Our site and the Associazione “Evgenij Polyakov” are three years old. Three years ago, we asked those who knew the Maestro to give us three adjectives to describe him. Those adjectives are still clearly visible on our homepage and still help visitors to learn about the innumerable facets of his great personality. Today, to celebrate this milestone, we asked some of the main protagonists of his ballets and his very close collaborators a little of their precious time to tell us some moments of their artistic experience with Genia. The questions were proposed by the musicologist Luca Berni, whom we thank, a great friend of Polyakov. Sincere thanks to those who wanted to respond, for the renewed demonstration of affection and esteem for Genia. Their personal memories thus enliven our Foyer.
Four questions about Genia
by Luca Berni
- Florence ClercI: I met Genia when he arrived at the Paris Opera with Nureyev.
- Marcello AngeliniII: I worked with Maestro Polyakov from 1979 to 1983. He was my first director.
- The titles you danced: Genia’s suggestions, rehearsals and style.
- F. C.: I danced all the ballets in the Opéra repertoire and all worked exclusively with him. His style? Dance and life mixed together. Genia in the studio was generous and attentive (careful), he didn’t make you anxious, he was reassuring, both from a technical and an artistic point of view.
Freedom and rigor.
- M. A.: Many titles, many suggestions. The most memorable was his Nutcracker. To be in the theater when it was created, occupying the same spaces of big stars like Elisabetta Terabust and Peter Schaufuss, and then dancing many of its roles, including the principals, was wonderful. Genia’s style… always with a smile on his lips. That was a time when ballet teachers directed with an iron fist. On the contrary, he guided us with silk gloves. Encouraging, never offensive, he worked hard and we followed him, he worked with us, young people, during all the long meal breaks, to give us a future and a satisfying artistic career. The Maestro had many qualities, some innate, like an impeccable taste in classical dance and the skill of communicating with his dancers through his physicality. He acquired other qualities through hard work, such as the respect with which he directed in studio and his always positive energy, also when he was angry… But his main quality was his artistic generosity and a generosity of his own time. He gave a lot and he formed a whole generation of artists.
- Genia in studio: the Master and the choreographer, according to you.
- F. C.: He was devoted to music and to his dancers.
- M. A.: More a teacher than a choreographer. Genia, in my opinion, used choreography to teach, to communicate with his dancers, perhaps more than he used it to communicate with the audience. Choreographers are slightly egocentric people, they have a their own vision of their works and “use” dancers to give life to their imagination. Genia, instead, was a generous artist, who used choreography to make his company grow. It is also true that, with so many responsibilities, both artistic and administrative (let’s not forget that he gave lessons almost every day, was in studio during all the rehearsals, during the three-hour afternoon breaks he worked with us young people and in the evening we all went to the Collettivo… – Collettivo di Danza Contemporanea, a dance company based in Florence, editorial note), maybe he didn’t have the time to develop his choreographic talent. Anyway, I shall always remember him as the guide who inspired us to be better than our talent allowed, who taught us to dance for the pleasure of dancing, the person who, with his actions, taught us the artistic discipline and personal integrity in our profession. The Maestro will always represent the ideal to which we aspire, but not one that can be achieved.
- A special memory to share and maybe it’s even better if it’s not a dance memory, but a memory related to everyday life.
- F. C.: A memory to share? How can I do it? I have thousands, all in my heart.
- M. A.: Among many memories, the clearest one is always the last telephone conversation in 1996. It was perhaps for the respect I had for him, or perhaps because it was necessary for me that Polyakov should always stand on a pedestal, half human and half myth, that I never knew him as a man. In 1996, after one year as a company director, I began to learn about the man behind the facade. And once again I needed his guidance. Coincidence wants that, at that moment, I had about the same age as the Master when I started working in Florence. We talked for more than one hour, he listened to me patiently as I told him all the vicissitudes of my first year as director and the problems with dancers. At the end of the conversation he told me something like “Marcellino, remember that the energy that drives the dancers is their love for dance. They understand that their career is short and therefore they want to dance. Even if they make mistakes and maybe their actions are blameworthy, what drives them is the love for dance, the desire to dance, the same love you have for our art”. Even today, 23 years later, those words are my daily guide and the philosophy of my direction.
I. International Principal dancer and Maître de Ballet
II. Director of Tulsa Ballet (USA)