Hello everyone! In April in St. Petersburg one of the largest and most significant events in the ballet world the Dance Open Festival
took place for the 18th time. I was lucky to talk with its founder Ekaterina Galanova.
We recorded this interview on the eve of the show, fragments of which you will see in the second part of the video.
Thank you for taking the time. If you were to start such an activity now organization of the theatre, how would you act?
What mistakes might have been avoided?
You know, I dont think that any global mistakes have been made, lets put it like this.
Just despite of the fact that we are all very active, our entire team, we are not growing rapidly.
The team has grown gradually from two people to this large number of people we are having now over the past 18 years.
Weve been gradually increasing the number of projects, because theres no doubt that well-coordinated teamwork
is only gained with experience and quantity of projects.
If you dump some huge amount of work onto the team, everything will be messed up and it will not lead to anything good.
Therefore, I think that first of all, it is quite important that if you really want to do something well,
you need to come to this slowly, though it seems quite odd.
I do not mean that you need to move slowly, you need to move as quickly as possible
but just start with a small project and then increase the volume gradually, that is move fast, but build up volumes slowly.
In this simple advice, the secret of everything successful is hidden, because I see a lot of things,
not only in the production sphere, not only in art management, and I notice that crazy speeds in building up volumes
in various other areas are done without working with the team at the same time, but this is crucially important.
And when one is detached from the other, the projects fail and a huge number of mistakes are made.
Therefore, as the Japanese say: "one who goes slowly goes far."
Proper planning ... I dont like to work, lets say, to the limit
This is the feature of our profession: we dance, the next day we fly, come back and dance again.
Of course, with such a schedule, it is very difficult to find time for the family.
Now I just try to build my schedule more adequately, that is weve got performances,
then there is some period for preparation and then we go on tour.
I try not to accept long tour invitations because it is quite difficult to be somewhere for a long time.
And then after all, its not my first year in ballet, and during my, I wont even tell you how long I have been dancing,
Im 35 years old and, in general, Ive already seen everything in my life, Ive done everything,
I mean, as far as my profession is concerned, therefore
I dont have to chase some unattainable goals, heights: Ive danced so many things,
, so many theaters, so many stages there were in my life, so I just do what life has to offer.
And Im not trying to push the limits. And therefore, theres always time for the children - this is the most important thing.
What are you working on now? Maybe some new roles, projects: what should we expect?
In the nearest future, there will be nothing new till the end of the season, that is current repertoire, tours
all the usual stuff, but next season well see, maybe something interesting.
Well, in general, what I dream about every year is to bring our entire team to the stage - this is how it works:
a huge number of people who work daily, sometimes around the clock, through the whole year
to make these two weeks of this festival possible, but as it turned out even a small part of the team cannot be brought here,
because they are all occupied, everyone is doing their job, and if at least one person is pulled out, the gala wont happen
so I, as the most useless member of our team, the most idle one will take this opportunity to say
that weve got the best people in our team and I would like to thank each of them.
Rehearsal of the Gala finale
Hello! Lets mark the stage now. Are you without music now?
I always sit in jeans with this bun on my head, over the past 18 years, because, for example, for the Gala
, Im always involved in setting up the lights, which is done the night before the show.
Then I participate in the dress rehearsal, where I do a lot of things myself too and I cannot let anyone else do it
but I really like this work
And half an hour before the gala - trying to get into a dress, somehow clean myself up - this is an annual attraction ...
Where are you going? Please dont go! We are together. As in that film: well fly together"
Am I right to say that in addition to the festival there are also art agencies?
Yes, of course
I wonder if ballet as business can be self-sustaining and self-sufficient or does it still need to be invested in?
If we take for example these "Swan lakes" for tourists performed by a low-quality company,
and sold to unfortunate foreigners for ridiculous money, what we see every summer in our city, then yes ...
The fact is that foreign tourists, arriving in our city, receive a ticket for Swan Lake in a gift set and trustingly believe that
this is the same Swan Lake that the whole world is talking about, the Russian Swan Lake, which is a must to see.
Under the guise of a high-quality product they peddle this outrage, please forgive me,
I just cant find another word and this exists everywhere.
The art events of such low quality just cannot happen in our city. But they happen...
In this sense, this is just business business that exploits our history, the ballet history of our city in the most ugly, brutal way.
It destroys our history, it simply flushes it down the toilet, because of these terrible quality of Swan Lakes that we see daily,
the image of our city as a ballet capital, what our festival works for, the image of our country
which is famous besides other achievements also for ballet, is 100% discredited.
It seems to me that it should be solved at the state level because what is happening is just beyond good and evil.
