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Interview with Asta Bazeviciúte and David Bintley

 

 

After four seasons at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre, Asta Bazeviciúte joined Birmingham Royal Ballet in autumn 2002. Lithuanian journalist Jurate Terleckaite interviewed the ballerina and David Bintley, the Artistic Director of BRB, about her move to one of the UK’s foremost ballet companies.

 

Images: Asta Bazeviciúte as Princess Aurora
" The Sleeping Beauty"
Photographer - Bill Cooper

 

Peter Wright’s staging of “The Sleeping Beauty“ was performed by Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB) in June 2003 at their home city’s enormous National Indoor Arena. Fortunately, Asta Bazeviciúte and her Prince, Andrew Murphy, did not “drown“ in all that space. Her première as Aurora was enthusiastically received by many of the UK’s dance critics. John Percival wrote of her “long and fine legs, charming face, good technique and her stunning pirouettes“. Stephanie Ferguson pointed to the expansive nature of Bazeviciute’s style and the ease with which she “perfectly combines technical precision and reflection“ and her remarkably mobile and expressive arms and legs.

However, her dancing also drew some criticism. According to Jann Parry, she failed to understand her character’s development. Further, her legs are uncoordinated with the upper part of her body and that “from the musical approach, ease and colour are missing“. “Dancing Times“ dance critic Mary Clarke wrote: “She is a lovely girl but very, very thin….hence a coltish quality which results in moments of uncoordinated movement. She has technique, and to spare, but at present it is unfocussed.“

It is gratifying that our dancers are in demand by prestigious companies which allows them to grow professionally. They become Lithuania’s ambassadors, but, on the other hand, we lose our excellent artists. I contacted Asta Bazeviciute by phone to talk about her life and professional experiences at BRB.

JT: What are the differences in working methods, routine etc between the U.K. and Lithuania?

AB: The Lithuanian National Ballet works in the style of the Russian school, which is different to BRB. The rhythm of performances is also different. In Vilnius, performances are shown regularly each month, two-three times per week. West European companies prepare a new show in two-three weeks and then it is shown for one month, once or even twice a day.

What kind of atmosphere exists in BRB?

The atmosphere is very friendly and this helps my work. Maybe this is because of the friendly and diplomatic people that work here. Obviously not all companies are like this one. This is due to chance and my good luck. [ During my short visit to BRB I realised that the healthy atmosphere is mainly created by the Artistic Director David Bintley – J.T.]

Did you have several job offers?

Yes, but this one seemed to be the most interesting and offered the best opportunities.

Do you feel you have anchored yourself at the BRB?

Yes, because I have signed an open contract, that is for an indefinite period. Next season I will dance first cast in several premieres.

Do you feel you are understood by the artists, teachers and the Artistic Director?

I have a good relationship with them. The company is very international, with many dancers from Europe, USA and Australia. We support each other, because at the beginning everybody feels a foreigner here. So I have nothing to complain about.

I understand that the BRB management provides excellent support for dancers with professionals to advise on nutrition, healthy life style, etc.

The company takes very good care of the dancers’ health. The main concern is to raise the dancers’ professionalism because if the dancer is suffering from injury, he or she is unable to grow as a performer. There is a medical care centre with physiotherapists, masseurs, even a psychologist and sports club. If anyone has a weight problem, there is a dietician to help us. Therefore dancers are very well looked after here.

In what way was the 2002-2003 season in Great Britain significant for you?

I danced new roles or in new versions of the familiar roles from the classics. The whole season was new work for me - new style and belonging to a new company. Of course, it was a rather hard season, but at the same time very interesting.

Which ballets did you perform?

“The Sleeping Beauty“, “Coppélia“, “The Nutcracker“, “Arthur“ (choreographer David Bintley), “Concerto Fantasy“ (music by Piotr Tchaikovsky, choreographer David Bintley) and “Western Symphony“ (choreographer George Balanchine).

What are your next plans?

Next season I will dance Giselle and Myrtha in “Giselle“ and the leading roles in the one-act ballets “Apollo“ (choreographer George Balanchine) and “Sons of Horus“ (choreographer David Bintley).

Did you tour with BRB in the 2002-2003 season?

This company tours regularly in Great Britain. Every second or third month the BRB performs in different cities and towns. Next season we will tour China and USA.

Do you develop technically and does your dance language change here?

It does change. Dancers here are more technical than in Lithuania and I have advanced technically.

To what do you pay the most attention? What is most important for you when you are preparing for your performances, your roles, your premières?

The most important things for me are always the same: the style and the technical side. I also pay considerable attention to the precision of the dance and the musicality.

How do you rate the BRB teachers?

I am very pleased with my teachers. When I arrived, I did not expect that I would easily become part of the company because my Russian style is different. At the beginning it was rather difficult, but my colleagues are very understanding and they helped me a lot indeed, particularly in developing my technique.

