ONE of the biggest stars on the international ballet stage, Russian prima ballerina Svetlana Zakharova of the Bolshoi Ballet, will perform in Shanghai for the first time at a gala evening this August.
The gala show, titled “Baiser Vole,” is the season-closing performance at Shanghai Grand Theatre. German choreographer Patrick de Bana, who created the original contemporary production “Jane Eyre” for the Shanghai Ballet, invited his friends to Shanghai and is the man behind the gala show.
“For me this gala is like an open meeting for friends, where the main public is also invited to take part in this nice meeting,” de Bana said last week when he flew into Shanghai to rehearse new programs for Shanghai Ballet principals Fan Xiaofeng and Wu Husheng.
Zakharova, born in Lutsk, Ukraine, in 1979, was trained at the Kiev Choreographic School and Vaganova Ballet Academy. At the age of 17, she joined the renowned Mariinsky Ballet in St. Petersburg and was promoted to principal dancer a year later.
In 1999, she received the Golden Mask Award for her performance in Balanchine’s “Serenade” and again in 2000 for her role of Aurora in “The Sleeping Beauty.”
In 2003, Zakharova accepted an offer from Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow and has been a principal at the company for more than a decade. She also guest stars in major ballet companies around the world, including La Scala in Milan, American Ballet Theatre, Paris Opera House, New York City Ballet and others.
At the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Zakharova performed the role of Natasha Rostova in the program based on Leo Tolstoy’s novel “War and Peace.”
She will perform two contemporary pieces at the gala in Shanghai: a solo “Revelation” and a duet “Digital Love” with de Bana.
“Revelation” is a piece choreographed by Motoko Hirayama with music from the film “Schindler’s List” composed by John Williams. This lyrical and emotional solo dance is about eight minutes in length, and the only prop Zakharova uses on stage is a chair.
The other piece, “Digital Love,” is a new choreography by de Bana and the performance in Shanghai will be the global premiere.
“In general, the duet is about distance, distant love,” de Bana said. “It’s about love that goes through this electronic world, and trying to send from one side of the world to the other emotions, feelings and connections.”
This dance is the final performance of the gala, and the choreographer said working with Zakharova is very special for him.
“Being with Svetlana Zakharova in the studio is like you have the impression that you walk into the Forbidden City and the last empress of China invites you to dance. This is how it feels,” de Bana said.
Another world premiere dance at the gala is “The Farewell Waltz,” also choreographed by de Bana, which will be performed by Isabelle Guérin and Manuel Legris.
“I have the honor to bring on the stage two of the biggest étoiles of Paris Opera of the last 20 years, who were very close to Nureyev. He chose them, he made them, he brought them to the international ballet world,” de Bana said.
Guérin is a French ballerina who was a member of the Paris Opera Ballet starting in 1978. Now 53, she can still perform on stage.
The 50-year-old Legris is the current director of the Vienna State Ballet and was a star of the Paris Opera Ballet for 23 years.
“It’s a very new thing, maybe, for the Chinese public to have such mature dancers on stage,” de Bana said, “I did it on purpose, because the Chinese vision of when you have to stop dancing, they stop too young, they stop far too young in Shanghai.”
In China, many young ballerinas stop dancing after having babies, often at only 23 or 25 years of age.
“In Europe, in the whole rest of the world it’s like why shall I stop if I have a baby? It’s better I come back as a woman, as a mother,” de Bana said.
In fact three years ago, Zakharova, who’s married to Russian violinist Vadim Repin, returned on the stage just a few months after giving birth to her daughter. She now performs in full-length classical and contemporary ballets at the Bolshoi Theatre and around the world.
In Guérin and Legris, de Bana is bringing in very mature and professional dancers who have enjoyed big careers and still have more strength and beauty than many young dancers.
“Actually it’s like two generations meeting on stage. I think for Beijing opera, when young artist meet respected older artists, it’s exchange, so I think it’s going to be a very interesting night for the audience,” de Bana said.
The gala show will also feature other international stars including Friedemann Vogel and Maria Eichwald (principal dancers of Stuttgart Ballet), Ketevan Papava (soloist with Vienna State Ballet), Anna Tsygankova (principal with Dutch National Ballet), Matthew Golding (principal with Royal Ballet) as well as Shanghai Ballet principals Fan Xiaofeng and Wu Husheng.