I talked with many people on this subject and still all comes down to money. If we talk of a high quality performance,
this requires a certain level of funding.
Yes, unfortunately, yes.
I'm just trying to understand - is this an absolute Utopia that you can do it just by yourself?
Again, what you are counting on. All over the world, art, including the art of "ballet", is supported by various institutions,
that is, in some countries, these are private sponsors who have an exemption from a certain amount of taxes
its very profitable for them, and they sponsor art, invest in art and receive priority in paying taxes in their business.
Somewhere it is a state, somewhere it is ... Everywhere is different. But anyway,
ballet is an expensive story. Opera, by the way, too. An expensive story cannot pay for itself, unfortunately.
The festival could not have taken place in any form without such serious and systematic support from the city.
Im very thankful for the constructive dialogue that weve got, for the opportunity to increase and improve our festival from year to year
guided, above all, by artistic meanings and arguments. And this is great happiness for the organizers and producers,
because we can create and bring the best to St. Petersburg.
I would like to say that I promise to continue to work and improve our festival from year to year
and make all possible efforts to sustain the image of our city, of our ballet city, as it has been for many long centuries.
The popularization of ballet is a beautiful story and it seems to me that I contribute my very small share to this issue.
Of course, we can make it even more popular than it is now especially in our country and in our city.
Well, thanks to football, we are as far in it to the rest of the world as we are to the moon, but at least, for example, as opera in Italy.
We can reach the top quite easily if we systematically and progressively invest all our efforts in this issue.
With what means do you think it can be reached? With the help of social media or through integration with new technologies?
Well, including all marketing strategies, that is PR, advertising and so on, promotion of various high-quality projects in social networks.
This is no small thing. Well, technically we bring annually a 2-week art event that comprises the very best that can be found in the world.
So, basically, it's a very big job to do. Look, how old is the Salzburg Festival.
Or how old is the Edinburgh Festival existing since 1945, since the Second World War.
. World famous festivals have a long history. Our festival is now 18 years old, and for us it feels like a lifetime,
but in fact, we are kind of babies, for example, from Salzburgs perspective.
We are 18 years old, we have reached adulthood, and
and you can tell!
This is a compliment, isnt it?
And we are proud of this fact, though it all places an added responsibility upon us.
Now, please tell us about how it has begun, about the time when you just have ended your career in the Mariinsky Theatre.
And so, how did you come up with this idea?
Anyway, the idea came up by itself, I mean, in fact, I left the Mariinsky Theater.
Some activity has begun within the framework of my event-agency. We were engaged in various events,
but I missed the ballet and I was so bored in general, because it was difficult for me to leave the ballet world completely,
so, we have introduced small master classes. And our capacities have been gradually strengthened, the program has been expanded
slowly some kind of children's gala concert has been added, which has become a reporting concert for our students,
then gradually all kinds of lectures and exhibitions have been added. And later, the big Gala has been established
concert for the adult dancers. And at some point, a serious program emerged,
becoming more and more sophisticated from year to year when we began bringing the best exemplary performances of Europe, USA.
Your father also organized the first theatrical management department, right?
Yes, in Russia
Apparently, that also has influenced you, right?
Dad passed away when I was four and a half years old, so I dont remember him well, but, of course,
I pay a great respect to what he did and I understand I have a huge responsibility so that he is not ashamed of me.
That is, when I was about to get my second education, after the Mariinsky Theater, I had a dilemma,
I could enter LSUTMC (Leningrad State University of theatre, music and cinematography), that is the place
where my father used to work, or the University of the Humanities and Social Sciences, there was also a department of art management with social cultural activities,
And of course, I should have chosen Mokhovaya (from the editor Mokhovaya street is the location of LSUTMC in Saint-Petersburg) and study there,
but I had my doubts because my fathers friends, fathers students teach there, its true. But I didnt feel like it...
I was afraid to let my father down, I had thoughts like this. Eventually I chose the University of the Humanities and Social Sciences,
and what a surprise, on my first day when I came to the classes, I think philosophy it was, I ran, in fact, into my fathers friend
Georgy Prazdnikov, who walked by and asked astonished - what are you doing here?
At the very beginning, did you have to overcome some skepticism or some kind of resistance of the community when you announced a major festival?
But I didnt. I didnt announce we were going to do a major festival or that we have been already doing it, I have never said that,
I just do my job, so we just did our job and thats it. And we moved on. We moved towards our goal ... absolutely naturally
I am very happy that critics are now writing about the largest ballet festival in Russia, and so on and so forth. Its very satisfying.
And for sure ... mmm ... this encourages us, fills us with pride, and it places the additional responsibility on us.
