"An entire lifetime passes between the first and the last scenes. Or is it the most important moments of a lifetime? Or perhaps just a single moment, full, succinct, tragic, equal to an entire lifetime? The production deliberately stays away from direct answers and is open to different interpretations".


Spain - the eternal love of Russian composers, choreographers, poets, writers and artists. Their names build up a row of greatness that speaks for itself.  Glinka and Rimsky-Korsakov, Petipa and Fokine. Mysterious gazes of Golovin’s dark beauties. Mysterious rustling silk of Pushkin's lines - the "rustling and running Guadalquivir", the "night of laurel and lemon scents" Even though Alexander was "restricted” from leaving the country, he was still able to see the landscapes he describes. And even Gogol’s miserable  Poprishchin fancied himself none other but a Spanish king.

 Nikolai Gogol mystified his friends, who were unable to guess whether he had actually been in Spain or was just making things up. And Ivan Turgenev, in his famous essay, "organized" a meeting between Hamlet and... Don Quixote. These names are so impressive that any modern master, is likely to be particularly excited when touching upon this coveted country, a traditionally Russian theme of our art.

Echoes of this excitement, flashes of hot temperamental whirlwinds of horrible visions, the fire of passion, the penetrating cold of disappointment - all came together in the new ballet by Constantine Uralsky. "El Mundo de Goya" premiered on the stage of the M. Glinka Chelyabinsk Academic Theatre. From all sides, this performance, created far from Moscow and St. Petersburg (and that’s a pity) is a true capital city performance. Frankly, we are no longer used to the metropolitan level of theater. And we have grown accustomed to the cheap provincial  style, to second-hand or even third-hand foreign performances shown as something brand new.  Accustomed to the "star" laziness and indulgent premières’ where our wonderful little “etoiles’ move about on the stage. Accustomed to strongly reduced criteria for  performances. Meanwhile, it ma be worth remembering the obvious marks of “a capital performance”, which are in reality completely independent of the show’s geographical location. Among these I count the originality and freshness of ideas, variety  of choreographic  means of expression,  the significance of thought and its reflection on stage. One may add to this the logic of the dramatic and musical development of each image, as well as the enthusiasm of the performing group as a whole and of each member individually, and not just a good work ethic  and a sense of responsibility. There are of course other components that are much more difficult to achieve, some being almost impossible. But, as Konstantin Stanislavsky used to say "... in the presence of talent." This condition is not always met in ballet theatre, in Russia as well as abroad.  But  Constantine Uralsky meets these conditions.

He is talented, and judging by his best work, highly talented. 'El Mundo de Goya” is one of his most exciting, striking, stirring and unique productions.

At the same time, thinking back to Uralsky’s crucial works, (now that time has passed enough to reflect on them) one observes a number of very important factors. First of all, the choreographer had already had his own dance  movement picture of  Spain – both in the highly original, free of stereotypical influences "Carmen Suite" (music by Bizet-Shchedrin), and in twelve "Tangos" (music by Piazzolla). In both of these one-act ballets, the strict, almost ascetic style is particularly noticeable. The dance imagery is strict and austere, but such succinctness, paradoxical as it may seem, arises from the rich and abundant imagination of the choreographer. Such austerity has nothing to do with the limits or mediocrity of choreographic thought. "El Mundo de Goya" has nothing in common with the aforementioned ballets, but, nevertheless, the previous Spanish experience has not been a waste.

Uralsky the choreographer continues to explore certain leitmotifs in his work – the recreation of the problem of the relationships between the artist and the crowd, the artist and his visible and invisible "dictator", the artist and reality. It is therefore no wonder that in  "Doctor Zhivago" one sees Pasternak’s own tragedy through the fates of his characters, and it is not surprising that the corps-de-ballet of Birds is full of anxiousness and mystery, with the choreographer himself saying, "The birds are the letters and the lines (!)". That’s why "Reflections on Petrushka" introduces us not to Stravinsky’s familiar character –  a daubed booth  doll, endowed with a human heart, but with a dreamer, inventor, a man, beneath whose clown appearance hides a creator – a contemplator of his world. And suddenly his gentle world is under a rude, crude, unknown heel.

In the madness of the genius - Goya  - phantasmagorias are born, inspired by his series  "Capprichos", "Dizastres", "Disparates." Complicated, impossible to translate literally associations with heroines of his portraits, genre paintings, and other works are born.

