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Interview with Artur Sultanov
"Da" with OBT's White Knight
by Dean Speer and Francis Timlin
March 6, 2004 --
We recently caught up with one of Oregon
Ballet Theatre's latest additions to its impressive roster of dancers,
Russian-born and trained Artur Sultanov. We met Mr. Sultanov and his wife,
Cynthia, following OBT's last excursion into "White Nights"
-- its all Russian music mixed bill program. Amidst the energy and din
of a busy late-night eatery across from Keller Auditorium, we had a charming,
fun, and informative discussion. What follows is an edited version of
Clearly, it's a long way from St. Petersburg to Portland. Please
tell us about your journey here.
Yes. I'm a native of St. Petersburg, and it was actually my mother's decision
to start me in ballet. I auditioned twice and was accepted the second
time into the Vaganova Ballet Academy, their "pre-professional"
program, at the age of 8. I stayed 8 years and had both my ballet and
academic training there. I was one of the lucky ones who got to live at
home. Many students, as you may know, have to be boarding students.
I auditioned for the Kirov and at 17 was hired into the corps de ballet.
I also had an offer from Eifman Ballet, but I wasn't sure what I wanted
to do exactly in ballet, so I took the offer from the Kirov, where I stayed
in the corps for two years. One of the best things for me, in addition
to gaining experience, was also being a part of the tours the Kirov does.
This was great! I got to see Europe and travel quite a bit.
I did go to Eifman Ballet.
Yes, we’ve heard that Mr. Eifman is not a dancer...
That's true. I believe he's actually a musician. He has lots of ideas
and can put on a show! His works are very theatrical.
So how did you get to this side of the Atlantic!?
I had a back injury while at Eifman, and in the meantime, my mother had
married an American (when I was 18 ) and so came over to visit my family,
who had moved to California. I stayed for two months -- in Carmel. After
a while, my back got better, and I starting auditioning and joined Alonzo
How was that?
I found it very interesting! We have nothing like it back in Russia. I
danced with the company for three years, touring the U.S. and Germany.
King gives simple steps but expects a lot of the dancers; to make these
steps something interesting. When I first joined Lines, there were 12
dancers, most senior to me, who were interesting to watch and learn from.
But after the three years, the energy and personnel in the company had
changed, and I felt that I had nothing new to learn. I guested with Diablo
Ballet, which is where you first saw me!
so how did you end up coming up the coast to the Rose City?
Repertory is a primary motivator for me. In Russia, the company was so
large that there was very little for the corps men to do -- about only
15 parts in major rep. That means 65 others standing around, being little
more than scenery or props. One of the major contrasts between companies
in Russia and the West, is that companies at home are like a dictatorship
-- no relationship between directors and dancers. We receive directives
only, never a professional level of interaction. U.S. companies are very
much more democratic. I came to OBT as I was looking for new challenges
and I had become unsatisfied with performing the same choreography at
Both Christopher (Stowell) and I are new to OBT this year, and I think
it's an exciting time to be here. I'm really glad Christopher has invited
me to join him. The works he's chosen for this season have been intelligent,
fun, and challenging to dance. In such a short time of his directorship,
he has proven to this company and its audience that the future of OBT
is in good hands.
Any choreographers you'd like to especially work with in the future?
Oh, sure! I'd like to dance in the ballets of Forsythe, Duato, and Kylian.
Not all dancers like to take class. How is this for you?
I never particularly liked taking class in Russia, but it's different
here. I find that I take class for myself more and enjoy taking classes
from all of the teaches, as we have many great teachers at OBT.
I'm teaching myself in OBT's Summer School program. I've taught all the
boys in the school a wonderful gypsy dance I learned at the Kirov, which
they like and is good for them. I enjoy being on the teaching side (as
opposed to the "taking" side). I'm working with 6 advanced boys,
which is great.
And, I'm finding that it's also a journey of self-discovery for me, in
that I can apply things I'm learning from teaching to my own technique
How do you two like Portland?
We love it! We got to go to Mt. Hood recently and adored it.
[And in Russian] Thank you very much for a great interview!
[Still in Russian] You're welcome!
Edited by Lori Ibay
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