We are now in the Alexandrinsky Theater, where preparations for a gala concert are underway. Let's go see the rehearsal.
This is my second time on the Dance Open festival. The first time was, let's say, quite fast and extreme, as usual, like many of my intros
Intros to the plays, yeah, it happened that the other dancer was unable to come due to various circumstances, well, they asked me to help.
So, I arrived together with Katerina Krysanova, well, at the Dance Open, but I didnt leave empty-handed
we received a prize as the best duet. Here you go. Therefore, it was very nice, and now the organizer of the festival
Ekaterina Galanova, invited me again to come to this big festival
What are you dancing today?
Today I dance my favorite Pas de deux Flame of Paris , its recording has been broadcast in cinemas around the world
and it will be released after a while on a Blu-ray, well, today I dance Flame of Paris with ballerina from Mariinsky Theater Elena Evseeva.
Is this your first time working with Elena?
Well ... not really, we have already met previously and danced together in Italy, well, but today, we gonna dance in her home city
Please, tell us more about the recent performance in China, I wonder if the situation has changed there somehow?
We were extremely lucky, because during this trip we met, firstly, a very powerful Chinese organization, the Chinese bridge
and secondly, with the Chinese producers who hosted us in Shanghai and also with the Directorate of the Theater in Shanghai center where we were dancing.
And we have received rave admiration, really, we had standing ovations for like half an hour after the concert,
that was even for us it was unbelievable. My dancers got scared at some point, and when they came backstage
suddenly incredible amount of people, bloggers, press approached my poor, barely standing artists.
At one point of time, I started begging, Guys, let us go, otherwise they will just collapse from exhaustion now.
It was a tremendous success, on the one hand, and on the other hand, our Chinese colleagues told us,
it was the jeremiad practically, that there are uncountable amounts of Russian fakes, low-quality Swan Lakes,
and this was the crucial time, well, the turning point when the trust of the audience would be gone,
but then, we brought a product of the highest quality ... the best soloists of St. Petersburg.
And, shall we say, the Chinese audience didnt even expect such a quality, that was such an extraordinary surprise
that it is not just another fake, but something valuable, and now we have an opportunity to perform in China annually.
Recently one producer came to me and said, you know, I have found a Swan Lake production with a fee of five thousand,
I think, euros or dollars, I have heard about you, can you, I just wonder
can you do it with three thousands? I said, I can't even do it with ten.
Because, if we do something, we invite companies that provide us high-quality beautiful decorations, we pay copyrights,
we invite beautiful soloists. I dont know what people have there for five or for three thousand, it's just well ...
that does not even cover per diem expenses. I mean, are these people working for food?
I wanted to see, and I have seen such kind of professionals. These are not ballet dancers. With all due respect.
And these are not the decorations, not the costumes, its a matching. Well, and so on. Therefore, I point out again,
supplying demands in our art business, if you can say it this way. Its very easy to cheat the audience.
How much, do you think, does the artist now generally depend on the theater?
Have there been any instances when a person ... well, becomes an independent ballet dancer, if you want?
The soloist is very dependent on the theater, on the repertoire. Unfortunately, in our theaters the repertoire
is being formed at the last minute, often it changes. Therefore, sometimes you agree with the soloist and with the theater
but in the end you do not get this soloist, because a week before the event, the theaters repertoire has changed
the playbills have been changed and now ... oops, it didnt work out.
Therefore, this is really a difficult story. The situation with the foreign dancers is much more stable, if you agreed with the dancer
and agreed with the theaters management, where this dancer serves, then the only way to cancel the arrangement is to get injured
Well, on the other hand ... in our business its very easy to get injured. Trauma can occur unexpectedly at any moment.
Of course, a lot of things happen in life, but recently I have encountered an injury, unfortunately
Now Im getting into shape, what to do, no one is really safe, lets say. Not without difficulties.
But I hope there will be ups after the falls. Now we rehearsal Sleeping Beauty, and I am tightly engaged in the repertoire, too.
This is good, I will dive back into this rhythm. Then, we have few premieres, the Paris Waltz,
the Balanchins ballets, there will be a choreographer coming to stage them. Well, a lot of things.
So, it's messin' with my head, to be honest. Yesterday we were dancing back in Moscow, today we are already in St. Petersburg,
tonight we are leaving by train, and tomorrow morning we have the whole run-through of Sleeping beauty. Well, something like that.
I have so many stories when the people were injured, sometimes same day as the performance.
