Simple Truths. Denis Matvienko for Vogue Ukraine
28.08.2014

1. I put on an Okean Elzy CD in my car for our choreographer Dwight Rhoden, he said: “this language is so lovely and melodic, I don’t understand a thing, but Vakarchuk’s voice and the language are very beautiful”. I was always an A student in Russian language and literature, although I didn’t study very hard – reading during the break was enough for me to answer vividly in class. Later, when I was 14-15 y.o. they implemented Ukrainian in schools, which wasn’t customary before: so that’s how I stayed ‘illiterate’ – never quite finished learning Russian, and didn’t fully learn Ukrainian. I understand Ukrainian, I can speak it, but it will not sound very good.

2. It is planned that the Mariinsky theatre soloists will perform the roles of Tom and Nick in THE GREAT GATSBY. What is going on between Russia and Ukraine is terrible, but we should not bring politics to stage. When we are on stage – we are one. We exist to create beauty and bring joy.

3. Creation of a personal company – is a dream of any ambitious person of my level. It is a possibility of doing what you want without a boss, without directions and norms. In this case the main critic is simply audience. The projects I have been creating with my sister Alyona for many years are always successful, because when selecting performances, troupes, projects, we rely on our experience, taste, our preferences, and as practice shows – approach like this works.

4. You need to be smart about your career. There are artists, who easily speculate their name, and there are the ones, who build it up correctly. Farukh Ruzimatov doesn't dance «Swan Lake» being 52 y.o. He dances what he can, and what still looks beautiful when he performs it. And he gathers full theatres. Nina Ananiashvili being the same age dances in classical performances and it looks good still. Everyone has to consider what they are doing. I can never resort to, using my name, just be walking the stage. My path is to shift into a different choreography.

5. This year I underwent a leg surgery. For the first time in my life I rested for over three weeks – I didn't know what to do with myself. My whole life I have owed it to my profession, but in that moment I realized that I don't owe it to anyone. I really liked that feeling, coming out of the resting mode wasn't easy.

6. I'm not really into fashion, but I am an admirer of beauty in everything – women, men,  art, nature. «Vogue» - is an amazingly beautiful magazine, it's stylish and cool. Selection of colour, letters, font – everything is lovely. Ballet creation process is somehow similar to issuing a magazine – something is discussed during initial planning, but the result is always different.

7. At first when I got married, seven months out of a year I was travelling. If my wife was not a ballerina, stayed in St. Petersburg waiting for me, during these eleven years she would have gotten sick of waiting. But because Nastia is in the same situation as me, being apart – is the price for our art.

 

8. I do not recall any affairs with “non-ballet” ladies. It was ages ago. It seems like I never really had affairs, somehow just at once – married and that’s it.

9. Our daughter being a year and a half old can easily sit in my lap for an hour and watch ballet backstage, and even applaud when everyone does. I think it's in the DNA. During a break, when curtains are closed and artists are warming up, she doesn't care – she's running around, dancing in her own way, she enjoys the attention. I think a ballet future in her case is inevitable.

10. A talent of a composer, choreographer, and dancer isn't passed on with generations. In art everyone starts from square one.

11. I think that luck depends on how correctly you go about doing your things, and how much you’re worth that luck. To sit and wait till the luck falls on your head – that happens, but rarely. I can call myself lucky, but on my side there’s been a lot of hard work to call it just luck.

12. Ballet is similar to math: it is important to analyze at all times – what you did and didn't do, why it turned out well or it didn't, to control the angle of a jump, the way you move your leg, arm and head – 25, 45, 60, 90 degrees. Analytical thinking in ballet is just as important as a well-trained body.

13. When meeting those ballet stars that I admired when I was young, in person I often was disappointed. But most likely it is our problem, and not of the person you’ve made them up to be in your imagination. When you’re little that person is your idol on stage and you think that they are perfect in every other thing as well. But as the years go by it turns out there are no perfect people. Now I don’t get disappointed in people, because I am not perfect myself, and many perhaps get disappointed when they meet me. And that’s normal. It should be that way. First of all we are all merely human.

14. Male dancers usually get as much attention from fans as do females: flowers, jewelry, and gifts. In Japan fans still write letters to me, even in Russian. I try to respond. Their support, appreciation of talent, is very important to an artist. These things should not be neglected.

15. Ballet artists due to workouts look younger that they actually are. I doubt anyone would tell that I am 35; sometimes they give me 30 and 29. But when I don't shave for a few days, I look like an alcoholic.