Jérôme FRILEY pour DANSER n° 395 - Juillet 2022, p. 9 (Article en Français sur le Spectacle du BALLET DE L'OUEST PARISIEN du 07/04/2022 - photo Patrick HERRERA) :
ALICE PSAROUDAKI : DANCE AS JOY AND ELEVATION
by Tatiana Senkevitch
Many Parisians and visitors to the French capital associate the idea of ballet with the Paris Opera. However, along with the Paris Opera Ballet, with its historical cradle in the Palais Garnier, Paris boasts a wealth of young, vibrant dance companies that expand on the tradition of classical dance, bringing to the public a new vibe and sensitivities that are au courant. Alice Psaroudaki, a dancer of international renown and experience, created her company Ballet De L’Ouest Parisien a few years ago. The company offers the danse classique d’aujourd’hui, as Alice Psaroudaki defines the credo of her company. Based in Sèvres and Boulogne-Billancourt, Ballet De L’Ouest Parisien, launches its new season with the spring recital on April 7 in Espace Loisirs (SEL) in Sèvres. A versatile group of dancers will interpret several pieces choreographed by Alice Psaroudaki. We would like to share with you an interview with Alice, recorded by Tatiana Senkevitch, a historian of art and dance.
TS: What brought you, an experienced ballerina, to choreography?
AP: I call myself a choreographer only because I must qualify my work somehow. In general, the role of choreographer is to compose a sequence of movements, or better to visualize them through dancers’ bodies steps, positions, and movements. As with everything “ideal,” this image emerges in the imagination and it can be either completely abstract or expressive of some story, some situation. I call myself a choreographer because it is the best way of expressing what I do. I love working with people, who have the urge to dance. The desire to dance is a strong link between me and my dancers, and between me and my students when I teach classes. I strive to help them to harness their bodies in a way that enables them to realize their dreams of dance. My choreography begins at the intersection of a dancer’s individuality and my imagination. The studio work and regular classes provide the way to bring our search to fruition and to create beautiful and meaningful moving forms. Grace, expressiveness, and sincerity are essential tools of my vision, and, yes, we can call it choreography.
TS: Before turning to choreography, you had a spectacular international career as classical dancer. How does your dancing experience influence your further work?
AP: I started learning classical dance as a girl at the school of the Deutsche Oper Berlin. Like many children from the school, I participated in the ballets mounted on the main scene. I particularly remember dancing a part of a boy-soldier in the Nutcracker (I was taller than other girls) staged by the legendary Rudolf Nureyev. I became fully adsorbed by the atmosphere of the theatre and did not see another path for myself than becoming a dancer. At the same time, I already realized how much work goes into becoming a complete dancer, one that can do justice to choreography, that truly embodies it. From early on, I was prone to analyze movements and seek a high quality for my work through long hours in the studio. After I was accepted into the company (Ballet of The Deutsche Oper Berlin), we, the younger crop, learned practically many full-length ballets from the repertoire but had little chance to dance them on stage. There was a kind of a rebel inside me; I wanted to expand my horizon, and I left the company. I danced first in the Israeli Ballet, then I went to the ballet company of Malmö (Sweden) where I danced as a soloist and immersed myself in a diverse repertoire. Later, I returned to Berlin to work as soloist in the State Opera. Exploring new territory and expanding my limits as a dancer was a driving force in my career, as I see it now.
TS: Did this ability to seek new horizons contribute to your toolbox as dancer, teacher, and choreographer?
AP: The first big game-changer in my life of a dancer came when I was cast to dance in Georges Balanchine’s ballet Who cares? staged first in Berlin by John Clifford and later in Malmö by Nanette Glushack. Because Nanette trusted me a technically challenging solo, I gained confidence in different amplitude of movements and speed. This encounter changed my perception of dance technique and let me to reconsider my work in the studio. Later, when I became a ballet mistress and teacher, I continued to dig out the element of this marvelous musicality and dynamism characteristic of the Balanchine tradition studying with Suki Schorer, one of the most recognized heralds of Balanchine’s method. Maybe less overtly pedagogical, but no less important for my formation, was the encounter with Eva Evdokimova, an outstanding ballerina of the twentieth century. In Berlin, I had a chance to observe her work in classes and her performances on stage, striving to understand the sources of her powerful yet subtle ability to infuse a ballet form with meaning and beauty.
