CULTURE

‘You have to love the audience’

Sergei Filin says he got involved with dance because his mother tricked him. The Stanislavsky Ballet artistic director, who spent many years as a principal dancer of the Bolshoi Ballet, will visit Athens on the occasion of «Don Quixote,» the production to be staged by the company at the Badminton Theater Friday to April 12. Shortly before leaving Moscow, the famous dancer spoke to Kathimerini. How did you first come into contact with dance, at the age of 7? It was through deception. One summer, my mother took me to a big sports center to learn to swim, but the swimming pool was closed for maintenance. Seeing my disappointment, she came up with a trick so that I would take up an out-of-school activity. She told me that all kids have to learn how to dance before enrolling for swimming and, since I always believed her, I went to see the other kids dancing. The first thing I noticed was how bad they were at it. Two years later we had exams and she deceived me again, saying they would fail me and we could go swimming. But they chose me out of 32 kids on the first day and when on the third day I couldn’t stand watching the other children dance ungracefully and got up to dance, it turned out I was the only one selected for the dance school. What was it that made you continue? It was the feeling of competition. As a child, I always wanted to be the best. We also started touring and I was fascinated by meeting young, talented people, cities and cultures. Compared to other art forms, ballet is physically very demanding. This job is devilishly exhausting. In ballet, all senses are 100 percent charged, the mind, the body and the soul. When we learn a new choreography, the brain gets charged. Dancing in a performance, the muscles remember everything and make the body incredibly tired. But the biggest challenge is for the spectator not to see that tiredness. Nobody must notice anything that happens inside you while you dance. I believe that this is a feature of the Russian and Soviet school. What is it that separates a good dancer from a great one? There are two types of dancers. The first one has a perfect technique and abilities, but no heart. Aware of his gifts, when he goes on the stage he shows his body to the world, proving that this is his goal, that he can do this. The other type does not oblige the audience to believe he is good. He doesn’t see dance as a job, he lives it. The first one wants to achieve the goal, the second one lives it. That person’s movements take place not because he wants them to be beautiful, but because his life is beautiful. He has a heart. When he dances, people cannot breathe or take their eyes off him. That is real dance. Three things must exist on stage: beauty, love and sensuality. Spectators must fall in love with the performer. Beauty cannot be physical, it must be born on stage. When dancing, you also have to love the audience. In 2004 you suffered a serious injury on the Bolshoi stage. I broke my leg during a scene. Instead of stopping, I danced for another hour with one leg, which made my injured leg break in a second place and caused the little bone in-between to move out of position. Other than the physical pain, the emotional trauma was also painful. It took me six months to come back. I worked for 11 hours every day, with exercises and weights to tone up the rest of my body, because the muscle balance had to be maintained. With a physiotherapist by my side, I literally started learning how to walk from scratch, like a child. The moment I danced again was divine. And I didn’t just move around, I performed a proper «Romeo and Juliet.» «Don Quixote» will run at the Badminton Theater, Goudi Military Park, tel 211.408.6024, Friday to April 12.