8 questions with St Petersburg Ballet founder Konstantin Tachkin: Ex-elite soldier loves ballet

The St Petersburg Ballet Theatre, formed by Konstantin Tachkin (above), is restaging Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake in Singapore.
The St Petersburg Ballet Theatre, formed by Konstantin Tachkin (above), is restaging Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake in Singapore.PHOTO: ST PETERSBURG BALLET THEATRE
The St Petersburg Ballet Theatre, formed by Konstantin Tachkin, is restaging Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake (above) in Singapore.
The St Petersburg Ballet Theatre, formed by Konstantin Tachkin, is restaging Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake (above) in Singapore.PHOTO: ST PETERSBURG BALLET THEATRE

Konstantin Tachkin founded the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre as he felt the quality of ballet was lacking in the Russian city

8Q

Russian impresario Konstantin Tachkin, 49, who founded the renowned St Petersburg Ballet Theatre in Russia in 1994, was once a member of the Soviet special forces and a specialist parachutist.

"I can't tell you much about those years," he says in a telephone interview from the Russian city. "But I can tell you about my first jump.

"I remember feeling very scared at first, but after that, I was flying. My next jump was absolutely fine."

He left the military in the late 1980s and took another plunge to work in a starkly different field - organising excursions for tourists to the opera and ballet in St Petersburg, the country's cultural capital.

The quality of the performances then, however, left him unimpressed, so he decided to form his own dance company with a focus on presenting high-quality Russian ballet to an international audience.

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His 22-year-old ballet company now puts on between 200 and 250 performances a year, most of them overseas. The company is known for its rendition of classical ballet works such as The Nutcracker and Giselle.

Last year, it performed Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake in Singapore. It will be restaging the ballet about the love story between a prince and the swan princess, Odette, from Wednesday to Sunday at The Theatre at Mediacorp.

Tachkin, who will be in Singapore for the company's performance, is married to the company's prima ballerina, Irina Kolesnikova, 36. They have a two-year-old daughter.

He has two sons aged 25 and 19 and a daughter aged 21 from a previous marriage.

1 Do you remember the first time you watched Swan Lake?

It was a show meant for tourists in St Petersburg in 1993. I didn't like it.

Maybe it was just poor staging, but it was obvious to me that the dancing was not good, even though it was my first time watching ballet.

Many companies around the world present Swan Lake, but not every performance is good.

2 What do you enjoy about ballet?

I love the art of ballet. I see my dancers doing what they do every day and what happens behind the magic onstage - how many hours they train, how often they get injured. This is really high art. Not many people understand what goes on behind the scenes.

3 Did you ever want to learn ballet?

Never, no. I think everyone should do everything professionally. To dance ballet on a stage requires eight years of really hard work in ballet school.

Otherwise, to dance at the discotheque is fine.

4 Your company presents mainly classical ballet performances. Do you want to move the company away from the classics?

We prefer to stay with classical masterpieces. They are classic for a reason. You can't do better, to be honest, and it's better for the public.

But for dancers, it's important for them to not only do classical works, but also train in contemporary choreography.

We recently did a two-act contemporary ballet called Her Name Was Carmen at the London Coliseum. It follows the love story of the classic Carmen opera, but is set in a refugee camp.

It was a really interesting experience because we were the first ballet company to create a performance about the refugee situation.

5 What is it like to be married to a prima ballerina?

For us, the business is never separate from our personal lives. The two are totally combined.

Our daughter, Vasilina, goes to the studio sometimes with Irina for rehearsal. We were surprised to sometimes find her dancing at home, trying to repeat something she saw in the studio.

6 Would you want your daughter to be a ballerina too?

She is talented, but we are not sure if we want to rush her into becoming a ballerina. Both of us know how hard the life is.

7 What do you remember about Singapore when you came last year for your company's performance of Swan Lake?

We arrived at five o'clock in the morning and it was 32 deg C. I was amazed. We brought our daughter last year and she'll be going with us again. We'll be more prepared for the weather.

8 How would you like to be remembered?

Everyone wants to be remembered positively. To have done his job and done things, not perfectly, but in a good way.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2016, with the headline 'Ex-elite soldier loves ballet'. Print Edition | Subscribe