A short Talk with Roman Lazik: Principal Vienna State Ballet (May 6th, 2019)
Mikhail Baryshnikov once said: „When a body moves, it's the most revealing thing. Dance for me a minute, and I'll tell you who you are“. Nothing could me more appropriate do understand Mr Lazik than this quote.
A „Danseur Noble“ who in every single movement reveals great paths of his soul: elegance, honesty, seriousness, gravity, integrity... Perhaps he gives more away than he would ever want to. But that is the dilemma with great Artistry. It is stronger than yourself.
I honestly do not remember the first time I have ever seen Mr Lazik on stage – and although I wish I could remember it, I just know that it was quite a while ago – and I do not even remember if it was in Munich or Vienna. I can only remember that from the beginning on of following his career, I realized that his „persona quality“ on stage is one that is getting rarer and rarer, as the years go by. You do not find anymore many dancers that can be referred to as „Danseur Noble“, like it is not easy to find Ballerinas you can refer to and say „She IS a Swan“.
Yes, qualities that seem to be vanishing with the passing of time, while this overwhelming (and terrifying) cult to „Technique“ (instead of Artistry) is taking over and over our stages worldwide. I think this is sad and I am just too happy to have been able to witness „other times“.
Thinking back, since my teens, I have been witnessing less and less „Danseurs Noble“ - Erik Bruhn I was never able to see... but Anthony Dowell, David Wall, Richard Cragun, Denys Ganio, Jean Charles Gil (!), Ivan Liska... But Baryshnikov, Nureyev, Legris, Dupond and the whole new generations; they have never convinced me as „Danseurs Noble“ because this singular quality is something too special. (wonderful, exquisite, genial dancers, no question but not „Noble“). A kind of gift that is simply, to put it very mildly, „a notch above“! It is either in your genes – or not. It is not possible to learn it.
„When did you start working at the Vienna State Ballet, Roman?“
„Oh, it was 2007... after I had been working since 2000 at the Bavarian State Opera“, he answered quite quickly.
„I have seen you in so many different roles... so many filled with such sensitivity and soul elegance... How do you start preparing for a new role?“
He looked at me as if remembering a whole process, his creative process... „I begin collecting as much information as I can. Preferably from books. This way I can learn more about the character I should be portraying. For example, Rudolph (in MacMillan's „Mayerling“) is a character who demands many studies because of his extreme personality complexity… But this is different from role to role... I try to be as informed as possible before rehearsals begin... This is my way of constructing the character!“
„Which are your favourite roles up to now, Roman?“
Without exciting for one second, he answered in a very straight forward manner: Onegin, Armand in Neumeier's „The Lady of the camellias“ and Rudolph in „Mayerling“.
„And if I were the genie of a lamp and could make nay your wishes come true... which roles would you like to dance?“, I said jokingly. But he answered quite earnestly „I have danced all that I wanted to dance... Yes, I danced as much as a dancer can, also pieces, I never even thought would be possible. And I must say quite simply, that I´m more than satisfied and happy in my career as a dancer. I must add something: I wish I could have worked with Pina Pausch!“
Interviewing many dancers for years, I have heard of his partnership skills from many principal Dancers at the Vienna State Opera. Olga Esina, Irina Tsymbal, Nina Poláková, just to name a few, just spoke compliments about him and the way he „protects“ his partners (a thing that is becoming more and rarer... since male dancers, obsessed with vanity, decide to pay more attention to the way THEY look onstage instead of taking more care of their partners – I think this all began with Nureyev and HIS vanity). Also through the years I got more and more impressed by Mr Lazik's elegance. Sou elegance. He does not like Social Media, he does not „sell himself“ for cheap publicity (like some dancers that post online“I shall be tonight at the event so and so, on the red carpet. Don't miss it!“). Mr Lazik is too elegant for that... But just like the Baryshnikov quote that I have mentioned before: „Dance for me a minute, and I'll tell you who you are“
„What about the controversy about Technique and Style, Roman? Things, values seem to be changing... Is there less coaching nowadays?“
„Well, I do not think that we should blame the coaches – but we should focus more on the own initiative of the individuals. It is so easy to get information nowadays... but it seems that the own initiative is missing...“
„What about the „timing“ (for preparations to certain performances) nowadays at the Opera Houses?“
„We used, in the past, to have more time (even though the season was very busy and the amount of work the same) to prepare for a new role, not only for the rehearsals. The lack of time for rehearsing, preparing for a new role, affects the interpreter/dancer, his/her self-confidence in the role. One should be feeling comfortable and prepared to go on stage, not thinking of the steps anymore, but simply enjoying the dancing and the role. Oh, and there are many other aspects on top of it, which one has to fight with when one goes on stage for the first time in a new role - costumes, set, lights, fast changes, props etc.„
„I wanted to ask you a question – do you prefer abstract or „roles“ - but as I look at my notes and look at which roles you have described as your favourite roles (Onegin, Armand and Rudolph), I do not really have to ask the question, isn't it?“
And both of us laugh and nearly get the giggles.
Such a pleasant afternoon, so enriching to me. That is the point: Elegance seen through Dance. His Soul’s Elegance seen through his Dance. Transparency. Yes, Baryshnikov, you are more than right: “. Dance for me a minute, and I'll tell you who you are“.
And that is what I really love about my job.
The priceless possibility to enter a bit of someone's mind, soul, artistry. Today I can only say: Thank you Roman, for letting me in.