As a little girl going to school in Shanghai, we didn’t have much exposure to ballets from other countries. However, one of the few ballet videos I grew up watching was Onegin. Although audiences here may not be familiar with the story, it has a very special place in my heart. When I first saw Marcia Haydee dancing the role of Tatiana, I realized that ballet was not just about technique, but about telling a story. This January, my childhood dreams will come true, when I perform the role of Tatiana!
What’s special about this ballet are its dramatic themes of love, tragedy and betrayal, which we as dancers get to portray for the audience. It’s an opportunity as artists to express ourselves beyond dance and to really act.
The story, based on Alexander Pushkin’s book, has a classic plot that everyone can relate to in one way or another. We first meet Tatiana when she is a young girl, in early 19th century Russia. Tatiana falls madly in love with a handsome, wealthy older man – named Onegin - only to be rejected by him.
Tatiana writes Onegin a passionate love letter, which he rips up in front of her, telling her he could never return her love.
Years later, Onegin and Tatiana meet again – only this time, he notices that Tatiana has become a mature beauty. He realizes the horrible mistake he made by rebuffing Tatiana, and confesses his new-found love to her, in the form of a love letter. Now married, Tatiana insists on remaining faithful to her husband, and tells him he’s too late, as SHE tears up HIS letter!
The gripping emotion throughout this ballet is very powerful. I’ve even heard of audience members clapping with approval, when Tatiana rips up Onegin’s letter in spite!
Between Cranko’s technically and dramatically challenging choreography, and Santo Loquasto’s sets and designs, I’m thrilled that Onegin is the ballet that we get to kick-off our season with.