Choreographer Uralsky gravitates to the "materialization" of music of the 20th and 21st centuries, which is uncommon. His cooperation with Kirill Volkov during the work on "Doctor Zhivago" is the first (and so far the only) realization of a  psychologically astute score.  Time tested choreographic  opuses like "Carmen Suite" by Bizet-Shchedrin ("Ballet Iowa", USA) and "Romeo and Juliet" by Prokofiev (also in Chelyabinsk), both works that have been choreographed dozens of times by dozens of choreographers, displayed his ability to show familiar music in a new guise, to find new aspects of its choreographic existence, to discover something that has not been previously  seen or heard. Sometimes an unexpected montage of seemingly mutually exclusive musical materials results in surprising imagery. Such is the case of "Waltz of White Orchids," where Ravel’s exquisite music comes in direct contact with French chanson casts its own, slightly capricious light on   choreography. Yet at the same time, it is the unexpected and well thought-out combinations such as these that carry the ballet outside the limits of personal and engrossing fate of the heroes and allow it to grow into a broad choreographic chronicle of the era between the two World Wars.

In turn, the overall atmosphere of "The Orchids" becomes a kind of message to modern audiences, carries over to modern times without losing its temporal complexity. Uralsky’s “auteur” style is immediately recognizable here. All of the above components of his "credo" are expressed and displayed in "El Mundo de Goya" to their fullest extent.

The choreographer consistently puts the main character at the center of the ballet. From the very first furious, angry strike of the drum, when Goya, in his deafness as if loudly slams an invisible door, imprisoning himself in the company of his visions. In the final scene, Goya, being tortured by his "dreams  of reason", having been crucified for two previous acts by his both ghostly and slightly more real victimizers and tormentors, but rising again to endure new suffering and new inspiration, is yet again resurrected. An entire lifetime passes between the first and the last scenes. Or is it the most important moments of a lifetime? Or perhaps just a single moment, full, succinct, tragic, equal to an entire lifetime? The production deliberately stays away from direct answers and is open to different interpretations.

The choreography is endowed with the same duality, multiplicity of values, symbolic, and extraordinary beauty. What is notable is the absence of a sharp and definite division, traditionally inherent to ballet - the home of dreams and fantasies, an opposition to reality. The group of supposedly real characters is purposely placed as close as possible to the phantom characters, usually hidden by masks. But often in the choreography of the "real" characters - for example, the Duchess of Alba, the dance itself looks like a parade of invisible masks, sometimes put on and sometimes tossed away by the temptress, discharged  while performing her amazing "strip dance", dressed in a smartly-designed convertible dress. All of Goya’s visions are a chain of endless metamorphoses, emerging from the depths of memory, the subconscious, the fever of madness and the short moments of clarity. But always, in every single moment, there is a presence of burning fantasy, "burns" from the artist’s contact with the world and his own inspiration, and dangers of the process itself of transformation of nature into Art.

Every one of the artist’s visions - the royal camarilla, the pygmy monsters, the gray-haired beasts- the hunchbacks, the giants ready to peck everyone they encounter with their ugly beaks  - each vision comes like the tide and sweeps away the previous vision, as unpredictable, inevitable, uncontrollable as rising water. Do the monsters dominate the Master or does he subjugate his own fantasy creations? In the split second between the disappearance of the one wave and the emergence of the next, suspense hangs in the air, the tense  anticipation of further invasions. Moreover, they all appear out of the darkness and suddenly obtain a clear, visible form. It is as if they are all "weaved" from the darkness (remember the Bulgakov’s magic verb) and myriads of their legions are flying in, closing in on the artist. And only his first memory still hangs on to the echoes of a pure,  joyful dance - suddenly there are tall, slender, beautiful dancers on stage, visions from his far away childhood and adolescence, his "Aragon" impressions.

But the celebration of a past life quickly ends. Gradually, however short  the composition was, in the dance itself - passionate, longing, charming- a note of tension and alarm appears.  And when tall, athletic dancers come on stage from the opposite side, the  barely perceptible panic of their dance will turn into almost warlike energy.

Right from the start, Uralsky defines the poly-stylistics of all the visions, creating a distinct, constantly evolving polyphony within each stage appearance and interweaving storylines of different scenes. He freely and masterfully utilizes all possible shades of Dance. Of course, theoretically, if one was to disengage from the vibrant, emotional effect of the performance, it would be possible to notice the presence of modern dance techniques, as well as movements from the classics and neoclassic, and a fascinating improvisation of  Dance Libre. But all of this can only be relatively considered after some time has passed, and only if one is able to summon up the will to distance oneself from the emotions stirred by the production. This is precisely the artistic intention, the complete freedom of expression of feelings, the sincere likes and dislikes, as embodied in the characters, the deep humanity, which has always been an invaluable feature of Russian ballet – all of which remain a highly distinguishable creative feature of Uralsky’s work.

