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Friedemann Vogel — Principal Dancer of the Mikhailovsky Ballet
The debut of Friedemann Vogel, the famous German dancer, on the Mikhailovsky Theatre’s stage is set to be one of the highlights of the Ballet. High Season festival. This season, the Principal Dancer of the Stuttgart Ballet has taken on the role of Guest Principal Dancer at the Mikhailovsky Theatre. He will appear in the première performances of Class Concert as well as the ballet classics Swan Lake and Giselle, ou Les Wilis. Friedemann Vogel gave an interview for the theatre’s website on the opening day of the new season.
Friedemann, how are you finding St. Petersburg and life at the Mikhailovsky Theatre?
I was in St. Petersburg two years ago, and I can honestly say that I love your city. The streets, the buildings, and the people are so beautiful and so inspiring. Everything is full of history, and I really like that. At the Mikhailovsky Theatre you can even sense a difference in the air compared with other theatres which have been built more recently.
And the amazing thing for a ballet dancer is that when you’re spending the whole day in a theatre that’s new to you, rehearsing, talking, and wandering around, by the following day you will already feel that you’ve been there a long time. As a dancer, you get into the rhythm of things very quickly. For example, I’m dancing with Ekaterina Borchenko here, and I know her and have danced with her in the past, so coming to the Mikhailovsky was like coming home for me. I really mean that.
How did you come to be a professional dancer?
I come from an artistic family; I have four older brothers and they’re all involved with the arts in some way. Two are professional musicians, playing the oboe and the clarinet, the third is a theatre director, and the eldest is a professional dancer. I’ve known since childhood that I was destined for an artistic fate. And my parents, even though they don’t work in the creative industries themselves, have always supported and encouraged our talents.
I really look up to my eldest brother. I have always admired the way he moves and his feel for music. I spent my whole childhood with him at rehearsal halls and in the wings. There were never any doubts for me about my future profession, and I began to dance at a very early age. My teachers immediately noticed my flexibility and my dancing ability. They told my parents that a bright future awaited me if I continued to dance.
Could you talk about the first teacher who really inspired you and, perhaps, still inspires you to this day?
That would be Marika Bezobrazova, who I studied under in Monte Carlo. She didn’t just open my eyes to ballet. She taught me what kind of person one should be in life. She taught me to be kind, open-minded, appreciative, strong, fearless, and polite. “A new day brings new opportunities”, she would say. She just had so much energy. And she was always trying out something new. When she was 90 years old I called her up just to have a chat, and she told me with amazing enthusiasm how she had discovered yoga. She was a terrific person who is always in my thoughts. I think of her constantly.
Friedemann, you never seem stuck in one place, you’re always in different countries, on different stages, with different partners...
I enjoy it this way and it’s true — I really do dance at many different venues. And I have wonderful partners. I’m very lucky in this respect. It’s a delight to dance with these amazing ballerinas, to adapt to different stylistic nuances, and to see different theatre companies in action. These kinds of opportunities develop you and give you strength but they also force you to constantly be on your toes and always be at the peak of your abilities.
Well, it’s as Marika Bezobrazova taught you: “A new day brings new opportunities.”
Exactly. I’m always open to new experiences and always trying to seize new opportunities. Doing so brings me great pleasure. It’s all as my dear Marika Bezobrazova said.
When you perform in unfamiliar countries, do you tell audiences the same story?
No, I feel different emotions depending on the country or even the city, and this has an effect on the way I perform. For example, I have danced Swan Lake and Giselle, ou Les Wilis on many occasions, on different stages, and with different partners. And I have, of course, my own understanding of what I want to convey emotionally. But each theatre has its own energy and a new partner breathes new meaning into the story. So it is impossible for the emotional range of a ballet to stay exactly the same on stage, even from one day to the next. And of course I always try to take some time, even if only an hour, to wander around a city and get a feel for it, to work it out, and to become inspired by it.
Interviewed by Darina Timofeeva