MIKKO NISSINEN - Thinking of the team

03.10.2016

Thinking of the team. That’s what MIKKO NISSINEN has been doing every day for fifteen years as Artistic Director of Boston Ballet. Here he explains ALESSANDRO BIZZOTTO how - and why he always has to think about the costs of his artistic dreams. 

According to many, he is the man who has led the Boston Ballet from being one of the many middle-sized American companies to a true leading dance organization, one of the most versatile and renowned in the US. Mikko Nissinen has been directing the Bostonian company since 2001 and still under his guidance, its fame goes on blossoming.
Born and raised in Finland, Nissinen studied at the Finnish National Ballet School and at the Kirov Ballet School. As we start talking, I can immediately understand he knows both the art of ballet and the laws of marketing incredibly well. And it is little surprise to find out that he can talk to me about his professional life at the Boston Ballet giving me such a crystal-clear picture of his role that I might think it is quite easy, to direct a ballet company, though, I can easily understand, it is not so at all.



Mikko Nissinen and Jeffrey Cirio © Boston Ballet

As far as your ballet training is concerned, what is the memory you like to reminisce about the most?

The thrill of dynamics. The pursuit of something difficult. It was a challenge, every day, and I loved it. I never had problems with the competitive side of ballet, I was one of those students who loved the morning class. That’s why I have no negative memory of my training years.

You danced with both the Dutch National Ballet and San Francisco Ballet. The biggest difference between dancing in Europe and in America?



Boston Ballet, William Forsythe's The Second Detail © Gene Schiavone

The British influence at the Dutch National Ballet, has always been quite strong. While in Switzerland [where he danced with the Basel Ballet, Ed.] the technique tends to be more French-oriented. And in Finland, where I started my training, the style is much more Russian. I came to America more or less ten years after becoming a professional dancer – I was still young and it was the right choice for me, at that stage of my life and of my career. Here in the US the emphasis was upon physicality and musicality, I immediately realized it. Much more than in Europe. And do not forget that in Europe most of the big ballet companies are state funded. It doesn’t work like that here. In 2016 Boston Ballet received three thousand dollars from the city of Boston – it represents 0.01% of our total revenue. And the combined support from city, state and federal sources, in fiscal year 2016, was 0.37% of our company’s total revenue.



Boston Ballet in John Neumeier's Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler © Rosalie O'Connor 

As a European-born artist, have you ever felt that Europe is a better, or even a nobler place for a career in ballet?

Boston Ballett in Symphony in Three Movements © The George Balanchine Trust

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