Dmitry Gudanov caught ballet fever in 1980, at the age of five, watching Bolshoi superstars Vladimir Vasiliev and Yekaterina Maximova dance The Nutcracker on television.
When young Dmitry professed his love of ballet to his mother, asking where they taught it, she was understandably lukewarm about his prospects for acceptance in this competitive arena.
“Back then it was very hard to get into the school [the Moscow School of Choreography],” Gudanov recalled. “And we had no connections whatsoever. So [my family] did not believe I would be accepted. Soviet ballet was big back then. So mom was constantly repeating to me, ‘It is so hard, it takes a strong character and you must work, work all day.’ And I would fire back at her, ‘I can do it, I can do it!’”
And do it he did.
“I don’t know how I was accepted,” Gudanov said. “I attended preparatory courses. You just have to meet certain criteria: one needs to have, say, flexibility. At such an age you either have it or you don’t, period. They also look at the structure of your muscles, at your sense of rhythm.”
Gudanov had all the innate qualifications: the muscles, the flexibility and the rhythm. His love of the art helped him through eight long years of work at the Moscow School of Choreography, and now, at just 25, he has been promoted to the rank of one of the Bolshoi’s vedushchiye (“leading”) dancers.
Joining the Bolshoi troupe in 1994, Gudanov danced for three years in the corps de ballet. In his first year, he received a few small solo parts. “They spotted me and I was going up,” he recalls.
Gudanov got his first leading part in 1997. It was in A Fantasy on the Theme of Casanova, danced with Maria Alexandrova. “The public received it just great, it was a very lucky debut,” he said. “The main thing was to show that you can actually dance leading roles.”
Then along came a breakthrough role in Russian Hamlet, choreographed by Boris Eifman. Gudanov danced the role of Paul I, the lead in this ballet about Paul’s tragic demise. “It was very interesting,” Gudanov said, “because it is a different ballet language. It took a lot of time to learn these movements. They are very emotional roles. This was the first large-scale choreographer who influenced me a lot in terms of my vision of ballet.”
After Casanova and Hamlet, Nina Ananiashvili invited Gudanov to join her project Dreams About Japan, and he went on tour with her in Japan.
In 1998, the 23-year-old dancer was awarded with the Gold medal at the prestigious International Ballet Competition in Paris.
Today, Gudanov’s extensive repertoire includes James in La Sylphide, Albrecht and Peasant pas de deux in Giselle, Mozartiana, Agon and Symphony in C (by George Balanchine) Blue Bird pas de deux and Prince Fortune in Sleeping Beauty, Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet and many others.
Gudanov’s career, and that of many dancers of his generation, has been made richer by the fall of the cultural iron curtain which divided ballet in the East and West. Today, Balanchine operas can be danced on the Bolshoi stage. “This means a lot,” Gudanov said, “because he is a classic of the 20th century. You discover yourself anew in such ballets. You just want to have Balanchine at the theater. He is a choreographer of just such a high level that he must be on the program of such a major theater. True, it can’t become the main component of our repertoire, because we have our classic ballets. But it’s like a decoration for our ballet. At that, we preserve our main Russian classic school — the main credo of the Bolshoi.”
In December of last year, Gudanov’s career came full circle to his earliest passions. He danced a major solo part in The Nutcracker, the same ballet which first drew him to the art. Then, in January, as if to highlight the eclectic styles he has come to excel in, he danced Afternoon of a Faun, by American choreographer Jerome Robbins.
Gudanov said that such variety helps him to better express his individuality. “For me, the main thing in a ballet is the individual. And one’s own perception of the role — in addition to perfect technique”.
As fellow dancer Maria Alexandrova said, Gudanov is “an honest worker.” But he is also a great dancer with a bright future, and a dancer who counters the stereotype that ballet dancers can be artistically narrow-minded. As Alexandrova says, Dmitry has “a bright mind and an innate intuition … he can really achieve a lot.”
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