Beauty, speed and grace with classical ballet on ice

Though he has never actually danced on ice, it is his enthusiasm and experience which enables Konstantin Rassadin – a former solo dancer of the venerable Kirov Ballet – to direct, choreograph and inspire the St Petersburg Ice Ballet for the past 20 years. Following its great success at the Petra Theater last year, the renowned troupe returns to Greece with a series of performances. How can one add to a classical ballet’s choreography when the latter is adapted for the ice rink? Alternatively, what does a great classical work stand to lose when it leaves the theater for the ice stage? On the occasion of the company’s performances in Greece, Rassadin talked to Kathimerini about the quality and precision of his work. «What happens during a classical ballet performance on ice – which is what our company specializes in – is a kind of transformation. Essentially, the ballet’s classical steps transform into a floating, athletic, and at the same time, graceful movement; that is when the choreography acquires a new dimension, for both the audience and the artists performing. Meanwhile, it is not possible to simultaneously execute detailed movements which classical ballet dancers use as a means of expression on stage. These are replaced, therefore, by the breathtaking speed and momentum on the rink.» The only company of its kind to classify as a permanent classical dance troupe, the St Petersburg Ice Ballet’s repertoire includes works such as «Swan Lake,» «Romeo and Juliet,» «Cinderella» and «The Nutcracker.» What kind of training is necessary in order to become a member of the troupe? «A classical ice-skating dancer must begin lessons in both figure and athletic skating at a very young age. Later on, he or she must go on to classical ballet training, in order to combine a skater’s power with a classical ballet dancer’s grace,» said Rassadin, as he admitted that he has never actually danced on ice. «My only experience with ice skates were a number of hockey lessons I took when I was a kid! However, even though I spent most of my life interpreting roles from the classical ballet repertoire, my work at the Ice Ballet offered me a new means of expression. This kind of dancing gives ballet a new dimension, one which does not alter the link between music and movement.» Is dance on ice a commercial, entertaining spectacle? «Every art form… must find a way of being sold. Without the public’s support and recognition, we would not be able to offer such quality in our performance. Ballet on ice demonstrates the dancers’ talent, brings out the music and ultimately the ballet,» said Rassadin. «In my opinion, it is no more or less commercial than a classical ballet staged at a theater, while its magic lies in its ability to offer ballet the opportunity of creative adaptation in another area, that of the ice rink.» Beginning tonight, the St Petersburg Ice Ballet appears at the Theatro Dasous in Thessaloniki (until June 1) with performances of «Sleeping Beauty.» On June 5 (running to June 17) the company comes to Athens to perform a double program at the Petra Theater: «Sleeping Beauty,» from June 5 to June 10 and «Romeo and Juliet» from June 12 to June 17. Tickets for the performances in Athens are on sale at the Papagrigoriou-Nakas music store (in the Pezmazoglou arcade), Virgin Megastores, the Petroupolis Town Hall and Ticket Hellas for credit card reservations (tel 010.618.9300).