Here... scary stories, the nightmare of the producer. There is a nightmare of a ballerina who forgets the movements order
or forgets her point shoes at home. And there is a producers nightmare when you come to the theater,
and five minutes before the performance start, you find your main soloist jumping on one leg not being able to get other leg down
I have several soloists from those with whom I constantly work, who serves, for example, in two or three theaters.
They have a defined schedule for the year and its far easier to work with them than with people
who work for one company and simply their schedule is not painted for the year
What are your impressions of the first part of the performance and what did you like the most about it now?
Well, I cant say what I liked the most ... first of all, this is a great, wonderful opportunity for us to see the etoiles of the ballet
to see different choreography. Especially for us, ballet dancers, I have met many of friends here,
from the theater and not only from the theater. I see many of our ballet spectators who often comes to the Mariinsky Theater
This is a good excuse to meet
Yes, this is a way to meet, the way to see something new, something interesting, and it seems to me that the program is interesting and versatile
No, I dont look critically. I know almost all the dancers present here, I follow them on social networks or I know them in person
and I worry a lot, I look at the shoes, see how they bend, the feather lies on the stage,
I hope that no one would slip and worry a lot, and of course I try get the maximum out of their beautiful movements
I liked everything. Most of all ... its hard to single out because of such a rich palette of dance numbers
probably, now the world of dance cannot really exist without this diversity
Have you adopt anything, found anything interesting for you?
Ideas? Yes. I see what I like and what I don't like. I am also interested in the reaction of the audience
because the opinion of professionals, in most of the cases, does not coincide with the preferences of the public at all
In terms of what is accepted and what is not?
Yes. Well, for sure, choreographer, somehow, is such an intellectual profession, they represent their thoughts in the art of ballet
I dont want to offend the simple audience and what is popular among the spectators
well, probably some simple things for the choreographers, probably they are not always
Not always interesting?
Well, they are interesting, but choreographers go much deeper into details, somewhat sink into philosophy, aesthetics
And so on. The last number was interesting for me, it seemed to be made in a way of revue,
but its interesting for me because it gave a kind of postmodern look at the music,
at everything, at Bizet, at Merima and what was before. It was probably a bit humorous, but quite interesting.
Please tell us, when a ballet story finished for you, what did you have to learn moving on to the management and what is the most important thing in your opinion?
What skills do you need to have to do this?
Well, probably, first of all, nerves of steel, a cool head. Because before it seemed like a ballet dancer should really have iron nerves,
he goes on stage, but if we are talking about my duties today, this is a profession for a person who can overcome any level of stress.
It means in fact that you should always have a backup plan, if you remember what we discussed previously
That means, everything can happen in our business. Airlines may go on strike; artists didnt arrive or there is a severe weather disturbance
Artists can have breakdown; artists can argue and at some point, they say they are not dancing with each other
The dancer forgets the costume, this is my favorite story, it happens every time.
The artist forgot the costume, and we are in China.
The dancer forgot his costume in the business lounge in Sheremetyevo. Two costumes to be more precise.
The concert is tomorrow. We are already in China. Well, welcome to China. And thats why there should always be a plan B at any moment.
It means, you should understand what can happen, prevent this from happening as much as possible,
and if you dont have this emergency plan at your disposal,
or better two or three of them, then ... well ... that's it. The business is over.
How do you mentally prepare yourself so that you dont panic?
I dont really do. I just dont panic. Well, there is a problem and it needs to be solved, there is no time to panic.
Tomorrow is the gala concert. The end of this festival
Yes, yes. How, how are you now? Finally, calm or
No, no, this is the most important thing. No, there is no tranquility, this is the most important and most exciting day for me
that has begun already today, at night, as I said, we are recording the lights, then,
I leave with the guys somewhat at six in the morning, later, after four hours I return at ten and I dont leave the theater
until the concert starts, because there are dress rehearsals and so on and so on
I am especially exited this year due to the fact that we have a huge number of corps-de-ballet and many soloists engaged in the performance
And to build them up together on the stage, to check everything, all the positions, light,
will be ten times more difficult this year from the organizational point of view than, for example,
in previous years, but exactly the same time shall be allowed to do it all. No one ... assumes that
So you have a new challenge every year, right? In terms of the program
Yes, but I would not want a challenge this year, but it happened so that such a program was created. And so it is! And we are
You know, in my mind the manager never fought with the director because the director always wins.
I dont even want to pronounce the word - director, just a creative person always beats the manager.
Because from the point of view of management it is suicidal. Well, let's see what will happen tomorrow
Well, I dont wish you good luck, but I wish all goes smoothly according to plan.
I hope so.
Best of luck in all your future endeavors. Thank you.
If you are interested in the topic of organizing the concerts and events, write in comments below whom you would like to see in the next video and what topics to discuss