Denis Matvienko, the artistic director of the ballet Company, has told about tendencies that the time dictates, and how to follow them, in an interview for “Izvestiya”.
— You have already worked as the head of Kiev ballet Company. What would you like to borrow from that experience and what would you want to withdraw from?
— There are both sides. During only half a year of work – a very short time – I received a lot of experience. Kiev has a great historical Theatre, but since the collapse of the Soviet Union, almost nothing has changed there: neither the superintendence system, nor the development strategy. And the time was dictating new tendencies. I tried to follow them, and in my opinion, I succeeded in many ways: I presented six premieres, organized about 20 projects, invited artists… Of course, now I would have done certain things differently. Not everyone can work day and night, like me, though I demanded exactly this…
— Are you going to be more loyal to your employees?
— Yes. At the meeting with the Company, I said that I would be seeking individual approach to each artist. One needs loyalty, another – strictness. The audience should see beautiful people on stage; ballet is an aesthetic form of art. If artists do not keep themselves in good shape – whereas it is a combination of many factors like classes, rehearsals, diet, – I have no lenience to them.
— Vladimir Kekhman is recognized as an authoritarian. Did you talk to him about how self-dependent you will be at leading the Company?
— Self-dependence – in what way? If we are talking about repertoire, that is being created or renewed, then it is a mutual decision. Even now, Vladimir calls me and says: “How about we do this, invite that person?”. Obviously, the final word rests with him, as he is the Director General. It is a normal creative process. It is not the first year that we have known each other, I think that there will not be any misunderstandings between us; otherwise, he would not have invited me.
As for my trust to Kekhman, during the whole time of him being a Director General of Mikhailovsky theatre, everyone who worked there – choreographers, artists, pedagogues, - offered their mite in creating the “Mikhailovsky theatre” brand. Although I do not like the word “brand”, but it turned out very good indeed.
I knew this Theatre before he came and after – these are two different theatres. Now it is, so to speak, trendy to visit Mikhailvsky, to bring children there. However, it began with a historic theatre in a historic place in the center of St. Petersburg that was in poor shape from both outside and inside.
— Are you going to work with the Company, or rather stay in Novosibirsk?
— What about your dancing career?
— I have little interest in dancing career – it was built a long time ago, I will not amaze anyone with anything. I have interesting contemporary projects, each half a year I do something: either I organize something by myself, or someone invites me. But as Basil or prince Siegfried, I have said my peace.
— Then it is more important to help others say their word. In local social networks they ask: “Will the Novosibirsk dancers take part in “Bolshoi ballet” project?”
— I am both for and against it. Uniqueness of ballet is that there is only one shot on stage, and it is priceless, for it is the one and only. That is the whole specifics and grandiosity of our art. It is different here. I acted in films, so I know what a camera is. We just sit there, chat, get up, shoot a take, they say: “Genious!” It is not that we get psyched up for the performance or think through the details…Anyway, I am for popularization of ballet in every respect. We should definitely think about that kind of projects. It is not about winning – at such-like events it is known in advance who is going to win. We need bright dancers, accurately arranged repertoire, a right choreographer – for people to be remembered, so that they would say: “This pair from Novosibirsk is so bright!” This is what we need to be working on.
— Sergei Polunin, who participates in Novosibirsk as a guest star, has proclaimed an idea of creating an artistic agency, which is supposed to release dancers from “theatre pressure”. “Artists should not be bondslaves”, - the artists said in an interview for NOVAT’s website. As the leader of the Company, what do you make of this?
— This year is my 20th anniversary on stage, I worked in many theatres – both as a guest star and as a principal soloist, but not that I recall any theatre that would oppress me. I figure that if something like that is happening, it is both parties’ fault. It is like marriage: when people divorce, it is always both persons’ fault.
As for Sergei’s case… When you are in the zenith of your glory, you think that the world revolves around you. I have gone through this in 2001 when I began working in Mariinsky theatre. Makhar Variyev was in charge of ballet at that time – golden years, incredible artistic cast, repertoire…
I had a lot of contracts, I travelled around the globe. However, after a year Makhar told me: “Denis, if you want that kind of life, then this theatre is not for you”. And I left. Makhar was right. An artistic director must care about a theatre, and a theatre is not just one star artist. Take a football team for instance – there is Messi, but there are other players, who are helping him to be Messi. Without them, he is no one. The same thing in ballet.
Once I became an artistic director, I realized, that sometimes conducted myself improperly. I am for people to travel, but their main vibes should stay in their native theatre.
— But it is so tempting to live a free life of a guest star from the very beginning of one’s career…
— In order to receive a guest contract, one has to do much in one theatre precisely. Since 1996, while still studying in ballet school, I danced leading parts in the National Opera of Ukraine. Hans Spoerli himself invited me to Zürich to perform in Romeo and Giselle. I was broke, and there they offered me insane amounts of money at that time. But my pedagogue in the theatre said: “Denis, you will make your fortune in time, but you cannot waste this year. What is Romeo and Giselle to you?”
And she was right: during a season I did 15 premieres, and for the first 3-4 years of working – the whole repertoire, won several contests, I was studying all the time. Then Denis Matvienko appeared. But at first? Who would ever need me if I would not work in the National Opera?
— So it is school, theatre and then promotion, if a person is capable of that?
— How else could it be? Here, in Novosibirsk, there are talented folks, young indeed. We are going to work on their development, personal becoming. NOVAT is the face of Siberia, national heritage of the region. Guest stars – no problem, but we still need our own names. It is much more important than inviting someone.