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Nurlan Kanetov: “The scene is the best medicine!”

Dean of the Faculty of Choreography of the Kazakh national academy of choreography N.I. Kanetov at the lesson of classical heritage.
Photographer – A. Nekrasov

Dean of the Choreography Department of the Kazakh National Academy of Choreography Nurlan Ismagulovich Kanetov graduated from the Alma-Ata Choreographic School named after A.V. Seleznev in 1993. Later, he worked as a soloist at the State Academic Opera and Ballet Theater named after Abay and the leading soloist of the Tatar Academic Opera and Ballet Theater named after M. Jalil. As a soloist, he performed leading parts in ballets of the classical and modern repertoire. The party’s repertoire includes: Prince Siegfried, Rothbart, Pas de trois (Swan Lake), Count Albert (Giselle), Romeo (Romeo and Juliet), Kolen (The Vain Precautions), Prince (The Nutcracker ”), Shahriyar (“ A Thousand and One Nights ”), Yusuf (“ The Legend of Yusuf ”), Crassus (“ Spartak ”), Arman (“ Lady with Camellias ”), Prince Desiree, Blue Bird (“ Sleeping Beauty ”) and in 2003, he was awarded the Theater Award of Russia – the prize “Soul of Dance” from the magazine “Ballet” in the nomination “Rising Star”. In 2004, he was awarded the honorary title “Honored Artist of Tatarstan”. For the performance of the title part in the ballet “The Tale of Yusuf” by Decree of the President of the Russian Federation dated June 9, 2006, Kanetov Nurlan Ismagulovich was awarded the State Prize of the Russian Federation in the field of literature and art “For the development of the traditions of the national epic in modern conditions of the dialogue of cultures”. In 2015, he was awarded the honorary title “Honored Artist of the Russian Federation”. Since 2018, he is the dean of the Choreography Department of the Kazakh national academy of choreography.

Due to the busy schedule, it was not easy to make an appointment with Nurlan Ismagulovich. As a result of long negotiations, he scheduled an interview for lunch.

– Good afternoon, Nurlan Ismagulovich! Thank you for agreeing to an interview and sorry for having to deprive you of lunch.

– I don’t have lunch. But not because I do not have time for this, I just try to keep myself “in shape”. Besides the fact that I am now the dean of the faculty and the main educational activity, I have not yet said goodbye to the stage. I am still invited to performances, and I periodically travel to my native theater. For example, this summer in July I danced there two complex parts: the Vizier in the Golden Horde and Crassus in Spartak.

– But still, in order to keep yourself “in shape”, do you follow some kind of diet?

– As such, I don’t follow any diet, I just try to consume less carbohydrates, drink more water. Because, working as a dean and teacher does not always leave you time for daily classes in the class, unfortunately.

– However, will you continue your artistic career in the future? How often are performances planned?

– Performances have already been planned in March in Kazan, and in June I will dance the Golden Horde on a tour of the Kazan Theater at the Bolshoi Theater. So I need to keep myself “in shape”.

A scene from the ballet The Golden Horde. Vizier – N. Kanetov
Photographer – L. Bobylev


– Tell us about the teachers who helped you realize yourself as a ballet dancer.

– I graduated from the choreographic school in the class of Akhmetshin Ildizar Makhmudovich, unfortunately, our course was his first and last. Alisheva Alila Tursumbaevna, who taught a folk dance, still remains a native and important person for me. I am very grateful to Rudakova Lyudmila Georgievna for having rehearsed a lot with me at the school. Thanks to her, I came to the theater by an already sufficiently trained artist and was able to safely enter the repertoire. My first years of work in the Alma-Ata Theater were rehearsed with me by a wonderful teacher Raushan Hatiyatovna Baiseitova. And in Kazan, Rafael Stanislavovich Samorukov became my mentor and teacher. The teacher was amazing, each rehearsal took place in an atmosphere of personality search. He believed in me, perhaps, more than I did in myself. It inspired me. There was unlimited trust in him. And this is very important for the artist, when you believe every spoken word of the teacher. More than 10 years have already passed since he was not with us, but there was not a single day that we, his students, would not remember him. For me personally it was a big loss. We seemed to be orphaned, because it was he who raised the ballet troupe of the Kazan Theater to such a high level.

