CULTURE

Legendary ballet company stages trademark work

When I met up with the great diva of Russian ballet, I could not help but notice that in addition to her talent, Ulyana Lopatkina has been blessed with a special glow and beauty. Shortly before her arrival in Athens with the Mariinsky Ballet, for a performance of «Swan Lake,» the ballerina met up with Kathimerini in St Petersburg. The ballet opened yesterday at the Herod Atticus Theater and will be staged again tonight. Lopatkina, who thrilled Athenian audiences as Odette yesterday, alternates in the lead role with Anastasia Kolegova, who will perform tonight, while the cast further includes Greek ballerina Alexandra Iosifidi. After all the standing ovations you have received, are you still nervous about audience reaction? Applause gives us great pleasure. We must not forget that we dance for the people and not for ourselves. At every single performance, the applause also helps me to understand how I danced. With its 226-year run and the thousands of the events the troupe has experienced, does that history reverberate with the Mariinsky Ballet at the famous Mariinsky Theater? I used to pay very little attention to the mystical atmosphere that surrounds the memory of the people who have gone through that stage. As years went by, I began to listen to all those stories more carefully. I wasn’t sure whether this atmosphere existed, but now I believe it does. I cannot define this energy, but I feel it exists. Past events affect us negatively. Back then, mostly in the Soviet years, people experienced very harsh feelings. The lack of freedom and artists’ tendency to destroy each other have left their mark, which we feel on stage. When stepping out onto the stage, there is often a stressful restlessness that weighs heavily. Is eroticism necessary between dancers? People call it different things. I would say that you need to have a kind of electricity on stage. If we don’t feel that electricity for each other, then the story we are dancing looks like a cold and boring fairy tale. Why has the world connected «Swan Lake» with the Mariinsky Ballet? «Swan Lake» is our theater’s trademark piece. The Mariinsky has very special requirements for its performance. It is all about delicate movement, the St Petersburg school with the traditional long necks, the beauty of the arms and body posture, all of which fit 100 percent with this work and earn the audience’s admiration. It is very moving for us Greeks to see a fellow Greek, Alexandra Iosifidi, perform with you at the Herod Atticus Theater. Although you never discuss your colleagues, could you make an exception about Alexandra? We have danced together in some productions that are very important to both of us, such as «Giselle.» It is no secret that Alexandra is one of the tallest ballerinas. I enjoy very much dancing with her on stage, because we suit each other well – I am not short myself. In «Giselle» for instance, where she plays the czar’s wife, her height, her body, her natural dignity as well as the few inches that she has over me make the relationship between the powerful and the lower classes in the second part of the ballet seem very beautiful to the audience. This dignity and royal posture are in Alexandra’s nature and, because of her Greek blood, she has a very special kind of beauty. When you see her walking down the street, she stands out, not just because she is a ballerina but because her walk and her movements reflect a regal finesse. «Swan Lake» will go on stage at the Herod Atticus Theater tonight. For information and tickets, contact the Greek Festival box office (39 Panepistimiou, tel 210.327.2000, www. greekfestival. gr).