A short talk with Nina Poláková: Principal, Vienna State Ballet, Oct.22nd, 2018
To start a conversation with someone you really don't know is sometimes quite a difficult task. To find the right „tone“ is at times nearly impossible. Not with Nina Poláková.
During the first moments of this short interview, I became completely aware of her sincere and intense conviction about all that was saying.
She looks straight into your eyes and you know immediately that all that she is telling and all that she will tell you is blended with those rare qualities: frankness and truth. This most admirable of attitudes is reflected in all that she says, the way that she moves, addresses and looks at you: completely detached from any kind of artificiality and self-display. Within minutes I knew that I was in a „safe harbour“ and understood completely the German expression „Stille Gewässer sind tief“ („Silent waters are deep“).
„Dear Miss Poláková, you arrived in Vienna as a member of the Corps de Ballet although you had been a soloist in Bratislava... „ I ask.
„Yes, and this was December 2005. I had got a Soloist contract in my last year at school but I always wanted to be in Vienna and never bothered to tell this. Nowadays it is common knowledge but back then I thought „Just let destiny runs its course – if you are gifted enough you will become a soloist, if not... „Just after three years I became a half soloist – by coincidence, it was at the same time as Vladimir Malakhov offered me a contract in Berlin... So I guess, it was meant for me to stay in Vienna“
„You have danced again „Giselle“ a while ago and many people commented that you were definitely „this Season's „Giselle“. Unfortunately, I missed you in this role. Again.“
„I am glad that you said this, Ricardo. „Giselle“ is a very difficult role... all this combination of technique and extreme emotions are a hard task for a dancer to accomplish...“ she says.
„I think there's more to what you want to say“, I venture.
She smiles and understanding smile – she knows exactly what I want to get to...
„Yes“, she sighs, „I am a very empathetic person. I am grateful for this „gift“ but like every medal, it has two sides: when the curtain falls after Giselle's death (and the mad scene) I am more than emotionally wrecked. Sometimes it is even hard to stand up and walk to my wardrobe. The whole part is too strong!“
„I remember you making me cry during Boris Eifman's „Giselle Rouge“. Is this also a ballet that touches you that much?“ I ask.
„Yes. Definitely. Especially because it is more descriptive – and, let's face it, based on a true story. One that surely touches the audience's (and the dancer's) soul to extremes!“
„Tell us please which are you „all-time“ favourite roles until now“. Without hesitating she simply answers „ Manon, Mary Vetsera in (MacMillan's) „Mayerling“, Cranko's „Juliet“ and „Tatjana“ in „Onegin“... „
„Surely also four of the most extreme emotional roles ever for a dancer... „
She does not answer to that and for a short second she withdraws into herself as if realizing this „coincidence“ (Do coincidences really exist?)
„Nina, let us pretend I am a sort of a genius of a lamp... and I could rant you three „wishes“. Three „roles“ you have never danced before... which would those be?“
„Oh, I don't need three!“ she says, „It would be a waste. I have danced until now everything I wanted. Nearly. There is but one ballet, one role that I would really love to dance... „
„And that is?“
„Marguerite in Neumeier's „Die Kameliendame“ („La Dame aux camélias“) for sure“
With this statement, it is time for me to withdraw into myself and imagine Miss Poláková in this most fabulous role – also another one filled with distress and emotional challenges. Images of her as Manon, Olga Spessivtseva (Giselle Rouge), Vetsera run through my mind and I see her as Marguerite... Yes... Oh, and how I wish that the Vienna State Opera would/could buy this production...
„You spoke a lot of classic, more substantial „roles“ in which lots of artistry as an actor are needed but audiences also love you in very abstract roles“
„ And I love them too: How I enjoy Mr B. (Violin Concerto for example) and Forsythe and Jiri Kylian !!!! „
„Tell us a bit about your partnership with Roman Lazik – you two always impress me on stage!“
„Oh, I knew him already when I entered the Ballet school. Years later, while working in the Slovakian National Theatre, I danced with him for the first time. As a guest he was was Albrecht to my Giselle“ she smiles as if remembering good things and adds „In Vienna, we became real friends. On stage, I always feel „on safe hands“ while dancing with him. And, what a coincidence that you should mention our partnership. I have heard so many times that we give the impression of „related souls“, such is our affinity... and I do not mean just our verbal communication but the fact we understand each other, also privately and that we relate to each other, somehow on the same emotional level“
I just say „This is beautiful and fascinating“ and then add with a wink „ But do coincidences really exist?“I
„Let us think of new roles: how do you prepare for them?“
„Literature is definitely a most important point for me: I have to understand the times in which the story takes place, the possibilities that people had with their own lives... understanding that it becomes easier for me to be empathetic, to move into that period, into that era, into the character... „
And from this point on, we started talking about empathy – a theme that, especially nowadays, should concern us all much more... not only artists on stage but people in general... At one point we nearly embraced each other as we both realized that „It would be so marvellous to win in the lottery“ in order to be able to help other people more and more.
We said goodbye outside the restaurant – she had to pick up her car in a garage – and all of a sudden I realized that I had forgotten one question – from a certain distance I said loudly: „Nina, is there a favourite choreographer?“
She looked at me and with all that frankness so typical of hers she just said: „NO!“
And laughing a bit she started running in order to get to the garage on time.
A lovely afternoon!