– What was your future fate after graduating from the Alma-Ata school?

– When I graduated from college, I was invited to the Abai Opera and Ballet Theater. I started as a soloist, but without corps de ballet, of course, it could not do. That is, I could go out in performances in “deuces”, “fours”, and at the same time, prepare the parts of James in the ballet La Sylphide, Earl Albert in the ballet Giselle, or Desiree in Sleeping Beauty. I worked in the theater for three years, and then I received an invitation from the Kazan Theater to dance Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake for the opening of the season. Without thinking twice, I agreed. He arrived, looked at the troupe, got inspired and realized that this is my house and I want to live my creative life here. I was shocked by the troupe, with which dedication everyone involved in the performance laid out both technically and emotionally. An incredible creative atmosphere reigned on stage and in the ballet hall. And after each performance there was a “debriefing” in a good friendly atmosphere with the teacher. I really miss that time. There were no smartphones, there was no internet, we enjoyed chatting with each other. And there was a constant search, a search …

Scene from A. Adan’s ballet “Giselle”. Count Albert – N. Kanetov
Photographer – L. Bobylev

The 90s were a very difficult period for everyone. KSATOB named afetr Abay was just closed for reconstruction. And when, after the performance in Kazan, I was offered the position of a leading soloist, I, without hesitation, agreed. As life has shown, it was the right decision, fate granted gift. To be honest, sometimes I analyze and cannot imagine how my creative life would have developed if I had stayed in Kazakhstan then.

– In one of your interviews, you said that you loved to watch and play the parts at La Bayadere. What other parties are close to you?

– It depends on the period of my creative activity. I am madly in love with La Bayadere, it doesn’t matter that I do not dance Solor or the Great Brahmin there. It always gives me great pleasure! Everything in this ballet, and the music, and the plot itself is just a delight, it’s all about me, it’s all FOR me! I love the performances “Romeo and Juliet”, “The Legend of Yusuf”, “Lady with Camellias”. Perhaps this is one of the most beloved, because, in addition to amazing music and scenography, these are plot performances, where each time you step onto the stage, you live a new interesting life.

Scene from concert number “Confession”
Photographer – L. Bobylev

A scene from the ballet “The Legend of Yusuf.” Yusuf – N. Kanetov
Photographer – L. Bobylev

When I was preparing the role of Romeo, I completely immersed myself in the role, filled myself with information – I read Shakespeare, watched the Zeffirelli film “Romeo and Juliet”. And we can say that the rehearsal moment gave me more pleasure than the performance itself. I really like to rehearse. Of course, it’s very important who you dance with. The partners were different, but each in its own way was interesting, desirable. Often they said to me: “Nurlan, save your strength, why are you so emotionally spent on rehearsals?” But I cannot do otherwise. I hear music, my soul is torn, and I can’t work at full length. I believe that a ballet dancer is the same musician, only his instrument is his body, his vibrations.

– How long have you been working on the role?

– Hard to say. The entire period of the production process, in addition to practicing the technical elements, you also try to get used to the role. This process is the most exciting for me. That is why I do not like dancing princes. Although this is my role and princes in my repertoire was abound. But in such parties there is no way to find and express the deep psychological content of the role, to make the audience think, to induce reflection. In the end, make me believe, believe my hero and at least temporarily forget about my problems, completely plunging into the storyline of the play. Enthusiastic spectators often wrote after the performances. I was always pleased to read their letters, it made me realize that I was on the right track. It’s worth the work for the sake of such moments!

– Before coming to the Academy, in Astana, did you have any experience in teaching?