There is another typical and recognizable feature of his amazing productions that appear each time in different ways, but is nevertheless always present. The unexpected combination of all-inclusive, monumental paintings where, it seems, there is no room for  "little things", nuances with lots of details woven into the course of action, that are essential for understanding each character and their mutual relationships. The details vary greatly and always full of new nuances. For instance, fairy Mab, introduced by the choreographer in his version of "Romeo and Juliet", released earlier in the season on the Chelyabinsk stage, is not the naughty and mischievous personage, that appears in the well-known Shakespearean monologue of Mercutio. She is pale, reserved, sad. She is a seer who prophecies. And her strange, as if wounded, shoulders, arched behind her back, and odd, as if constrained, curved arms are like wings, but wings weighed down by grief. And it is with good reason that in the final scene Tybalt and Mercutio meet in the Capulet family crypt (as Juliet dreamed when she returned home with the poison, in the original play). But here Mercutio is accompanied by Mab. It’s as if she has come to check if her warnings and predictions came true. And it’s no wonder that Romeo’s last breath sounds in unison with Juliet’s first waking breath: in one remarkable in its beauty mise-en-scene there is in its entirety the passionate and difficult journey that the two of them have taken on their way to each other. Details such as these (and there are a lot more of them than is mentioned here) could have been lost among the  crafted imagery. But they are not, and furthermore, they are displayed in all their depth and sophistication, like Uralsky’s personal "autographs", accidentally spilled in the middle of fights, duels, and celebrations of Italian Renaissance. Eras pass. The man remains true to himself both in the highest and lowest of aspects of his nature.

"El Mundo de Goya" presents us with a stream of beautiful and unexpected details. Upon the end of the scene "Aragon - the birthplace of the artist", a mere moment before the unstoppable dynamic rows of dancers suddenly freeze, lining up on the right (from the audience) side of the stage, with their backs to Goya. He cautiously approaches the living wall and timidly touches the barrier from (or of?) darkness. Just like a man, frightened by a nightmare, who wants to make sure it was just a dream. Just like a genius who is suddenly convinced of the material existence of his hallucinations. A very important and tragic moment of action: in the second half of the production, the monsters disguised by their masks, having tortured the artist just enough, having threatened Man with their winged armor, their horrible faces, their silent flights across the stage (the flights will be duplicated later with trampoline) suddenly reflect the wonderful composition of the "Aragon" scene. They stop at the same spot, also perpendicular to the ramp, but now facing the  "visionary" Goya. And he does not touch them, but they touch him, as if saying goodbye, but assuring him of their constant presence. And for some reason (I do not know how the choreographer and the tutors Larisa Maximova and Tatyana Predeina and the artists themselves were able to construct such an analogy) but the touch of their "paws" looks awful and unwashable.

Such details can be found both in various group compositions and in solo parts. For instance  -  Josefa’s naïve, even childish attempt of attracting Goya’s  attention is shown with almost a common (but not a physiological or naturalistic) gesture.  Suddenly, with an amazing spontaneity, she gently "pushes" her partner with her stubborn bowed head, first in the back, then in the chest. And for a moment she stops, waiting for a reciprocal gesture, as if  listening. There are plenty of such details, which every now and then light up  the ballet like glittering tears,  drawing earnest sympathy for  the heroes that is so rare in the kingdom of ballet.

Each of them has their own story, each story striking in its realism. It is in the fullness of the characters’ human existence that the resemblance to Goya’s portraits lies. Each of them  - individually and together - bring to the stage the  very spirit of Spain - mystical, dark, unsmiling. And if anyone does smile, then their smile hides a certain mystery. The "local color" has nothing to do with stereotypes “a la Spain”. The original material of dance "dialects" which have already been used so many times (and yet are still inexhaustible and always attractive), the treasures embedded in Flamenco, Hoth or Sarabande, are  only  starting points for the choreographer. Spain comes to life in the delivered choreography - "without flourishes", without strain, without soppy sweetness. Here, in the complex pattern of port de bras there is a distant, vague resemblance of "Adorno" – an absolutely compulsory move for the wrists in Flamenco. In the work of the feet - rhythmically perfect, accented, but never ostentatious, sound the echoes of Spanish Tapatio. A particularly colorful and proudly posed turn of the head, looking directly at the partner, or a passionate glance hidden between the eyelashes – all these give away the origin of the original inventions of the choreographer.

Yes, this is Spain -  furious, angry, ecstatic. Derived from Goya’s legacy, it sometimes even leads further back in time – to the ecstasies and visions of El Greco. She is constantly closed (which is why the lack of words in ballet suits her so well). But in her muteness glows joy, sorrow, a lust for life and a  willingness to go over the edge of existence.

The lack of direct adoption of 'ethnic' accents is supplemented by the decision to reject the typical ballet structures. Here, one can only speak of duets, solos, balabile (it wouldn’t be exactly appropriate to use the term corps-de-ballet here) in the sense that this is accepted and familiar terminology. First of all, all of the groups appear as if by magic in front of the eyes of the amazed public. Secondly, discipline and accuracy here serve as a backdrop to common inspired expression.

This is where the equally high degree of freedom and expression in dance and performance of the major roles comes from. Perhaps if one was to carefully measure the length of each of the major parts, it would turn out that almost all of them are extremely short, like a tightly-wound spring that suddenly and unexpectedly unwinds and results in bursts, explosions, thundering rumbles of Dance.