Fifth edition

The Mariinsky Theatre – My Personal Tiffany & Co.

Ting-jung Chen tingjungchen828@gmail.com

When I first walked into this renowned theatre, it was to enjoy a ballet called “La Bayadère”. It turned out to be more than a mere pilgrimage for a Russian major come to check what she had learnt in her classes about the importance of “Marinka” as an illustrious national cultural heritage. It was indeed an overwhelmingly sensational experience that revealed how aesthetic perfection can inspire strength. The concordance of the legendary corps de ballet, the charm of soloists, the harmony with the orchestra and the terpsichorean magnificence all transcended the grandeur of the theatre’s frescos and chandeliers. Since then, the Mariinsky theatre has become my magical sapphire house, akin to Tiffany & Co. for Holly Golightly. The theatre is not unlike a Fabergé egg; although it is lavishly decorated and stunning from the outside, its true mesmerising beauty lies within.

Through this testimony I would thus like to share how I was inspired by my personal Tiffany & Co.

1

Beauty

There is more to beauty in the terpsichorean world than meets the eye. Notwithstanding the theatre’s gorgeous high reliefs adorned with radiant gold and its grand azure dome displaying a circle of dancing angels, the essence of the theatre lies behind an extravagant curtain. What happens on the stage once the curtain is raised outshines all those luxurious embellishments even more. Under dazzling tiaras, delicate tutus and satin point shoes, one also discovers the strenuous training that enables the dancers to express lyrical poetry through their bodily expressions. Writers write with words; dancers interpret with their moves. The passionate vitality of Scheherazade and the Golden Slave, the delicate fragility of Odette and Siegfried, the adorable vibrancy of Kitri and Basilio, the amorous joy of Aurora and Désiré, the innocent frolic of Masha and the Nutcracker Prince, the tragic dilemma of Solor and Nikiya – all the characteristics and emotions are conveyed to the audience by the dancers’ interpretations , which involves extremely difficult dancing techniques. The combination of awe-inspiring talent and sincere devotion embodies the dancers’ aesthetic perfection. In all the bitter and sweet moments of life, especially those bitter ones, I find instant relief by simply enjoying the sheer beauty of the performance. It always helps just to appreciate graceful variations and harmonious pas de deux. Remembering such enchanting jewels is pleasurable, and in those moments I feel convinced that life is beautiful.

2

Diligence

It takes talent and diligence to express supreme wonders through movement. Every time I go to a ballet I am reminded of the efforts the dancers must devote to their profession so that they can stand in the spotlights. There is no doubt that all professions require a degree of diligence, but the reason why ballet stands out to me is that those seemingly delicate and fragile nuances in every movement demand extraordinary strength. This contrast enhances the importance of both the results and the processes involved. Diligence is a vital element in people’s lives. “No pain, no gain”, they say. Watching a performance at the Mariinsky always reminds me of the importance of this factor, that indeed success is only achievable through hard work.

3

Tradition

The Mariinsky theatre works in close cooperation with a school: the Vaganova Academy. As the main supplier of its outstanding dancers, it is without doubt an vital part of the theatre’s foundation. The Vaganova Academy is important because it preserves the Saint Petersburg style of ballet, which is renown for its stringent discipline, thorough techniques and willowy port de bras. When pupils are still in the Academy, they are invited to perform repertoires in the theatre such as the Nutcracker from time to time. One of my most memorable experiences is the graduation performance of the Academy in 2011. After watching prima ballerinas for a while, seeing the pupils dancing was very refreshing. When going to a ballet that stars a dazzling prima ballerina, one cannot help but feel the pull of her irresistible charms. The surprise lies in her unique interpretation that differs from those of the other prima ballerinas enacting the same role. However, seeing pupils is another story. They are like unpolished diamonds, and what you expect is plausible potential rather than destined glory. On the dreamy but cruel stage, they have to present what they have learnt and inherited from the fascinating Academy. For sure, it is a stressful experience, but leaving one’s mark in history should be like that.

4

The labyrinth of life requires a lighthouse giving directions and reviving hopes. The Mariinsky theatre is an aquamarine in my life that not only enriches the artistic facets, but also the momentum of tackling predicaments.

 5Ting-jung Chen, Contributing Writer

Ting-jung is from Taiwan, majored in Slavic Languages and Literatures, minored in Diplomacy at the National Chengchi University (Taiwan). She spent her senior year in Saint Petersburg State University. Ting-jung started Euroculture in 2013 at the University of Göttingen, and continued further north to Uppsala in the second semester. Her interests revolve around literature, international relations, fencing (sabre) and watching ballet.

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