Ballet… Magnificent and complicated combining old and new traditions. It is a mixture of great composers, ballet-dancers and artists of different centuries that a spectator can see at the moment. But is it possible to create anything of that kind on ice? This question we have answered in one of our articles.
I’ve got greatly interested in such an extraordinary art … and if you too let’s enter behind the curtain… not alone of course but together with the ice ballet-dancer of The State Ballet on Ice in Saint Petersburg Inga Ragozina.
Inga, could you tell us your figure-skating story?
I was born in a small town in Kazakhstan. When I was 5 or 6 I tried classical ballet, but after the first lesson my Mum was told: “This girl will never be a ballet-dancer… no aptitude”
Later I started gymnastics, I did it, got grades and quit at 13 without telling no one. I knew then that they were going to open an ice palace in our town and I had always to be a skater.
I came there at 14 and was taken to an amateur group because I couldn’t skate and was too “old” but I was eager to skate and I was a sporty – I was strong, stretched, flexible, will and spirit – I was a gymnast.
After I was transferred into sport group, began taking part in competitions, got sport classes\ grades ? I had to work hard. Really hard. I started too late, normally skaters start 10 years earlier, at 4.
… and at 17 I got a trauma – ankle fracture just before important competition ( I couldn’t skate 3 weeks) and there were a lot of pain and difficulties and just then I graduated from school. It was a high time to enter some Institute.
I came to Saint Petersburg to enter институт физкультуры just to go on skating. It was very difficult for me to skate and to study, my figure skating season was not a success, besides that my age and poor jumps…
So I understood that I couldn’t compete but I wanted to skate and I started to look for other opportunities for skating and they were ice shows.
So I found ballet on ice in Petersburg, I was taken with a probation. They took me due to my appearance, I was told – you can’t skate but you can try yourself.
Why ballet on ice not show?
I think I could skate in a show as well. But at that moment I started in a ballet and got deeply involved) I got interested in classical ballet, its history and its aesthetics.
I find ballet serious and pure, and a show is a show: epic, modern, with great visual and sound effects but it’s a show, not ballet.
I just fell in love with ballet.
What is the life of an ice-ballerina like?
Ballet classes, rehearsals on and off ice, acting classes, performance runs also on and off ice.
There are fencing lessons for men (for “Romeo and Juliet”)
What ballets have you taken part in?
All of them) But mainly in corps de ballet. I’ve had several leading parts but not solo.
What part is your pride?
I skate Spanish dances and they are my pride. In “Swan Lake” and “Nutcracker”. They are my favorite dances and I did my best to get them.
When I was on probation and saw “Swan Lake” for the first time ( I watched it from auditorium because they did not let me to the stage yet) – I remember how I liked the Spanish dance. It is so full of passion and is so expressive! I fell in love with that dance at once, I liked the choreo, lifts, music – everything. To skate that dance became my dream. But I didn’t hope that it would happen and I would dance it on that very stage.
And very soon the new ballet is coming, “The Cinderella”. I have a very interesting part and one of the leading ones – Cinderella’s Mother-in-Law. I can’t say that this part is my dream, but I think that it will be very thrilling.
The State Ballet on Ice was created by a professional ballet-dancer. Who is now the leader of the theatre? What are the balance between skaters and ballet representatives?
The State ballet on ice was created in 1967 by an outstanding Russian choreographer Konstantin Boyarski.
The choregrapher and the director of the theatre now is Konstantin Rassadin, ex-soloist of Mariinsky theatre. He has been leading the ballet since 1980.
Since 1995 the State Ballet on Ice has been performing on the theatre stages, we show “ Swan Lake”, “Sleeping Beauty” and “Nutcracker” Chaikovsky and two Prokofiev’s ballets “Cinderella” and “Romeo and Juliet”. All those ballets were staged by Konstantin Rassadin. There are also other ballet-dancers who help with choreography and rehearsals.
The skaters – what are they? They did FS in their childhoods?
Of course, they are, but there are some exceptions. All members are highly classified skaters, but some of them – not. There are people from rhythmic gymnastics, some are not sportsmen at all, but they did their best and learned to skate.
If you have some individuality – you may try. Because ballet is not only skating skills, but emotions, acting, appearance, quick brains and working in a team and many more. And if you match – they will teach to skate and they teach ballet discipline.
What is ballet discipline in Ice Theatre? The same as in a Ballet Theatre?
The most important are weight and look. And it is obligatory for all skaters!
As for height there are no strong limits, there are parts and roles for different heights, and your weight should be – your height – 115-120.
Discipline is strict and you may say that it is the same as in classical ballet connected with ballet ethics. And you should work hard to improve both your skating and your ballet skills. We should keep our costumes, skates and other props in order. We should be attentive to our hairstyles and make-up.
Say a couple of words about your teachers, are there favourites?
Every teacher has something special about him or her. I am rather changeable in my moods so different times – different favourites. But in the whole I love them all and I am afraid of them all.
Can you describe a staging of a new ballet process?
Unfortunately, we don’t stage a new ballet every season like in a ballet theatre. Constantly we have 5. I’ve mentioned them already. Two of them are rare so to perform it we have to make total reconstruction of them and so every time they are new in some way.
Next season we are having a absolutely new one for us “Don Quixote”. Staging process usually happens the following way: first off-ice rehearsals, it is a long process with our teachers with detailed work on every step and movement.
Then on-ice rehearsals start and from that moment we combine off and on ice rehearsals. Then we have off-ice and on-ice performance runs.
Does the theatre have its own building? Where do the performances take place?
We have a building for off-ice needs, but we have no our own ice. Ice is rented but for very long period so we usually get used to it and consider it “ours”. We have no our own stage for our performances too. So we rent a stage in one of the theatres just for performances. And so we perform in different places.
Rehearsals and performances are held under live music or recorded?
We practice with recorded music and for performances we use both – live and recorded.
What skating peculiarities can you pointed out as an ice-ballet skater?
This is a very interesting question!
The skating in the ballet is absolutely different from competitive skating. Our performances are similar with ballets on the stage, everything that is danced on pointe for example you have to perform in skates!
So our teacher demand classical ballet backs, arms and feet! And as they are not skaters but ex-ballet-dancers they are often discontent.
So we are not ballet dancers but our performances are classical ballets so it is the main peculiarity of skating in ice ballet.
Other peculiarity is that we skate on stage not in the rink. Stage is much more smaller so you should be very careful and attentive doing this or that movement. So ice ballet skating is rather unusual and special.
Inga, thanks a lot for your very interesting story , we wish you good luck and success!