Japan has recently held an anniversary gala concert of “dancing leopard” Farukh Ruzimatov, with Ukrainian ballet dancers taking part in it as well. The invitees included the principal dancer of the National Opera House of Ukraine Serhii Sydorsky, who showed his skill as a soloist and dancing partner in pas de deux with prima ballerina of the Mariinsky Theater Elena Yevseyeva, who has the honor of being named UNESCO Artist for Peace, and just a while ago with the soloist of London Royal Ballet Miyako Yoshida.
Serhii Sydorsky has a wonderful dancer’s body, which reminds of the famous marble sculpture created by Michelangelo. The flexibility and agility of the dancer’s torso is magical, sometimes even shamanic. So, after his performance at Moscow’s International Ballet Festival “Grand Pas” art critic Elena Gubaidullina compared Sydorsky’s body in a dance with Japanese art of origami. The ability to transform allows Serhii to play a variety of characters: from lyric-dreamy prince to insidious ruler of the kingdom of darkness, with the audience been equally attracted to both positive and negative sides of his charisma. A sculpturally accurate performer in classic dance, the artist is mercurial while performing a modern dance.
The dancer has a wonderful technique and musicality. On stage he behaves with exquisite nobleness, courage, and poetry, and shows no sign of orchidaceous affectation and falsity. The artist has a subtle perception of classic choreography and his execution of pas de deux is masterful. He is one the few dancers who preserve the classic heritage and a zealot of purity of classic style.
Sydorsky is a reliable partner and a soloist who lacks narcissism. He always feels the mood of the ballerina, which helps him to create dramatically rich images on stage. He possesses the kind of virtuoso lightweight jump the audiences expect from a real soloist. Not only ballet critics, but ballerinas as well mark his knightly attitude to his partners, therefore they feel tranquil and confident when they go on stage with him.
An outstanding figure of Italian ballet, Anna Maria Prina said about Sydorsky: “Serhii has a brilliant elevation, which is a rare thing in present-day ballet theater. Technique and richness of expression is typical of his artistic work, and he can move from classic to modern repertoire with impressive easiness. Serhii is an exclusive partner. Undoubtedly, he is one of the best European dancers of today.”
How ballet became part of Serhii’s life; how a member of corps de ballet become a soloist; why ballerinas consider Sydorsky a perfect partner and fellow dancers call him a Ukrainian David; how not to be caught in the web of romantic hero’s image and how to broaden the actor’s scope are the questions raised in the below interview of the principal dancer of the National Opera of Ukraine with The Day.
GYMNASTICS, FOLK DANCE, AND BALLET
Parents brought five-year-old Serhii to gymnastics classes to Syrets-based sports club “Avanhard,” in order to use the energy of the very active child for peaceful purposes.
“During the classes with my first coach, I developed good stretching to splits, whereas exercises on horizontal bar, jumps, and somersault on trampoline developed my vestibular apparatus,” SYDORSKY recalls. “Later, when school classes began and sports became a hindrance for my studies (this is what my strict teacher thought and she convinced my parents), I had to refuse from gymnastics. I stopped doing sports and took up dancing instead. The thing is that my godfather worked at Veriovka Choir, and I followed his example by taking up folk dances, at first at the Central Palace of Pioneers. But the teacher saw in me the potential of a classic dancer and advised my mother not to waste time for amateur art activities, but to send me to choreography studio at the Veriovka Choir, and there I developed my dancing skills. We had many performances and tours, so my artistic life started when I was seven or eight years old. Namely there my teacher Olha Danylevska started preparing me for entry exams to a choreography school.”
What did the preparation consist in?
“I needed to create a dance, practice classic positions of head and legs. I felt very confident before the exam and I was enrolled at once. I was younger than 10. During my second year of studies I appeared on stage of the theater in small scenes, and during the third one I danced pas des trois from Nutcracker (we had a concert dedicated to friendship with Japan, and I was performing with two Japanese girls who were older than me: that was the only occasion when Japanese girls seemed huge to me). Later I started to perform solo dances. I am thankful to my teachers: it was owing to them that I became passionate about theater and this passion has never left me. Oleksii Ivashchenko started to work with us, and Serhii Lakhtionov started to work with us in senior classes, when the program changed. We were his first class and he remained our teacher till graduation. Few of my schoolmates work in the company of the National Opera House of Ukraine: those include Andrii Hura, Oleksii Kovalenko, Mykyta Sokolov, Andrii Bondarchuk… Many have left the country. Famous choreographer Anatolii Shekera managed to come to my graduation exam. He was already diseased. Unfortunately, I did not have an opportunity to work with him, namely Shekera was the one who cast me to the theater I had dreamt about.
“I danced in the corps de ballet, I was learning quickly, and I performed both in ballets and opera shows. Theater choreographers noticed me, gave me pas de deux and pas de trois, and on the third year of my work in the theater I made a debut with my first big solo part of Romeo. I danced in a premiere with Tetiana Holiakova, who was then a prima ballerina and helped me a lot. Later I performed in Coppelia with Lesia Makarenko, La Sylphyde, and only a year later – in Swan Lake. At the same time, I continued to dance in the corps de ballet.”
Every artist’s career has a turning point – a play or competition – which determines his future fate. What has led you to the position of a soloist?
