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While Europe is trying to weaken Russia with sanctions, we actively develop business relationships with our Asian neighbors. And thankfully not only in the field of export of natural resources, but also in the domain of culture. Let’s just put it this way: the Russian art boom continues in China. Following Vitas, who is apparently even more popular in China now than he is at home, one more Russian collective became a huge Russian attraction and a genuine mega-star. It is FLEXX BALLET that tours China almost more often than it does Russia. Sensual, passionate, with incredible flexibility, expressing all higher human emotions: passion, ardor, obsession, attraction, tenderness, trepidation, love, through dance. The dancers from Russia simply made fastidious Chinese public fall in love with them. It is hard to believe, but FLEXX was invited to share stage with the winner of a popular Chinese show Voice for her final performance in the contest. None of any other Russian dance groups can brag about anything like this. We asked Pavel Mychko, the director of the collective, to tell us about the phenomenon of such popularity. It is worth mentioning, that Pavel can also boast special attention from the Chinese. He was exclusively invited to organize and manage an international film festival of highest caliber held in China. It is indeed necessary to really impress the Chinese with something extraordinary for them to pass on the fellow countrymen and give this opportunity to a foreigner.
- Pavel, you look like a person of art, do you dance?
- I was always interested in dance, but have never done that professionally. Only as a child. I studied dancing and vocals, but then a question of earning for a living arose, and there was no more time for dancing. I am a physicist technician by education, but I had to start working in show business organizing tours. In a very short time I had the pleasure of meeting all of our prominent artists, managed tours for our entertainers, organized shows for Lara Fabian, Scorpions, Deep Purple, and then dancers. And so I gradually started to understand what dance was and began to do this professionally, but as a manager. I like dance more than singing, because many singers in Russia do hackwork. But how would that be possible in dance? You can either do it well or not at all.
- You act not only as a director, and by that I mean the key manager of the dance group, but also as an artistic director.
- I have a good imagination, and everything that is conceived in my ballet – I come up with it. I act as a stage director that has to achieve a certain look (for the show), and as a producer. I am not a choreographer, but the real leader has to understand a great many things related to the profile of his work, and I do. In many aspects I focus on western shows, there’s quite a bit there to get one inspired.
- Do our shows yield in some way to the western ones? Why does it happen?
- I’d say that western directors do not obsess over one particular style, they adapt, alter and perfect it. In Russia, perhaps, it is a bit more definitive. Maybe that’s because the question of financing is a heavier burden. We can’t charge too much for the tickets, but we bring stage scenery, for instance, and lighting, and that is very expensive. But I accept these costs, because I see this great difference between our production and western. I have Russian friends that live overseas, and I get them involved with my work. They are Russian in spirit, but with experience of working in the west. I work with one very well-known director. She’s Russian, but works in Germany, Olga. She organized very big shows abroad, staged the Berlin City Day celebration, for instance. And I want my shows to be big, and we come up with some new ideas, improve them and fine-tune them to perfection.
-Do you personally supervise shows of your team, escort them on tour?
- Absolutely. And I always come out into the audience to feel the energy, take note of what public responds well to or what they enjoy less. Say, after the show is over they give us standing ovations. But I want them to get up and encore us right in the middle of the show. It is a bit hard now, of course, economy crisis, but it won’t last forever! If do anything now, it has to be something new and interesting.
-You have many sensual acts in the show, bordering on erotica. Perhaps it is hard not to tumble down to striptease? And how do you find that line at all?
- It is a fine line. One has to have an impeccable taste to make sure the dance is not lewd and vulgar, but there was still a touch of eroticism present on stage. Everything depends only on you here, on your taste, moderation, your own correct perception. But I always keep an eye on the audience. It’s not what I want, but what the audience wants to see that has to happen on stage. Say, 50 Shades of Grey is a very popular movie now, and I need to see it. Not because I want to see it, but to understand what people are crazy about now. And how to digest it in my head to understand what in it gets people on the hook.
