Stuttgart Ballet Polishes Legacy
In an interview, director and dancer Marcia Haydee talks about the company
WHEN Marcia Haydee danced Tatiana in Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" here five years ago, she was as light as swans' down, a lyric dancer, but suffused with a romantic sorrow. The audience went wild, as they have over several continents in what has become the role of her lifetime. It was the most beautiful performance I had ever seen in any ballet: unforgettable.
I told Ms. Haydee, prima ballerina and director of the Stuttgart Ballet, that I had come to this interview bearing the memory of that performance, and she sighed. Then she blinked her huge, black-fringed eyes and said, "Oh, I am more scared of the memories [than anything], because the memories have become better than the reality." She's been dancing what critics call "the bereft Tatiana" for almost 30 years now - nearly 400 performances. But this Saturday night at the closing gala for Kennedy Center's "T ribute to Germany" will be her only appearance here in the role and the last time she dances it in North America.
The role was created for her by Stuttgart Ballet founding father John Cranko, who made her his star and prima ballerina. She later followed in his footsteps as director. She is also an internationally famous ballerina, maintaining the dual role of dancer-director as well as perpetuating the Cranko legend of the world-class Stuttgart Ballet. Haydee is one of the few women dancer-directors in a dance world that has applauded Peter Martins at the New York City Ballet, Mikhail Baryshnikov at the American Bal let Theatre and Rudolf Nureyev at the Paris Opera.
"If I bring my company back to America, I am not going to do 'Onegin,' " she vows. "I want to be seen in other things that have been created for me, by [Maurice] Bejart and others. I have a completely different repertoire; I don't always want to be seen in the repertoire I had" (which included roles in Cranko's "Romeo and Juliet," "The Taming of the Shrew," and "Carmen"; Kenneth MacMillan's "Miss Julie"; and John Neumeier's "Hamlet"). She's doing Neumeier's "Medea" next year and bringing her own chor eography to the Kennedy Center this month. Dramatic presence
We are in a suite at the Watergate Hotel, where Haydee is stretched out like a cat at one end of the couch. She is a dramatic presence, this ballerina with flowing black hair pulled back to frame her pale face and extravagent brown eyes like dark moths. She is wearing a rust, purple, orange, and olive abstract top over brown suede pants. Her feet are bare.
At the other end of the couch is her ballet partner of 20 years, Richard Cragun, who is her Romeo, her Eugene Onegin, and Petruchio to Kate in "Taming of the Shrew." He occasionally rubs her tortured-looking dancer's feet.
"Why I think the two of us have been dancing together for so many years [is] because we both approach a ballet completely differently," Haydee says. "I listen to what the choreographer has to say. I look at him and I do it. Richard analyzes everything. So I don't analyze my Tatiana today, but of course it must be completely different, because I'm 30 years older, and I hope that in my 30 years as a human being I've developed.
"I think the mistake most dancers make today is to develop a role and they don't understand that you don't develop a role, you develop yourself," she continues. "And it's how you develop as a human being that the role develops. They're all looking for technical ways of how to grow in your role. Your role is exactly the same as you did it the first day. So I don't even think about how I'm going to do the role differently. The curtain goes up and I go out on stage and do it, and so of course each time Tati ana is different.
"That is what is difficult to make dancers understand," Haydee says. "They try to read books and to think about what to do, where to look, how to look, and how to lift that finger, and that doesn't make the role better. It just makes it more and more artifical."
When Hayds mother took her to see "The Sleeping Beauty," she made the decision to be a ballerina. "I remember exactly what she [Stepanova, the prima ballerina in "Sleeping Beauty"] was like. That's why I think I loved [Dame Margot] Fonteyn because she was like Stepanova, that dark hair, that white skin. That's why for me a dancer always has white skin and black hair because of the first vision I had of the 'Sleeping Beauty.' I remember my big dream was to dance 'Swan Lake.' The day I danced 'Swan Lake, ' I thought it was not a dream but a nightmare to do those classics. And then quickly I tried to get out of all of them." John Cranko as mentor
She started taking lessons at six, danced at the Rio de Janeiro Teatro Municipal. "From Rio I enrolled at the Royal Ballet School (also known as Sadler's Wells) and stayed in London for two years. Then I joined the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas and stayed four years. And then I met John Cranko and that was it."
Cranko was a brilliant choreographer and director who shaped his company to his dreams. "Cranko didn't know me. I went to audition for him. He liked me. That's it. He wanted me as his first dancer. He didn't have one. There were many people who were waiting, and there were many good dancers among them, like Carla Fracci. It was my luck they didn't want it...."
What was her dance relationship to Cranko?
"He created me. It was as simple as all that. He's the one who showed me everything I could do. I had John who created me as a dancer, and I had Richard who helped me develop everything. So for 13 years I had everything." She says of Cranko who died suddenly in 1973, "So Cranko went, our relationship finished, and I had to go through that." The interview ends.