– I gave classical dance lessons for soloists, rehearsed with them. All the accumulated experience of the parties that I danced, I gave to the young dancers. But he never imposed his own vision of the image, but tried to have the artist himself think and live it sincerely, because you can’t hide anything on the stage. Everything is visible there! I practically didn’t touch the technical side, because they were ready-made artists, they didn’t have to train saut de basque with them. We went through variations, monologues, but it was interesting for me to work with them in the image. I liked talking with them, I shared some information, advised literature, showed videos of various dancers, as well as my performance of the party. But when the artist blindly repeated my performance, my vision of the party, I was surprised: “Why? This is my Armand Duval. And you may have it different. ” You need to express yourself in the dance, the only way you can be interesting to the viewer.

Scenes from the ballet “The Legend of Yusuf”. Yusuf – N. Kanetov
Photographer – L. Bobylev

– Besides ballet, are there any other hobbies in your life? Do you have enough time for this?

– Before, I always thought: “When I finish my artistic career, I will pack my bag and travel, see the whole world!” Of course, I went on tour in many countries, but going on tour does not mean that you saw the world. Because you do not have the opportunity to go to museums, walk around the city, see the sights. You must save energy, relax before the performance, focus on the performance.

And I would really like to just travel. But so far I can’t fulfill my dream. But I don’t have a hobby yet. But maybe in the near future I will sign up for drawing lessons, because I am also interested in this. And I really like spending time with my nieces.

– You have dedicated your life to ballet. Would you like the same fate for your beloved nieces?

– I would really like them to go to the ballet, besides the eldest, Aisha, has enormous data. But she did not yet show any desire to engage in dance, and I did not want to insist. Because ballet must be practiced with love, otherwise it will be a lot of stress. And the youngest, Inzhu, is less capable of ballet, but I’m sure that she will still find herself in creativity. At least they both love to draw and it makes me happy. I try to develop different skills in them, to direct them to attend creative circles. Because it is very important that in the future work be a joy to them. How I went to the theater all the time with burning eyes, whether tired or not, it did not matter.

Because of the big theatrical load, my joints were worn out: now I don’t have joints on the foot, I just rub the bones. This happened closer to the retirement age, when I was already finishing artistic activity. Coming home, I just could not step on my foot and neither magic ointments nor dietary supplements helped me, absolutely nothing helped. The only magic cure for pain is work. After all, the scene is the best medicine. I could go to the theater lame, but as soon as the performance began, I went on stage and forgot about the pain. This is just some kind of magic.

Sometimes, it happened, like this you go and limp, and passers-by overtake you and look around. They probably sympathize: “So young, but already walking like an old man!” They don’t suspect that in two hours I’ll put on my costume, put on my makeup and dance on stage for 3 hours, forgetting about everything! They say the truth – the scene heals.

– Based on such a wealth of experience, have you come up with any specific life credo for a successful creative career? Or do you just need to love your job?

– I always remember the words of my mother, who saw me suffer and once said: “My heart breaks because you torture yourself like that. Start living a normal life. ” And for me, a normal life is in ballet. Apparently fate was given to live that way, in creativity, and nothing else. I was born in a simple working-class family. My parents had nothing to do with art and were always amazed at my love for music, for singing, and then for ballet. I believe that you just really need to love what you do. This is the key to a happy creative life and a successful career.

Dean of the Faculty of Choreography of the Kazakh national academy of choreography N.I. Kanetov at the lesson of classical heritage.
Photographer – S. Bakirov.

– Finally, I would like to hear your wishes to our students.

– It seems to me that they now have a wonderful period in life, when they are no longer children, but have not yet entered an adult independent life. So many interesting things in life await them! The Academy has a wonderful teaching staff. Yes, they are demanding, but each teacher is very painful for his students, dreams that they would leave the Academy with highly qualified specialists. This is the purpose of this teacher. I would like for all students to always have a green light ahead, and that in life they meet interesting people who enriched the inner world of each of them with their experience and knowledge. Never be afraid of anything. Fear impedes development, paralyzes creativity. Only forward and only with love for God, for the profession, for the people!

The interview was prepared and conducted by Arailym Abdrakhimova, a 3rd year student at the Faculty of Arts of the Kazakk national academy of choreography.
Scientific adviser Musina F.B.