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An Interview with Vitaliy Poleshchuk and Natalia Moiseeva-Poleshchuk of the
Perm State Tchaikovsky Opera & Ballet Theatre

by Catherine Pawlick

April 9, 2003 -- Vitaliy Poleshchuk and Natalia Moiseeva-Poleshchuk demand a lot of eachother in rehearsals. More than most dancers would feel comfortable demanding of a partner. They can get away with it but they can't escape it -- because they're also married.

Both graduates of the Perm Ballet School and Honored Artists of Russia as of 1998, the couple continue to work alongside each other both at home and in the studio. Vitaliy and Natalia took time to speak with me by phone on the eve of their arrival in Southern California, sharing their thoughts on dancing with the Perm Ballet Theatre, and their life together.

Both Vitaliy and Natalia studied at the Perm Ballet School, and have warm memories of their youth. "Those were the most beautiful years of my life," says Vitaliy. "I had excellent teachers. I recall my student years with great fondness."

"[The Perm] is a very good school, just as good as the others," agrees Natalia, "It is worthwhile training there if you are serious about becoming a ballet dancer."

Natalia graduated from the Perm Ballet school at 17 and joined the company. At the same time, she also began a new life with her husband, Vitaliy Poleschuk, who is 3 years her senior. They both "paid their dues" in the corps de ballet at first, before climbing the ranks -- quite quickly -- to their current positions as principal dancers with the company.

"The corps de ballet is something we've not only heard of, but something we've actually done," Vitaliy jokes good-naturedly. "In some senses it is harder to be in the corps de ballet. They have their own difficulties, especially in terms of overcoming their own individualism [in order to fit into the corps] and fighting for that [same] individualism in order to become a soloist or principal dancer. That -- as a principal dancer-- is when you can focus on your own style of dancing and not have to blend in."
He pauses, and then adds, "The corps is nothing without the soloists and vice versa. They are dependent on one another."

That marriage of corps and principals onstage is perhaps not unlike the inter-dependent roles of husband and wife. Has marriage helped their dancing careers?

"Yes," says Vitaliy,"Because we're both ballet dancers. We make a good couple on stage as well as in life. It is very hard to rehearse together because Natalia is much more demanding of me than she is of any other partner, but this makes it twice as easy to perform together."

And performing is what they do best. Both have danced a range of classical repertoire, from "Swan Lake" and "Raymonda" to "La Sylphide" and "Giselle."

When asked what they prefer to perform, both mention their close affinity for "Romeo and Juliet" since that story line so closely mirrors their own early love affair. Vitaliy comments that he also enjoys dancing "Don Quixote" and "Giselle."

"Each of these is very different, and that makes it interesting and more important to do something different in each ballet. I like Balanchine choreography too and danced several of his ballets in Perm," he says.

Although both dancers have danced the full classical repertoire of Perm Ballet, each mentioned other works they hope to also dance someday. For Natalia, Tatiana in Cranko's "Onegin" would be a wonderful challenge.

"It's a very romantic, lyrical and passionate role," she says.

Vitaliy's preferences lean more towards contemporary choreographers.

"I've already danced all of the classical ballets, and I love them, but it would be nice to try something by a contemporary choreographer," he says.

Despite their desire for new roles, both Natalia and Vitaliy named classical ballet dancers as their role models. Natalia said she appreciates the movement of Alessandra Ferri in "Romeo and Juliet" as well as Sylvie Guillem in contemporary choreography, and Yuliana Lopatkina of the Maryinksy, who "has a very rich inner world" when she performs. Vitaliy mentioned Baryshnikov as the single dancer he most admires.

Since very few dancers continue their careers past their 40s, I inquired what the couple planned to do once they retired from the stage. Vitaliy shared that he looks forward to moving more into his teaching career after the performing stops.

"I will definitely teach, and support classical ballet as much as I possibly can," he says. "Ballet and theatre are my hobbies, but I enjoy teaching at the Perm school as well. I study part time at the Vaganova Academy right now, pursuing teacher-training courses. I also enjoy driving when I have time."

Natalia said she would return to being a full-time mother. The couple's two daughters currently spend time in the children's theatre and also appear in Opera performances, both singing and dancing.

I asked the couple if they had any comments on dancing or traveling during wartime, and both had hopeful thoughts.

"While we are here we might help people relax emotionally," Vitaliy says, but his wife was quick to chime in that "ballet will not help" change the course of events in the Middle East, adding that "human life is very precious, so the fewer lives lost, the better." Nonetheless, they both agreed that if their performances here could distract or improve someone's day, "that would make us extremely happy."

Appreciation goes to Olga Kamenskikh for providing translation services during this interview.

Read Catherine Pawlick's interview with Perm State Ballet's Artistic Director David Avdysh.

Edited by Mary Ellen Hunt.

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