How does your life and work in Lithuania look from a distance? What did you gain from your 4 years at the National Opera and Ballet Theatre? Werethese years essential for your present success?

Yes, it was a necessary period because the Artistic Director gave me the leading roles in nearly all the productions. I also had a good teacher Ms.Galina Sinelnikova, who introduced me to all the subtleties of ballet. If I had not had these 4 years and the possibilities to prepare performances with my teacher, I wouldn’t have had such good opportunities now.

Do you miss your former teacher?

At the beginning I missed her a lot, because I had worked with her since my school years and we understood each other very well. With time I got stronger and became used to other teachers.

Do you have one or several partners in BRB?

Several, and it is a privilege to work with each of them because each has his own talents and individuality.

Are you pleased by your press reviews in the British newspapers andmagazines?

It is difficult to judge myself. I am just happy that nearly all the reviews are good. I was expecting different evaluations because I am a dancer of a different style to the English dancers. Ballet is a subtle art and the dancer can’t please everyone. Some may like my style, but others may not. Therefore I was surprised that the majority appreciated my dancing.

Do you feel your Russian school being “broken“ and yourself being“forced“ into “English style“?

I can’t say that somebody is trying to “break“ me. When I arrived here David Bintley appreciated my style and encouraged me to maintain it. I also have an opportunity to enrich the Russian school by using the experience of the European school. But this mainly concerns technique.

What style and genre of ballets do you prefer: classical or neo-classicalballet, choreographic miniatures or modern dance?

I always liked classical ballet, but I also like choreographic miniatures. Neo-classical allows you to express yourself in an interesting way. As David Bintley creates in several styles, that is exciting for me.

What did you gain from taking part in the Nagoya International Ballet Competition in 2002?

Participation in competitions opens up possibilities but there is a lot of luck involved, as well. Due to this, competitions don’t always live up to your expectations. I think that they provide an opportunity to become stronger psychologically, to steel character and enrich your stage experience. I wasn’t a particularly experienced dancer therefore, seeing other dancers and thedevelopments in the world of dance was very useful.

Do you find any similarities between the English character and mentality on the one hand and the Lithuanian one on the other?

Both are conservative, but the opinion that English people are cold and closed hasn’t proved to be true to life, even on the contrary, they are more open than Lithuanians and less conservative than Lithuanians may think.

Are you planning to dance in Vilnius soon? Or maybe there are plans to come with BRB?

Ms.Sedunova invited me to come and dance in November, but at that time I will be preparing for Bintley’s staging of “The Beauty and The Beast“, so it will not be possible, unfortunately.

What do you miss most about Lithuania?

My country, language, the communication style and, of course, my family and friends. However, when the work is interesting and I can express myself on the stage, I feel less homesick.

Are you planning to spend the rest of your career in BRB?

I am not planning my future so far ahead. This year I will stay here because I am content with my life in the UK and I do not know what will be the future, I will see.

What does it mean for you to be Asta Bazeviciute?

To be myself.

Are you a happy person?

Yes, if one is happy at his or her work and enjoys a good atmosphere there, even not being at home is OK. Furthermore, happiness is understood differently by everyone. For some people it is moments of joy which come and go, for others it could last longer, but it would not be happiness but rather feeling, good life and all that.

 

I then asked the BRB Artistic Director David Bintley for his views about his company’s new principal.

JT: Which qualities made you choose Ms. Bazeviciúte?

DB: Oh, my goodness…Because she is a wonderful dancer, beautiful, she has brains and I think that is enough.

But there are many dancers like that!

There aren’t that many talented dancers.

Which particular qualities attracted you?

Everything! She has a very nice jump, very good turns and she has lovely port de bras, which must be a feature of her training.

How was her “The Sleeping Beauty“?

She was beautiful. The way that we perform it is different, as our version has gradually grown away from the Russian productions.

She was formed by the Russian school and your dancers were formed by other schools. Is that a problem?

When a dancer comes into our Company, no matter where they trained, within a couple of years they are absorbed into the Company. Dancers like Asta, because she is good, she influences the other dancers. I am very happy that our dancers look at her port de bras . She also has a very nice quality of not hitting and finishing positions. If she hits an arabesque, the arabesque line seems to continue to the end of the movement rather than stopping and I like that very much. She is a very good actress as well.

Are you planning to create ballets or roles for her?

I am making a full length ballet for her this Christmas - “Beauty and the Beast“.

Did you relate the main character to her personality?

A little bit. I never make something for people just because they can do it. I make it because I can see they have it in them and Asta has an ability to look very mature and very elegant and perhaps older than her years, but sometimes she can look very much younger than she is, like a child which is what Belle needs in “Beauty and the Beast“.

What does BRB receive and offer to her?

BRB receives a very beautiful training and a beautiful dancer. That is impressive for us and we can learn from that. For her, she has the challenge of a broader repertoire than she would have in Vilnius. I am very excited by her.

 

Edited by Stuart Sweeney

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