Tursynbek Nurgaliev: The grace of ballet lies in many
One of the most significant events of classical art that took place this summer was the first Mongolian International Ballet Competition...
One of the most significant events of classical art that took place this summer was the first Mongolian International Ballet Competition. Initiated by the Mongolian Ballet Development Foundation and supported by the Ministry of Education and Science, the competition invited famed international ballet judges, including one of the most popular names in Kazakhstan’s ballet, Tursynbek Nurgaliev.
Since 2015, Nurgaliev has been working as the head of Ballet at Astana Opera, and previously, he served as the general ballet master at the same opera and has judged international ballet competitions in Kazakhstan’s Astana, Russia’s Sochi and Moscow, Bulgaria’s Varna, Italy’s Rome and the International Shabiit Ballet Competition.
Nurgaliev first visited Mongolia in 1998 to watch the Mongolian rendition of “Giselle” by Adolphe Adam. Nurgaliev said this was when he became interested in ballet development in Mongolia.
How would you rate the first Mongolian International Ballet Competition?
It is a good start. There were few international participants in the first competition. However, 80 participants from six countries and 11 judges is not a bad turnout. The start is the most important part. I don’t think the day where Asia will have a great quality ballet event where dancers from different countries will strive to come is very far.
As an expert, how skillful are Mongolian ballet dancers?
In your country, ballet is at the level where it should be. In 1988, I watched “Giselle” when I first came to Mongolia and was surprised to find out that Mongolia had ballet. I got the impression that since Mongolian kids study ballet in the Soviet Union’s Leningrad and Perm, Mongolians do pay attention to ballet.
Still, I was amazed to see that “Giselle” was performed at the level in which it should be. To be frank, I was surprised because I didn't think it would be at that level. Since then, I have been paying close attention to the development of ballet in Mongolia. I met ballet dancers from your country while teaching or putting on shows internationally and became friends with them.
For that reason when I got invited to judge the first Mongolian International Ballet Competition, I accepted. Mongolian ballet dancer Ts. Jargalan was constantly contacting me saying I should definitely come for the competition. Later when my former acquaintance B. Sereglen, who is the current head of Cultural Affairs, “ordered” me to come, I decided to come.
I tried to get two dancers from our theater to participate, but unfortunately, due to issues relating to flight tickets, they could not make it. They were on their way, but returned from Moscow.
I am very glad I got to work as a judge for Mongolia’s first international ballet competition. I hope the name of this event will be carried out honorably. From my side, I am willing to help out to the full extent of my ability.
Currently, I work in the director’s team of Astana Opera and am a ballet master there. I established the section 20 years ago, and now, I work on one of the most famous stages in the world. We have a total of 115 performers and became a national company of Kazakhstan. With our invitation, ballet masters from France and Italy work there. When ballet is directed with the input of many, not only does it become more interesting, the dancers are more satisfied with it as well.
It means we prefer to work together. Therefore the doors of our theater are open to Mongolian ballet dancers as well.
We heard that you worked as the cultural consultant of President Nazarbayev. If so when did you work in this position?
I was not a consultant. I was appointed within the framework of cultural strategy in Astana. In other words, I am the only person of classical art roots who led the cultural strategy. President Nazarbayev likes ballet a lot. Not only does he watch ballet, he meets artists and talks to them, discussing their opinions.
He spends as much time as it is needed with them to motivate them, and while interacting with ballet dancers, he solves many issues too. For instance, he asks, “What are the problems that you face in the world of artists?” There are more than a few times where he listened to somebody’s life story and if they want an accommodation, he hands one over before leaving.
Is this close relationship important?
It is very important. There is a certain qualification to everything; the head of state giving significance to new artists, respecting artists and not wanting to leave the theater gives a good impression to ballet dancers, singers and even the audience.
To the general public, it gives off the impression that you have to definitely watch this great piece of performance. In Kazakhstan, they think that art feeds the mind, thus in every performance, the seats are always full. In Astana, ticket prices for the opera and ballet are very high. Even so, the audience, and youth in particular, have made it a habit to watch. The 1,250 seats of the theater are always filled.
How much does the ticket cost?
It costs more than the Grand Theater of Moscow. Due to how the seats are always filled, the performance of ballet dancers is always at 150 percent. At the end of the performance, the satisfaction of the audience is at that percentage too. This is our artistic strategy and the result of our cooperation.
Not only is our very first performance of a ballet satisfactory, all shows are satisfactory. It is very rewarding to lead a community like that.
Where did you graduate?
I am one of the first graduates of the Music and Dance School of Alma-Ata, the school was built in honor of Leningrad Kirov. Additionally, our artists have been working with a school in Moscow, this ballet in Kazakhstan has the joint principles of the University of Leningrad and Moscow.
In 2014, we got to perform “Sparta” at Guinea, Italy. In the press conference before the showings, a reporter asked whether we were petrified of how we were to perform “Sparta” on the stage where disciplined and famed Russian ballet dancers have performed. I responded saying, “We are not trying to compete with those people. We came to perform the show that we prepared. Once you’ve seen the performance, you be the judge of the quality.”
The performance was carried out at top quality. The audience kept clapping and the ballet dancers bowed many times in respect and returned to their rooms. In “Sparta”, there is the role of many slaves, thus the actors require a lot of makeup. Once the ballet dancers washed their faces and changed their clothes and exited the theater doors, the audience was waiting in the streets. They kept applauding and congratulating.
The Italians were very satisfied that the act displaying their history was carried out at such excellence. This is the type of dancers Astana Opera has.
For how many years have you been contributing to the art of ballet?
It has been 54 years. I used to dance as a supporting role and eventually I became the lead. Later on, my position became the ballet master.
As a ballet master, what is the main motto and core value that you have?
Have the supporting role dancers be great. If they are good, then that means that the ballet is ready. Even if the main roles are exceptional, the audience will get bored if they dance for two or three hours straight. If they are all top-notch dancers, then they really can attract the audience. This is where the grace of ballet lies. This is the goal I set for Astana Opera.
The fact that my goal has been accomplished can be seen through the audience’s seats of Astana Opera that are always full.
What age group do most of the audience fall under?
We have audience of all ages. Lately, I am very happy with how the number of youth in the audience is increasing. Astana has a population one million and Alma-Ata has a population of two million. They all love ballet.
Aside from being a ballet dancer and a ballet master, you are an incredible teacher. Do you have many pupils?
Would you name some of your most famed ballet students?
From ballet dancers that are the pride of Kazakhstan, there is Rustem Steitbyekov, Jandos Aubakirov and Tair Gatauov. There is also Soviet Union actor Yu. Grigorovich, Soviet Union State Honored Athlete S. Vikharev, Bashkortostan actor Sh. Teregulov, Director of the Roman Ballet Academy M. Parilla, Italian dance choreographer A. