody can do. And, finally, there’s the beauty of the human body, irrespective of the story unfolding on stage. People come up to me and ask me, «What are we going to see?» They worry about whether they will grasp the work because of the technique. My answer to them is: «When you enjoy a piece of music, do you ask yourselves the same questions? What prevents you from enjoying a song if you don’t know its composer and why they wrote it?» So, my advice is the following: Watch the ballet as if you were listening to a piece of music. Free your senses and enjoy. Where does dance stand in the United States today? Things are quite good, I’m not complaining. Sure, there are companies facing difficulties, but in general, there is a public. Don’t forget we are talking about America, and Americans really enjoy dance. The interview was translated from the Greek text.