- Your ballet is unbelievably popular in China, you even performed with the finalist of the show Voice of China, which is just amazing. How did that happen? Is it a result of China’s interest towards Russia or was it just you that, as they say, hit the bull's eye like that?
- There is a very strong interest to Russians in China. They express really good attitude towards us. Often, not being able to speak English they speak Russian. But even in our ballet there is a strong confluence of Russian and Chinese. We have a very special act based on Chinese history. We have several dancers that lived and worked in China for a very long time. After all, we do have a Chinese dancer that also does solos. So it is a combination of two factors.
- Do Chinese dance more extraordinary than Russians?
- No, we are better in dance, but Chinese have their unique style. In fact, Soviet, Russian dancers are among the best in the world, we have our own energy. You know, just like Africans have their particular brand of energy and it is expressed through their dance, so do we, and that gave us our classical ballet, one of the most famous. It is even somewhat just physics. Russian dance school is the strongest in the world.
- Staging a show, do you think more of a Russian spectator or of a foreign one?
- I am Russian and I cater to Russian audience, but I choose music that speaks to everyone. Say, take a dance made to the song I Love You to Tears. There are certain particular notes in the timbre of performer’s voice, emotions, and, say, Chinese enjoy watching this number very much. Then also people like a lot of kitsch, and we have those costumes with the twisty things, fur hats, coats, girls wear kokoshniks (traditional headdress), kind of an additional accent on Russian culture, but in a bit of our own interpretation.
- Do you face some of the purely professional problems, such as, say, high turnover or poaching of your dancers?
- There are, of course, some issues. But I treat my dancers well, and they like our show, so we don’t have to change staff too often. It’s the other way around, people come to us, look for us. Now there’s one dancer that came from Ukraine, and there’s one more about to join us. And these artists worked a lot in America, performed dance solos in popular theaters, but they still chose us. It’s just that talented people see that we work hard, that we gain momentum, play to full houses…
- Injuries are not uncommon. Whose problem is that, the dancer’s or yours as a director?
- Every dancer for me is a part of family, as I brought up many of them. So all kinds of injuries – that’s our shared problems. They are like children to me, I am in love with my ballet. For instance, one of our dancers is about to undergo a knee surgery soon that costs 120 thousand. It’s not due to an injury, he just needs to change a metal pin, and of course I will pay for it. I also pay for my dancers’ gym memberships, workouts.
- And while we’re at it, why would a dancer need a gym? Isn’t rehearsals and two and a half hours of show not enough workout for an artist of ballet?
- No, they need to stay in shape, target different groups of muscles. Legs, for one. When you dance, all groups of muscles are engaged, but if dancers after a leap land on weak legs, they will sustain injuries. They need to warm up, train constantly, and besides they are in love with what they do. And if a director treats his dancers like cannon fodder, then the attitude towards him is different too. But I guarantee my dancers, that after they are finished working for me they will still be able to start their business, open up their schools. They trust me, and that’s why they are with me.
- Are there any age restrictions for your dancers?
- No, no age restrictions as long as they look good. I have a dancer who is 33, but he looks brilliantly on stage. It happens people still dance when they are 40, and 42, it doesn’t matter, if they look after their body. Most of the dancers I currently employ are 25. They go through very complicated emotions on stage, grown-up feelings, children cannot show those. In order to dance passion, love, sensuality, one’s life has to have some mileage on it.
- Is having children the end of it?
- Why? Not at all. We’ve got one girl come back and dance again after giving birth to a baby not long ago. I don’t disallow anything, as long as they continue their creative work.
- And others do?
- Some make a rule of signing contracts, there are certain restrictions in those. Obviously, when you are supposed to have 3 dancers on stage and one of them can’t perform tomorrow – it is a problem. But I do not have any restrictions.
- You have mentioned that you are in love with your ballet, do you have affairs with your dancers?
- Hmm, I can’t say I am a person that doesn’t fall in love, I very much do. But ballet is my creation, how can I mix business and private? No, I seek love outside work, but my ballet does make my life.
Author: Fedotkina Tatyana