Malakhov brings borscht to ballet

by

Special To The Japan Times

“In my free time when I’m not taking classes or conducting rehearsals, I like to go to theaters and museums — or just go shopping and visit different parts of the city,” Vladimir Malakhov, The Tokyo Ballet’s new artistic adviser explained during our recent Japan Times interview.

“And at work,” the former artistic director of the Berlin State Ballet continued, “I have my Malakhov Cuisine Hour every Monday, when I cook for the dancers and staff — and they seem to love it! I’ve made burgers, pate, borscht and lots of other things, and I am so happy to cook for my friends. I always wanted to do this one day — and finally, in Tokyo, it’s happened.”

Though he’s now 47, Malakhov is still an active dancer, and he was also first soloist at the Berlin company he left last year. Then after joining The Tokyo Ballet as it was celebrating its 50th anniversary in August 2014, he danced in a gala staged in November by its principal dancer, Mizuka Ueno. In that, he performed in an extract from “Swan Lake” by the French-born so-called father of Russian ballet, Marius Petipa (1818-1910), and also danced “The Dying Swan,” a 2009 piece created for him by the acclaimed young Italian choreographer Mauro de Candia.

“When I give energy to the audience, they give it to me,” this star renowned for his artistic lyricism said with a big smile. “In the past, that’s made me dance better and jump higher, and I thank god for those wonderful years. Still now I try to do my best as my physical condition permits.”

This weekend, audiences will be able to savor Malakhov on stage again, when he performs the role of the villain Carabosse in a version of Petipa’s “The Sleeping Beauty” he has created for The Tokyo Ballet.

“As you can see, I am an open person, and not evil, so there are gaps between me and Carabosse — and this is the biggest problem,” he said with a laugh. “But I am really looking forward to seeing Mizuka dance Princess Aurora with Dan Tsukamoto as the prince. I also picked the young dancers Mamiko Kawashima and super-talented Hideo Kishimoto (respectively) for those roles, and I’m expecting so much of them.”

As to how he’s finding it teaching the company’s younger dancers, he said: “Every weak point has a solution, and the dancers are nearly perfect, though they need to think more about breathing and relaxing. Choreography is not just about steps, but feeling — and it’s feeling that should move them. Although they don’t always show their feelings, I know Japanese dancers are so sensitive so I just explain what they should be feeling at each moment.

“Yet though it’s hard work taking care of many dancers, I enjoy it very much. And as I have danced many works with many partners during my career, I can put all my experiences into teaching.”

Despite his busy schedule here, this Ukraine-born star is also pouring his energy into the Malakhov Foundation he founded last year to help underprivileged children pursue ballet, and to assist injured dancers.

As he explained, “Governments are cutting their budgets and to save ballet culture it’s necessary to take responsibility in helping to support it. So that’s why I started this foundation.”

But when I asked what he wanted to do in the future, he was less forthcoming, saying only: “I plan to do a lot of things, but if I told you my dream it wouldn’t come true. I am a superstitious person, so maybe I will tell you next time!”

“The Sleeping Beauty” will be staged Feb. 7-8 at Tokyo Bunka Kaikan. For details, call 03-5721-8000 or visit www.nbs.or.jp.