To celebrate 50 years of dance, Ballet Philippine is presenting a production of the classic Swan Lake. Its first two evenings will feature stars of the Mariinsky Ballet (Kirov Ballet) principal dancer Evgeny Ivanchenko and first soloist Elena Evseeva. Ivanchenko is an Honoured Artist of Russia (2010), an honor once bestowed by kings.
The renowned pair will take on lead roles as Prince Siegfried (Ivanchenko), and the Swan Queen Odette and the evil Odile (Evseeva), during the gala night on August 30, 8PM and the next evening’s performance on August 31, 7PM at the Main Theater of the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP).
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At a lunch hosted by the Russian Embassy at the Manila House, Evseeva said ballet has offered her the wonderful opportunity to essay different characters. “I can be a black swan or the white swan, I can be Giselle, or Cinderella. Whatever happens I am always in love with the prince and on stage they are in love with me as I am with them,“ she said, gazing at her partner Ivanchenko, to the amusement of ballet aficionados in the room including Maan Hontiveros and Kathleen Liechtenstein.
“I fall in love with my princesses on stage, for three hours I am definitely in love with them. She is obviously very happy,” said Ivanchenko, referring to his Queen Odette, Evseeva. But he turns serious when he explains what the real stage work is all about. “In the ballet world it often happens that when they are performing on stage they also become a couple off stage, because the feelings during a performance are just overwhelming. They are very strong. But I have to tell you it is better to fall in love with the person off stage than with the character on stage.”
It’s the 27th season in the theater for 43 year old Ivanchenko, who stopped counting the times he has danced the role of Prince Siegfried after the 200th performance. But he was quick to say each dance is new every time.
Ivanchenko’s beginnings at ballet were not auspicious. He had no choice because he was brought to St Petersburg by his parents at age nine and only learned to love it after his seventh year at the academy. About the discipline and rigor required in his art, he says, “A lot of hardships are involved. We have to keep in shape all the time. We have one hour lesson and two hour rehearsals everyday. We work out at the gym, we also have running and jogging.”
Evseeva was eight years old when she began dancing and was even told it was too late to start. But she said she is grateful she had a little taste of a normal childhood. “It is just overwhelming. We have performances everyday. We have to be ready as replacement. There are no days off. Our male partners have to lift us up, we have to be careful not to damage their spine so we have to be resilient and flexible. Rehearsals can last as long as six hours!” said Evseeva. “Also for a ballerina, it is important to look young no matter what age you are, the first impression is very important. Also for the younger generation we are an example, we want them to see what they have to aspire to.”