A short talk with Olga Esina - prima Ballerina Vienna State Ballet: Feb.15th, 2018
I was really thrilled to meet Miss Esina at last for a short interview. A Prima-Ballerina has always such a busy schedule und I highly valued her flexibility in arranging our meeting just between rehearsals of Balanchine’s “Symphony in C” and “Raymonda”. Amazing!
I arrived a few minutes earlier, sat quietly in a corner to write down some thoughts I had been preparing as topics for our interview when all of a sudden she ran into the Café precisely at the gong of 11:45 am, like arranged, in the best of (the most admirable) traditions for well-mannered persons: Punctuality!
We greeted each other warmly and she sat down somehow a little bit out of breath only to ask me in the most kindest of ways if she could make a short call: she wanted to call her husband, Kirill Kourlaev (also an ex-Principal of the Vienna State Ballet) because he was taking their baby daughter to the doctor. She was perfectly coiffed, beautifully dressed and fresh – not at all like a dancer that had just finished class and a rehearsal…
Miss Esina is since January 1st “officially back” after having her baby. She had at that point not been on stage after her “baby break”. But she was at the “Opera Ball” revealing to her audiences a new quality: a certain radiance, an aura. After talking to her for a while I became aware that this new “dimension” is a consequence of motherhood. Her eyes sparkle with such warmth when she talks about her life, her baby daughter. What a special moment for the Woman. For the Artist.
“How was your “come-back” after all these months? I must be very honest with you… You remember that I came to watch Sergey Ignatiev’s class on January 19th. Of course I did not want to stare at you – which was quite difficult… after all, I was sitting 4 meters away from you… I tried to be as discreet as possible but “through the corners of my eyes” I looked at you: I nearly wanted to ask you “Are you sure you have had a baby? You are on top shape!”
She smiled that conquering smile of hers and said “Oh, but I have been doing classes for quite a while… Since the beginning of November: I began at home – you see stretching etc., when my parents came to visit I took the chance to go to classes at least three times a week… then when I visited them in St. Petersburg I could manage even to go to Pilates classes in order to regain even more of my strength!”
I mentioned Marika Mólnar, a leader in Dance Medicine that lives and works in New York, and that helped many dancers regain their strength (and their abdominal muscles) after their baby breaks (there’s a whole video of her working with Makarova on my “youtube page”. Check on “attitude – devant”) and then she added quite joyfully “All of a sudden, some days ago, I suddenly realized that things were not as difficult like at the beginning, after returning to class… My legs were higher, I felt stronger, more in command of my own body!” she added looking down as if searching within herself for the reason of that joy and said “I am fully aware of my position as a Prima-Ballerina and great responsibility that I have – not only towards the Opera itself but also towards my audiences”. She said that so earnestly, nearly in a somber way which made me once more realize that sometimes all that responsibility can also be a burden…
During our talk I had to mention two of the saddest moments that I experienced at the Opera in the last years: Davide Dato’s injury last June and her own torn calves while doing Odile’s fouettés some years ago. She was surprised that I had been on that certain performance – I had never mentioned that!
But it was time to talk about something more cheerful (and I knew that we did not have that much time!): “Tell me please, Olga, which are your favourite roles or the ones you’d love to dance? Just name me three of them… ”
Like a “flash” all of a sudden I remembered her in so many marvelous roles: Mr. B’s “Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto”, “Swan Lake”, “Giselle Rouge” (in which she exceeded technically and emotionally), “Manon” and so many others… Her immediate answer, without hesitating for a single second, somehow surprised me but inspired me to reflect more about it… “Yes… “Juliet” but neither Cranko’s nor MacMillan’s, which are of course marvelous, but I still prefer the Mariinsky’s version, Leonid Lavrovsky’s version… I danced it only once as a guest at the Mariinsky. I did not have much time to prepare. A two week’s period is not long for such a huge work. There is nearly no pantomime in it, it is danced all the way… During that exciting period I “thought Juliet, breathed Juliet”. I could not think of anything else but Juliet. I have never so prepared for a role as I felt… I have never felt myself on stage like I felt that one time… “
“Oh and there are two which I have never danced” she continued excitedly, Balanchine’s “Diamonds” which is so beautiful and the last one: I have never danced “Nikiya” (“La Bayadère”, editor’s note)”. I could not believe it and said astonished “What?”
“Yes” she said “I have danced Gamzatti but never Nikiya… a series of concidences prevented me from dancing this role, which I love so. Someday… “
Because she had mentioned “Diamonds” I was suddenly “lost” in my own interview line. My question should have been “And how do you relate to abstract Ballets?” Nevertheless I asked it. Her answer was a clear as water “I am always in love with the work I am preparing at that right moment”.
“Can you tell us about future plans?” I ventured. “There’ll be no Premières until the end of the Season… I shall return to the Stage on February 21st in “Symphony in C” and there’ll be Raymonda in March… And of course the “Nureyev Gala”, End of June, which is one of the most important Ballet events of the year”! (And not only in Vienna, editor’s note)
I knew that time was passing fast – it is always like that when you are involved in a serious, interesting talk… One theme brings the other, one question the next, a thought another completely different one. We finished our Ginger/Lemongrass cups of tea, said a quick good-bye and she rushed back to her Raymonda Rehearsal…
So many questions still to ask, so much still to learn from this talented Artist but time – that precious “item” which we should be entitled for more - had run short. But Art keeps moving, flowing. And by the next time I meet Miss Esina she will be again “full with surprises, plans, ideas” and I like that!
One thing for sure: Art reflects life and Miss Esina’s Art reflects the Finesse and Elegance that she carries with herself. Instinctively. Elegance is an attitude.
Thank you for such a pleasure!
Ricardo Leitner / www.attitude-devant.com