Russian ballet company tiptoes into Wollongong

A FESTIVAL OF RUSSIAN BALLET

Imperial Russian Ballet Company

September 12-14

Illawarra Performing Arts Centre, Wollongong

Tickets: ipac.org.au

Imperial Russian Ballet Company head and artistic director Gediminas Taranda spends hours every day perfecting routines.

"All day, every day," Taranda says of his regime.

"This is my life."

It's early morning in Russia when Good Life speaks with Taranda as he is about to spend a day rehearsing from 10am until 6pm.

The former Bolshoi Ballet star formed the Imperial Russian Ballet Company in 1994 with friends who were dancers at the Bolshoi and Kirov ballets, including renowned ballerina Marija Pilsetskaya.

Since then, he has also worked as a motivational coach for Russia's Olympic gymnastics teams.

Taranda has been athletic since his youth when he played almost every sport and aspired to be a sport professional, eventually linking sport with ballet at the age of 14.

Which probably explains why he is so excited about the company's gruelling Australian tour.

A Festival of Russian Ballet includes a diverse three-hour program of three acts that push the limits.

"It's full of dance, full of jumping and acrobats," Taranda gushes.

"It's like magic."

The programme includes The Nutcracker, Bolero and highlights from the world's great ballets including Giselle, Carmen, The Dying Swan, Le Corsaire, Gopak, Ne Me Quittes Pas and Can Can Surprise.

Taranda says Bolero, regarded as one of world music's masterpieces, is his favourite of the three acts, providing "new atmosphere".

The chance for freedom during the Soviet era drew Taranda away from the Bolshoi Ballet to start his own dance company.

"When I started the company in 1994 I was thinking about freedom," he says.

"Now I understand ... I have 45 people and every day I must think about money and costumes, everything about my art.

"I understand now that I'm not free," he adds with a laugh.

But ballet remains his dream and no task is too daunting for the 52-year-old Russian.

These days are a far cry from Taranda's early dancing years when the KGB held a tight grip on ballet dancers, who were suspected as potential defectors. He now has the freedom of travelling the world with his company. "In 1994 I said 'thank you very much'," he recalls.

Taranda's wife Anastasia is a ballerina and eight-year-old daughter Diamond is already showing signs of being blessed with dancing genes.

"She dances very nice."

Taranda's work with the Russian gymnastics team has also been rewarding.

"It's a celebration of sport," he says of the Olympics.

"Everybody is happy at the Olympics."

He sums up his pursuit for perfection: "If something is worth fighting for, you have to fight until the last breath [is left] in your body."

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