Ever since I was a student I wanted to choreograph one of Anton Chekhov’s plays. Reading The Seagull generates moods, and moments arise in my head that are connected to my own experiences. They are not necessarily always the same ones as in the text, but events and scenes that they provoke which evolve during the creative process. It is not my aim to transfer the characters and scenes in the play one to one into a ballet. Chekhov’s dramas live from their inner action. With him, you have to read between the lines and grasp the subtleties, allusions and what remains unspoken. Chekhov’s theatre is one of emotions — and these are something I can turn into dance.
The play is Russian, the music is Russian, and that immediately made me think of that very daring and important trend in modern art, expressionist dance in Russia. The principal approach of my choreography follows on from the dramatic-emotional approach in the tradition of Antony Tudor, Frederick Ashton and John Cranko. Other scenes in the ballet give insights into the world of classical dance inhabited by the ballerina Arkadina. Through Nina’s wish to become a professional dancer we discover how exciting revue dance is. With these four levels or chapters from the history of dance, my Seagull becomes an exploration of dance itself.
In John Neumeier’s version of The Seagull the characters are not actors, writers and directors as in Chekhov’s original: he has transferred the events to the world of ballet while retaining the emotional turmoil. In a country house, the ageing ballerina Irina Arkadina and her lover, the successful choreograph Trigorin, meet Arkadina’s son Kostja and his young girlfriend Nina, who comes from a neighbouring farm. Nina also wants to be a dancer. Kostja loves her and dreams of choreographing dances for her and becoming famous. But Nina chooses to become Trigorin’s mistress, hoping this will be more beneficial to her future career. She goes to Moscow and starts working as a dancer in a revue theatre. Years later, Nina and Kostja meet again: Nina has failed as an artist, while Kostja has made his way as a choreograph, but is an emotional wreck. Finding that Nina still does not love him, he kills himself.