Yuri Possokhov's name reveals his homeland and a lot — but by no means all — about his choreographic aesthetics.
he's Russian, and he trained at the Moscow Ballet School before
dancing with the Bolshoi Ballet for 10 years. As a youngster first drawn
to folk dance before winding up in ballet, he counts a fiery ethnic
soul and classical discipline among his formative influences.
in 1992, he joined the Royal Danish Ballet and, two years later, moved
even farther west to dance with the San Francisco Ballet, where he's now
resident choreographer. He is something of a provocative mix of Russian
purity, Danish color and American pluck.
"I love it when young people
devour what they're doing," he said, for instance, when at work on last
season's "Bells," a one-act piece he created for the Joffrey Ballet. "They're thirsty, they're hungry and they want to do as much as possible."
embraced the varieties in his background, combining a score by
Rachmaninov, sharp classical imagery and punky, contemporary Americana —
a ballerina's leg briefly caught in a spasm, for instance. In October,
he'll unveil a new version of "Don Quixote," the Joffrey's first
full-length commission by a choreographer outside the troupe in 60 years
and, like Possokhov, a blend of tradition and innovation.
way for a dancer to show off your ability, your technique, your
training," he said of the classic. "I've danced it in Moscow, the only
place in the world that's kept it consistently in the repertory all
these years. No one dances it better.
"But it's also hard to
really determine what the word 'traditional' means when you're talking
about 'Don Quixote.' Even the Bolshoi has used composers other than
Ludwig Minkus in some productions. Marius Petipa,
who created this ballet, lived in St. Petersburg, and when he first saw
the Moscow production by Alexander Gorsky, he hated it; he said he
didn't recognize a single step."
Possokhov's version puts more
emphasis on the novel's main characters, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza,
than the traditional ballet. "Don Quixote does a lot more dancing,"
Possokhov promises. He's condensing the work to two acts and
refashioning it to fit the more modest-size Joffrey.
have 150 dancers like the Bolshoi," he said. "So what was conceived for
24 couples will now be danced by 12. I've eliminated some sections, such
as the gypsy scene. Some like the idea, some don't. You can't please
Some aspects are full-throttle contemporary. Wendall K.
Harrington, who provided the atmospheric animated projections for the
troupe's "Othello," is doing the same for "Don Quixote."
"I love to work with projections," Possokhov said. "It gives you a lot more room to originate and interpret."
maybe the biggest challenge is an old one: "Don Quixote" is one of the
most soaring, acrobatically dazzling of all the classics. Will this one
serve up the thrills?
Possokhov, the passionate Russian with broad globe-trotting experience, answered diplomatically, "I hope."
Receive special offer alerts and updates right to your phone!Text joffrey to 366948 to opt into Joffrey Mobile Alerts
© Joffrey Ballet. All rights reserved.