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Swanning around the globe
KONSTANTIN Tachkin, the founding director of the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre, spent a number of his years training - but not in dance.
Born in Russia, the 49-year-old was a member of Russia's elite special forces and trained in parachuting as part of the country's compulsory military service.
He says, during a phone interview with BT Lifestyle: "I elected to join a unit that would provide some adventure, so it was scary the first time, but jumping from a plane 800 metres up in the air became like second nature to me."
Upon completion of his military stint, Mr Tachkin returned to St Petersburg in search of a job in 1988. He recalls: "The city was fast becoming very popular with tourists, and I ended up working in the tourism industry where I organised excursions to the opera and ballet performances. The latter's popularity was quite shocking to me, and I could see the need for a new company with higher standards."
Within a year of watching his first ballet, he'd founded the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre and opened with a performance of Giselle.
Now, the well-known company has tours all around the world, and will be performing Swan Lake in Singapore until Nov 26.
But when he first set up the organisation, Mr Tachkin wasn't at all sure it would be a success. He shares: "Back then, no one had any experience in setting up things like this, and no one had ever contemplated a 'private' ballet company because arts organisations are usually headed by the government."
Despite the challenges and a lack of belief in the company, it defied all odds, which Mr Tachkin credits to his discipline and "valuing quality above all else".
Though the 60-strong company, whose prima ballerina is Irina Kolesnikova, performs ballets like Giselle, Don Quixote, and TheNutcracker, Swan Lake remains Mr Tachkin's favourite.
He explains: "This is a ballet that has everything: beautiful music by Tchaikovsky, exquisite scenery, and, of course, amazing choreography. You get to see our dancers perform bravura pas de deux, the adagio of the lakeside scene to the four little swans as well as a lovely performance from the corps de ballet."
The story of Swan Lake follows young Prince Siegfried who falls in love with the Swan Queen Odette, a young woman transformed into a swan by a sorcerer. It follows the couple's journey through breaking the spell, complete with pledges, deception, and above all, dance.
Mr Tachkin concludes: "Ballet is actually one of the highest forms of art. You enjoy the dancing, but you never quite see how much work goes into the production. I've seen dancers training for hours every day in the studio, and then having to deal with people who say dancing isn't a real profession. There's a joke that sums it up perfectly - when a ballerina wakes up in the morning and doesn't feel any pain, she thinks she's dead."
- Catch Swan Lake at the Theatre at MediaCorp until Nov 26. Tickets start at S$65, and are available from Sistic