Culture, 14/11/2019

Kharkiv Opera and Ballet Theater Presents Unique Performance

At the beginning of November, a unique watery version of the classical performance of “Swan Lake” splashed its way to the Kharkiv National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater.

“Classical ballet was mixed with modern choreography. Ballerinas put pointe shoes into the water for the first time. It’s a big challenge,” confesses French choreographer Johan Nus who implemented his child’s idea into such an unusual performance.

Classical choreography had to be adapted to creatively function on the stage rubber cover that was new for the artists. Dancers wore rubber-coated socks to improve their grip while ballerinas performed in usual pointe shoes.

A 12 x 16-meters shallow pool was installed on the stage, filled by 4.5 tons of water which was heated to 42 Celsius degrees and used to flood the ballet’s stage in two of the ballet’s four acts. But the water cools quickly and dancing in shallow water wasn’t only difficult but also dangerous.

“The boys fell on their backsides in the beginning as they had to get used to the watered surface. The water covered surface wasn’t slippery itself. But after some time, after several dozen feet walked across it, it becomes slippery all of a sudden. We needed time to find shoes which would grip the surface,” recalls Antonina Radiyevska, Kharkiv National Theatre ballerina.

There are many surprises in choreography. For example, the dance of little swans on the water surface was performed not by four dancers, as usual, but by twelve at once. Dance’s movements remained the same, only its composition was changed. Many previous authors’ techniques of the classical version of the ballet such as Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov’s remained untouched, but Johan also used several fragments of the legendary “Swan Lake’s” production by Rudolf Nureyev and some other European choreographers.

The tickets for the performance were sold out early however they were not cheap. The average price of one ticket was about 1,000 UAH ($40). The audience was looking forward to the unusual show.

The performance staging became the most expensive in the theatre’s history but viewers thought it was worth it.

“Respectively, one could certainly have thought what would happen if there was too much water on the ballerinas’ costumes and they would look like wet hens instead of beautiful swans. But everything went perfectly. It was a beautiful show!” Hennadii Titov, a viewer, shared his impressions after the performance.

Kharkivites are familiar with Nus’ earlier performances on the theatre’s stage. He had previously staged versions of “Little Prince” and “Beauty and the Beast” ballets.

Johan’s partners in the show’s creation were video content author Anatoly Yerekhin, lighting designer Maksym Rayher, costume designer, and Honored Artist of Ukraine Oleksandr Lapin.

The performance was staged as part of the Skhid Opera International project.

After a four-day premiere run of “Swan Lake,” a water fantasy then set out on a tour to Belgium.

Text: Natalia Ivanova