Before attending St Petersburg’s State Academic Yacobson Ballet’s performance of ‘Sleeping Beauty’, I spoke to three principal dancers: Alla Bocharova (Aurora), Darya Elmakova (the Lilac Fairy), and Andrey Sorokin (Prince Désiré), as well as Lidia Zernova, the company manager.
Alla and Darya both studied at the Vaganova Russian Ballet Academy in St Petersburg, and Andrey studied at Perm State Choreographic College. Andrey has been dancing with Yacobson Ballet for six months, and Alla and Darya are both on their fourth season.
Why did you choose to dance for the Yacobson Ballet?
Andrey: “I had a lot of friends who worked for the company, and I’d heard many good things about it, so I decided to join.”
Darya joined because she could see the company’s potential and was convinced that it had a bright future ahead of it.
Do you prefer dancing classical or contemporary ballet?
“I would have to say classical dance,” said Andrey, “not because I prefer it, but because I’ve done a lot more classical – but I would try contemporary with pleasure!”
Darya and Alla agreed – they have all done more classical ballet but would like to do contemporary, and think they would find it interesting.
Andrey’s favourite role to dance is James in ‘La Sylphide’, Darya’s is Giselle – especially Act II’s Adagio – and Alla’s is Nikiya in ‘La Bayadère’.
When creating new pieces, how do you work with the choreographer?
Andrey: “It depends on whether it’s a new work or a revival. When it’s a revival you’re trying to listen very carefully to what the choreographer says, and when it’s a new production you are trying to participate in the choreography, so it’s different ways of thinking.”
Alla: “Sometimes we get to do small pieces in collaboration with the choreographer, where we work together.”
Which are your favourite places to tour?
“Japan!” said Darya. “It’s a really nice, exotic, and interesting place.”
Andrey said “Everywhere, there is always something interesting.”
Had you ever done another version of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ before this one?
Alla: “Yes, I had danced ‘Sleeping Beauty’ before, but in all the theatres in Russia it’s the same classical version by Petipa.”
Darya had performed ‘Sleeping Beauty’ for the Mikhailovsky Theatre in St Petersburg, and Andrey had also previously danced the classical version.
What was it like working with Jean-Guillaume Bart [French danseur étoile and choreographer]?
Alla: “It was very difficult but very interesting!”
Andrey: “He’s very good at demonstrating what he needs and asking for the right things.”
Darya agreed, and said it’s always very interesting to work with a visiting professional.
Did you notice any differences between the way he was teaching you and the way you’ve been taught ballet in Russia?
“He was always saying that he loves the traditional classical Russian school, and that he wanted to bring this school to his ballet – he says that was the base for his production. A noticeable difference was that he paid a lot of attention to our footwork, that was very important.”
Darya: “Yes, and the other important aspect was that Jean-Guillaume was always talking about the dramatic side of the parts we were doing. He was very attentive to the small acting details which we worked on a lot – that’s why all the roles in the ballet are very important.”
What was the most difficult part?
“In each ballet there is something very difficult, and in each ballet you have to work on the technical and on the acting side of the role,” said Andrey. “For ‘Sleeping Beauty’ all of these things were very important, so it was difficult but interesting work.”
At the end, Lidia added: “We are very happy to be travelling around France. This is the fourth time we have had a major French tour, and the audience is always really good here – they feel a real connection to the music and to the performance, it’s very emotional. We’ve been in Cannes and around Paris before, and everywhere the halls are full and the public is wonderful. Also here in Blagnac, yesterday and the day before were great – that’s really important for the company, so it’s really nice.”