Eifman Ballet
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Ivan Vasiliev in Rehearsal for Kings of the Dance 2011

We are very pleased to have special guest blogger Anya Korisch writing from City Center in New York where she’s behind-the-scenes at rehearsals for Kings of the Dance 2011. For the next few weeks, we’ll be posting Anya’s insider photos and updates. Her first blog post, below, provides a front row seat to the solo piece,Labyrinth of SolitudeKings 2011 will receive its American premiere here Oct. 21 – 23.

Sept. 8th, second day of fall rehearsals. City Center.

With the Moscow world premiere less than a month away, rehearsals for Kings of the Dance 2011 are in full swing at the City Center studios in New York.

This week, choreographer and former Compania Nacional de Danza principal dancer, Patrick de Bana, is choreographing a new solo, Labyrinth of Solitude, for the Bolshoi's youngest, and arguably brightest, star – Ivan Vasiliev. The music is a stirring orchestral version of Tomaso Antonio Vitali's Chaconne in G Minor for Violin and Piano. When finished, the solo will be 10 grueling minutes long, and de Bana and Vasiliev have only six days to complete it start to finish. It helps that Vasiliev is a quick study – by the end of second day, they have set over five minutes of the music.

In keeping with the title, the piece begins with Vasiliev, his back to the audience, slowly trotting center stage, taking small bouncing steps like a bull or prize-fighter in the ring. “Use your bones, feel your bones,” de Bana tells him. The direction produces a more articulated, weightier quality of movement. At another point, demonstrating a pose of almost extreme contrapposto, de Bana tells Vasiliev to think of the Nijinsky photographs, their oppositions of lightness and weight, the suggested stillness at the heart of the movement. “When I look at you, I think of Nijinsky,” de Bana tells Vasiliev. The dancer doesn't flinch at the comparison.

The choreographer's feedback is full of imagery and he is concerned that each movement convey an emotion, a message to the audience. At the first rehearsal, trying to describe an effect he is looking for, de Bana tells Vasiliev of his own experience watching bullfighting. On day two, the choreographer says, “This is your labyrinth of solitude, but it's your own mind, you know.” Vasiliev immediately hits the right emotional tone. “He is amazing,” exclaims de Bana. “Did you always learn this fast?” Vasiliev nods.

Most of the movement is extremely fluid with huge jumps that are Vasiliev's specialty, bursting into the air like sudden gusts of wind. From day one, even while marking, he colors each movement with an emotional quality and de Bana urges him to play with the timing of the music, to feel free to go slower or faster within the phrase in order to produce the pitch that in the end will fit the music perfectly. “Be the echo,” is the last comment of the long second rehearsal day.

Text and photos by Anya Korisch.