TS: What are the sources and themes of your choreographic inspirations?
AP: I am convinced that dance should stir emotions in the public. My choreographic ideas emerge around real personalities and stories that their bodies can narrate. I can compose in the studio alone and to prepare, to some degree, my choreography in advance but the real revelation happens when I work with my dancers in the studio. Dance, for me, is a profoundly theatrical art. It is an event that happens on stage with a strong emotional resonance between dancers and audience. Tatiana Gsovsky, my teacher in Germany during the years of apprenticeship, used to say that 97% of the ballet on stage is theatre. I believe in this powerful metaphor. Although we spend much time perfecting our technique in daily classes, the moment on stage should transform this technique into theatrical magic. Ever since my younger years, I liked ballets with strong stories and powerful characters, such as those in ballets like Idiot and War and Peace that Valery Panov staged for the Deutsche Oper Berlin in the early 1980s. My personal inspiration often comes from music, literature, and the visual arts, such as paintings and sculpture, and of course from dancers.
TS: Who do you invite to dance in your company? What qualities do you deem essential for dancers today?
AP: Dancing for me is giving one’s heart to the public. I am looking for dancers with a quality of transparency, a sort of a balance between technical and emotional capacities. I appreciate sincerity in dancers—this is a question of my exigence. I also like to nurture my dancers through my classes, kind of chiseling them. I want to help them to become better in many aspects, to reach a new level. I always searched for ways to improve my own dancing. I studied and analyzed different schools and methods to arrive to the idea that the dancer’s growth depends on the openness of mind and individual work. In my teaching now, I offer my various experiences that I accumulated in years of working with excellent ballet masters, and that became my own “system.” It is a cumulative method, as it takes something positive from different traditions. Teaching takes experience and very precise thinking. Technically demanding yet poetic dancing is more important for me than amazing stretches as in gymnastics.
TS: You also teach non-professional ballet classes in Sèvres that are open to anyone who likes to master the classical technique, correct?
AP: I offer classes for debutants and intermediary students with no ballet background. My evening-time students, who take my classes after a day of work, are a great source of inspiration for me. I see my task as giving them means and tools to discover something new in themselves, an ability to master movements that professional dancers have perfected since their childhood. Although they know that they will not be on stage, taking dance class becomes a ritual—more than just an exercise--to fulfill their dreams and to become artists.
TS: What program are you preparing for the spring recital of 2022?
AP: We are a small company, so it is important to highlight my dancers in several pieces of very different themes and styles. We will present our ballet Le Souffle du Printemps composed to music of Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto. This ballet for the company, as well as other pieces in the program, are inspired by classical sources, such as music, painting, or sculpture, but they narrate or visualize stories fully resonating with the contemporary public. We are delighted to dance live in Sèvres this April and to reconnect with our public after two years of disrupted schedule caused by the pandemic. Dance is an art of joy and elevation, and we will deliver them to our viewers.
Margarita MEDINA pour DANSER n° 359 - Juillet 2019, p. 46 (Article en Français sur le Spectacle du BALLET DE L'OUEST PARISIEN du 24/05/2019) :
Nicolas VILLODRE pour DANSER canal historique (Article en Français sur le Spectacle du BALLET DE L'OUEST PARISIEN du 31/05/2018) :
Victor IGNATOV pour Affiche musicale, afficha-paris.com (Article en Russe du 16/05/2017, sur le Spectacle de BALLET 18.6 du 12/05/2017) :
Patrick HERRERA pour DansArtSport, rubrique Danse/Création (Articles en Français) :