San Francisco Ballet

2017 SFB Program 06 Notes

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a dream ballet with the added appeal of a dual role. That was true for Principal Dancer Yuan Yuan Tan, who danced Odette/Odile a few years after joining the Company as a soloist in 1995; it was her first principal role in a full-length classical ballet. Coaching her was Irina Jacobson, an authority on 19th- and 20th-century ballets who danced with the Kirov (now Mariinsky) Ballet and was on the faculty of San Francisco Ballet School. "Irina was very tough," Tan says. "I remember I was very challenged. But I did it and it was good." Asked if she has a preference for Odette (the White Swan) or Odile (the Black Swan), Tan demurs. "They're so different," she says. "They have their own way of doing things." But ask her if she has a favorite scene or moment in the ballet and she turns mischievous: "When I jump off the cliff," she says, laughing. "Just kidding." She becomes serious again when talking about the need to grow in this dual role over time. "You cannot always stay the same," she says. "You always want to do better than you did before." Dancing the role now compared to when she was 19, for example, she says, "you feel different, the physique is different — artistically too, how you make it convincing." Making Odette/Odile convincing was difficult for Principal Dancer Maria Kochetkova at first; succeeding in the dual role meant overcoming her fear of it. "I never thought of myself as right for Swan Lake, so to find myself in it and be able to enjoy it was really important." Finding herself came from uncovering the meaning behind the movement, she says. "When I understood how my White Swan moves, and Black Swan — when I started moving the way I felt and the way it was comfortable, the characters came naturally." For Kochetkova, one key aspect of dancing Odette is getting the arms right. "It's not classical arms whatsoever," she says. "I see Swan Lake as a contemporary ballet in the way it has to be done now; otherwise it's going to look boring and it does not feel right." It's essential to find "this balance between being classical/traditional with proper classic technique" while moving "in a very different way," she says. "I think it's the way it has to be done now, and the only way ballerinas can enjoy it. Otherwise it becomes this really careful thing. A swan is a big bird with wings; that's important to remember." That means the arms should have "fluidity, but not in a snake way or Arabian dance way," Kochetkova continues. "She's a swan; she's not a creature. She may be a bit of a woman too. There is a famous Pushkin fairy tale [The Tale of Tsar Sultan] where there's a beautiful woman who lives in a lake, and instead of arms she has wings. That's how I imagine my swan." For a more visual source of inspiration, she looks to The Swan Princess, a painting by Russian symbolist artist Mikhail Vrubel. Swan Lake, Kochetkova says, is "very technically demanding, and it gets everything out of you too." What she really likes, she says, is the point in the last act when "all the hard stuff is done and you have this beautiful music and you can really let go and enjoy." That's understandable, given that she calls Swan Lake "the hardest full-length I've done. Being my type of body, I have to work extra hard to make every single position extra long, extra large. So I get tired more than from any other ballet. And it gets me in shape. If I can do Swan Lake, I can do anything." Left: Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helimets in Tomasson's Swan Lake // © Erik Tomasson Right: SF Ballet in Tomasson's Swan Lake // © Erik Tomasson 2017 SEASON GUIDE SAN FRANCISCO BALLET 75

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