“Choreographer Viktor Yaremenko took up the staging of Raymonda. Most of soloists on tours, only prima ballerina Olena Filipieva and I remained in the ‘base.’ Then Yaremenko took the risk of casting me as a principal dancer. I understood that I had no right to let him down and that it was a huge responsibility. When the idea proved to be successful, I started to dance with Olena in the first lineup. To try our duo in public, we danced with her in La Sylphyde. As we went to dance the premiere of Raymonda, we were already a coordinated and experienced duo. Olena believed in me and we started to work together a lot.”
“I WANTED TO JUMP UP TO MY EARS, DO MORE THAN I COULD!”
In fact, your duo is so beautiful that it can be compared to such bright couples as Parsehov-Lukashova, Kovtun-Taiakina. But your name was missing on billboards for a year.
“It happened so. I went on a tour to France for two months, then – to Germany. Then to a competition which nearly devastated my dancing career. It was 2004, Perm. I was in wonderful shape owing to my work with teacher Alla Lahoda (incidentally, I am still working with her). According to the jury, I was supposed to win the gold. I got to the third round. But I must have overrated myself, I wanted to jump up to my ears, misreckoned the jump, had a nasty fall and badly injured my knee. I had to be carried off the stage. I have not worked for a year, wore plaster for a long time, and underwent a complicated surgery. The doctors told me to say good bye to dancing. But I disagreed and did not give up. Olena Filipieva did not work during that period either (in December she gave birth to a wonderful baby daughter). Step by step I started to dance, getting back into shape. Olena and I helped each other, rehearsing small pas de deux.
“A year after the trauma I went on stage in the lead part of Lukash in Forest Song with Tetiana Borovyk. I did not dare to take risk anymore. I needed to overcome my fear and not to ruin what I had achieved in my treatment. I danced mostly by means of my healthy leg. But everything went well and I overcame the psychological barrier. Since that time I haven’t allowed myself to perform bold tricks on stage. My trauma has not been bothering me for long. Only a titanium screw has stayed in my leg as a reminiscence that I wanted to bite off more than I could chew, do more than I could. Now I work more accurately, but traumas are still part of our profession. For example, in February this year the pain in the knee came back, which prevented me from appearing in the premiere of La Bayadere.”
So, that first injury removed the question of competitions where one needs to give all one has got. However, during the 10th International Competition in Moscow, when Russian mass media wrote that “Ukrainian dancers forced the White-Stone Capital to its knees,” everyone was talking about you!
“For me this competition was an occasion to get into good physical shape. I performed out of competition as Kateryna Alaieva’s partner; so, I danced as much as the participants, but I did not worry about the result, so I was calm. Because not only victory is what matters at competitions, but also communication, contacts, and the mood, a special drive. Incidentally, it was the drive that helped me dance as a substitute in Raymonda practically immediately after the train. So I entered normal working theater regime with its routine and big rushes. Since that moment I finally became the leading soloist and finished my work in corps de ballet. I continued to dance together with Olena Filipieva, because when you know your partner well, you stop thinking about technical questions, you become creative and add nuances, and refined duo plan prevails. We have not danced for a long time with other dancers. For me that was the time of professional growth. Olena is an outstanding ballerina, a wonderful partner and teacher all together. The work with her gave me confidence that I can perform every role, not only within the framework of a romantic hero’s image. So, I did not lose myself in comic genre, which I found to be very complicated, because it is a special genre where not every dancer can be organic. For example, the part of Figaro draws all of your artistic abilities from inside and demands a corresponding mood.”
“I AM A KYIVITE. MY HOME IS HERE, I CAN GO ABROAD ONLY ON TOURS”
The road from performing exalted princes, such as Siegfried, Desire, Solor, to impulsive Romeo, passionate Jose, and infernal Voland lies via the change of plastique, hence rebuilding of all your muscles. How did you manage to change classic heroes for roles in modern ballets?
“My muscles are soft and they don’t resist. When I understood that I would succeed, I fell in love with modern dance. I love versatility. The most complicated thing is to switch from classical to modern dance. But our theater does not have a big repertoire of modern ballets. It is important to take a pause between the plays of different styles to rebuild your muscles and rehearse well. Modern dance helps to broaden the boundaries of your experience, better understand classic dance and enrich it with new colors. Classic, modern dance and many other styles are different facets of one diamond called the Dance. The most important thing is to avoid bad work, show a corresponding level at every show. Body is an instrument, and, like any instrument, it needs tuning. Then it will play. We speak with our bodies, use them to make declarations of love, and convey our emotions.”
A ballet dancer is a slave of his body, whereas the body is hostage to repertoire and touring policy of the theater, after all it is a way to earn one’s living. How can one achieve the balance between all dependences to go ahead and keep the level high without any damage to health?
“There are situations when it is impossible to refuse from offers out of different reasons: you are needed or you are interested in taking part in some projects. Almost all of my seasons go in a non-stop regime, including a number of long tours: Switzerland, Japan, Italy, America, Russia, Australia, and France. During the tours I often have to dance on harsh stages that are not adapted for ballet, which may cause traumas of joints. Although these traumas are not extreme, they wear out the support-motor apparatus even more. So sometimes you need to make a timely stop. Money earned at such price will later be spent for recovery of health (if there will be anything to recover).
“In fact, like before, it is hard to find time for rest. This summer I rested little, but I devoted time to getting in shape for further work. A new season is beginning, with tense work on home stage and on tours. In the end of September I will be dancing on the stage of the Kremlin Palace in Moscow the part of Desire in Sleeping Beauty within the framework of the Second International Festival of Ballet in the Kremlin.
“On September 19, I will start the season on home stage with the part of Solor I was unable to perform at the premiere. So, I invite all my buffs to La Bayadere!”