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On the eve of Theatre Day we met up with Radu Poklitaru, the choreographer of the Kyiv Modern Ballet, to chat about what he’s up to these days.
A year and a half ago the brand-new Kyiv Modern Ballet troupe burst onto the scene and was immediately on everybody’s lips. State-ofthe- art scenery, costumes, and performances, and a new vision of ballet – it all made a big impression on Kyiv spectators accustomed to classical dance of the old school. The artistic vision behind the company belongs to talented young choreographer Radu Poklitaru, who met us at Double Coffee in Podil.
“We try to keep up with the modern pace,” Poklitaru says over a cup of tea. “I force myself to develop constantly and I make my ballet troupe confront the rhythm of modern life. We’re always on the run. In the short-term, on 18-19 March, we’re scheduled to perform our production of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Nutcracker’. Then we’re off to tour Lithuania, and after that, in May, we’ll take part in a Kyiv-based modern ballet competition being run by Vlad Troitsky. Later, we’ll perform at the Kishinev Festival.” Given the strong dance tradition in this part of the world, Poklitaru has a lot of talent to choose from, which gratifies him. The main criteria he has in mind while selecting dancers, surprisingly, isn’t physical ability. It’s rather pure sensuality, plus a strong sensibility and the ability to express feelings vividly. “Physical qualities rank second, third, and tenth,” he jokes. “At least once every six months we announce a casting call, to find some fresh blood. We look at hundreds of artists to pick one.” That’s what’s known as professionalism. The company, meanwhile, seems to be popular with dancers and to have a low burn-out rate. “Over the last year and a half we’ve lost only one dancer from the company. At the very beginning we had 16 artists and now we’ve got 20. So it’s not downsizing or reshuffling so much as development.” I wondered what the company owes its popularity to in a city in which an artistic avant garde is only just starting, fitfully, to take shape. As is typical of many performing artists, who express themselves through their art and not through words, Poklitaru doesn’t really have a clear answer. “It’s not for me to judge my activity,” he says, “but critics.” Fair enough. “I’m just doing what I’m good at,” he continues. “I don’t know how to communicate with other people in another way. I personally follow Hoffman, if I’m not mistaken, in saying ‘Do what comes easily to you. But put your best effort into it.’ And dancing and staging dance come easily to me. It’s the language I speak.”
No Competition Yet
Poklitaru’s name betrays Romanian or Moldovan origins, but it’s a little more complicated than that. He’s actually a true cosmopolitan. “I was born in Kishinev, Moldova into a family of ballet dancers. My parents were at the very top of Moldovan ballet. Then I got my ballet education in Perm and moved to Belarus to perform. And now I work in Kyiv.” Looking at the contemporary ballet scene in Ukraine, it quickly becomes apparent that the Kyiv Modern Ballet has no competition. The only possible competition that springs to mind is Dmitry Kolyadenko’s glitzy show ballet, with his sometime shockingly extravagant performances and esthetic that combines Las Vegas and Soviet hotel floorshows. “Unfortunately we don’t have any competitors,” Poklitaru says. “It’s too bad, I should say. If we had at least one, we’d develop more rapidly. As for Kolyadenko’s ballet I don’t see anything special there.” Poklitaru’s troupe stages both newer versions of renowned masterpieces like ‘The Nutcracker’ and sui generis works like ‘Verona’s Myth: Shakesperiments’, based on Shakespeare. ‘Verona’s Myth’ was scheduled to play this week but the troupe had sudden trouble with renting out the venue in question. (In this case the National Philharmonic – the troupe has no permanent home.) “We’re not afraid of looking at the classics in a different way than the one that everyone has gotten used to. I don’t know what ballet tendency will be popular tomorrow, I don’t know whether the sort of work our company does now will be successful with the audience in several years. We’re doing what we consider to be right at the moment - what I consider pertinent today.” So that’s the story from a leader in the capital’s small but muchneeded avant garde, and one who, moreover, seems like a well-grounded, likably normal sort of person. ‘I don’t go out in the evening; I’m not that kind of a jet-setter,” he says in closing. “I work 24/7 and it’s a real challenge, although I do like my lifestyle.”
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