“In the Beginning Was the Word”: Genesis—A Bible That Speaks Without Words

1. Biographical overview

Dmitry Pimonov is a choreographer at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, known as the choreographer-director for the musicals The Master and Margarita, The Nameless Star, The Demon of Onegin, Oscar and the Lady in Pink, Chudo-Yudo, and many other productions staged in Russia and abroad.

He graduated from the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet, specializing in choreography under the guidance of Edvald Smirnov.

Mr. Pimonov has collaborated with the fashion house of Tatyana Kotegova, the British band The Tiger Lillies, the St. Petersburg band Theodor Bastard, actor Dmitry Bykovsky, the Georgiy Daneliya Foundation, and Tamara Moskvina’s Figure Skating Club.

2. How did your collaboration with the Genesis project begin?

The collaboration began with a call from producer Nahum Slutzker and conductor Mikhail Kirchhoff. I found the material and the music really intriguing. We immediately agreed to work together, and I quickly immersed myself in the creative process. It was captivating to see and hear different interpretations of Genesis from around the globe and in nearly every language. I watched most of the then-available videos of the symphonic poem performances, rereading the Old Testament to engage fully with the material.

3. When choreographing to biblical themes set to the music of Baruch Berliner’s symphonic poem Genesis, was your starting point the well-known plot lines or a fresh vision? What influenced your choreography?

Naturally, the starting point in composing the ballet was the biblical stories, their main plot lines, the images of the characters, their souls and emotions, and themes of love. The music of Genesis is very diverse genre-wise. I’d call it a Biblical divertimento. When crafting the choreography, I drew inspiration from its dramaturgy, structure, chromaticism, and hidden and explicit quotations. Composing dance movements to the music of Genesis was exhilarating: the music itself dictated the movements, their aesthetics, and their meaning.

4. When developing the movement vocabulary, did you struggle with choosing a classical or contemporary approach? Which dance styles were you keen to integrate into your work?

When creating choreography for a ballet, you have to immerse yourself in the music and become one with it. But once you hear the melos of each piece, movements will flow naturally through your body.
In this ballet, I merged several types of dance: classical, jazz, neoclassical, free movement, and everyday gestures. As I said before, I see Genesis as a Biblical divertimento with many intertwining musical styles and genres.
Overall, Baruch Berliner’s musical language shaped the choreographic interpretation of the symphonic poem.

5. While working on the production, were you in direct contact with the producer, composer, and theater manager? Did you collaborate closely, or were you given free rein to interpret the material?

While working on the ballet, the producer, librettist, theater manager, production manager, and I spent a lot of time discussing the vision for the performance. We focused on issues such as including the biblical text in the ballet, which we eventually forewent in the Bishkek production. Together with the production manager, Evgeny Atsapkin, we decided on the visual aspects of the scenography.

We collaborated with artist Tatyana Astakhova to design the costumes. In fact, we bought many costumes and fabrics ourselves from the markets in Bishkek. Overall, we strove to craft a modern production that reflects our era and resonates with contemporary audiences. I had complete creative freedom in my interpretation of the material. It was so gratifying to witness a full house at our performances, and, above all, to see the enthusiastic and appreciative eyes of the artists. Having yearned for a fresh and contemporary ballet, they enjoyed bringing the production to life.

6. How did your collaboration with the theater troupe artists go? Which aspects demanded the most attention? How did you develop the stage design, costumes, lighting, and sound?

I worked with the theater ballet intermittently over three months. The most challenging task was teaching the troupe to listen to new music and embrace melodies imbued with biblical narratives. We extensively discussed the dramaturgy of the symphonic poem’s music and the meanings behind biblical stories as I guided them on using their instruments—their bodies—in new ways.

I had a highly productive collaboration with conductor Mikhail Kirchhoff, who adhered to all my requests concerning the tempo and tonal characteristics.
At the Kyrgyz National Academic Opera and Ballet Theater in Bishkek, we had a fantastic lighting designer, Galina Kugatova, who crafted a stunning visual for the entire performance along with her team.

7. Do you see the ballet premiere at the theater and the subsequent tour as a success? Did you monitor the reaction of the audience and critics?

The premiere was successful. The artists, orchestra, and all departments of the theater worked wonderfully. The audience warmly welcomed it, and I believe the Bishkekians can rightfully be proud of their opera and ballet theater.

I don’t follow reviews of my productions. I just don’t have the time, as my schedule is packed with numerous creative projects. But I monitored the subsequent performances of the show, ensuring—with the assistance of the diligent rehearsal director, Elena Ovchinnikova—that it maintained the same professional standard.

Svetlana Polskaya / dozado.ru