Christchurch Arts Excellence Award recipient, ballet dancer Tasman Davids, is living the dream dancing professionally for the Mariinsky Ballet Company. Here, he sends his latest news from St Petersburg.
Greetings to you from St Petersburg! I am nearing the end of my first year of dancing with the ‘St Petersburg State Academic Ballet Theatre named after L Yacobson’ – in short just plain Yacobson! My Artistic Director is Andrian Fadeyev who was the principal of the Mariinsky or Kirov Theatre before taking over the company. We have a very classical repertoire and dance mostly in St Petersburg, but I have been lucky enough in my first year to go on tour and travel to galas and performances in Nice, Monaco, Cannes and Paris, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Belarus and even the Crimea! On top of this I have also achieved my dream of being paid to dance at the Mariinsky – but more of the later…!
Back at the start of the year I danced in a gala at The Hermitage to celebrate the 250th year of the building. If you would like to watch just click here! No scenery as it was a gala with pieces from many ballets.
Recently I was one of ten boys from our company to be cast to dance in the equivalent of our Sparks in the Park, ‘Classics in Palace Square’. It is always an amazing stage set up with the gates to the Hermitage as a backdrop and huge chandeliers brought in as if it was a ballroom with no walls. The singers are all world class opera stars. Our star for the night was the great baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky, (with the white hair in the video – sadly later that week he was diagnosed with a brain tumour and all opera lovers are holding their breaths for his recovery. He is a very nice man as well as a phenomenal talent). It was a real thrill to be part of such a huge festival, which also featured dancers from The Mikhailovsky company and The Bad Boys of Dance. If you click on this link you can see the ‘advert’ for the movie. We dance in green to the Merry Widow, the Czardas and I am at the front in the white dress sequence.
Six months after I started working here I was promoted to coryphee and now dance a number of soloist pieces in the repertoire. Our pay is nothing like we would earn in Europe or even in New Zealand, but the thrill of learning from the dancers who were taught by the original people who created parts is unmatched. (Of course the money would be nice too 🙂 ) I had a great sadness, the same week as Maya Plisetskaya died, my teacher here died suddenly. One minute he was laughing before the performance and the next morning he was gone! I was terribly upset for his wife and selfishly for myself too, but very privileged to be a pall bearer for an Honoured Artist of Russia!
As I write I am living my own dream from so many years ago! Starting on the 3rd August we dance the summer season in the magnificent Mariinsky 2 new theatre, which cost $244million USD to build. I never dreamed for a minute that I actually would be paid to dance at the Mariinsky. I will alternate dancing the Mazurka and the Hungarian solo in Swan Lake at every performance. Our company have just had all new costumes and sets designed for us by one of Russia’s foremost designers. They are stunning and an extra thrill to have them made to measure!
We also premiered a new version of Romeo and Juliet this season, set to Prokofiev, choreographed by Anton Pimonov from the Mariinsky. If you haven’t had enough of watching clips you may enjoy Act 1 of our Romeo and Juliet.
I have now finished sitting the new exam for a work permit. It was a little daunting… 5 papers in law, history, grammar, writing a letter and speaking. I was however very chuffed that I scored 92% on it. My next year is all settled with the same company and my girlfriend, Elina, has graduated and was accepted straight into the Mariinsky full company. So I am pretty much sorted out after a year of all new experiences, which can be stressful, but now there will be fewer surprises and I can enjoy the coming year. We have some exciting tours and we are also adding Sleeping Beauty to our repertoire.
I send you all my best regards and wishes from St Petersburg,