A COLUMN BY ALESSANDRO BIZOTTO
On every months we talk with a dancer of a big ballet company to find out who is who among the most famous and iconic ballet characters.
“What’s special about this character is that he is a sort of Alexander Pushkin’s alter-ego – I can feel Pushkin’s shadow every time I dance Lensky”.
Dinu Tamazlaru’s voice sounds enthusiastic while we speak about the young and romantic poet who becomes a friend of the title character in John Cranko’s “Onegin”, based on Alexander Pushkin’s immortal Russian novel in verse, but who later will challenge him to fight a duel. During the duel, Onegin will kill Lensky.
“Lensky is definitely naive, but he is not stupid at all”, Dinu tells me. “He has two faces somehow: he is full of the impetuosity typical of youth and at the same time he has human frailty. A complex mixture of feelings that, in some ways, will lead him to his death”.
Unlike Onegin, Lensky has probably no idea what real life is, yet he acts as if he had understood everything. “At that time in Russia the code of honour was strictly observed between gentlemen” says Dinu. “Lensky’s nature is different, of course, but he feels social rules force him to respond and react in a way that ends in tragedy”.
“Lensky’s second-act variation is one of the most beautiful and interesting variations I have ever danced” Tamazlacaru explains. “While dancing it, you must show both fragility and strength: he is somehow writing his testament through those steps, desperately fighting against himself. Technique-wise it is challenging – a series of balances and off-balances show how much he loves life and he wants to survive, but also how he senses he will die. Lensky knows he is running a great risk: here’s why the choreography often shows him balancing, still alive, before falling on the ground. That’s how John Cranko makes us presage his imminent death”.
According to some, what is terrible in Lensky’s eyes is that all his dreams and fantasies collapse in a moment, when he sees Onegin and his fiancée Olga dancing together. “His pain is double” Dinu argues. “Both friendship and love are betrayed”.
Has Dinu ever felt as angry as this young poet in his own life? “I happened to be feeling like him once or twice” he answers, “and I often use my own life experience while dancing the role – it helps me to act. My goal is always to dance Lensky well enough to make the character stick in the audience’s mind even in Act Three: I am sure that, if a dancer can dance the role well enough, people will still be thinking about Lensky even though he is not there in the final act”.
If Dinu Tamazlacaru could meet Vladimir Lensky in real life, what would he tell him? “I guess I would ask him to write immediately all the poems that he has in mind but that he will not have the time to write before his death. It is such a paradox that Pushkin died the same way as his alter-ego – fighting a duel”.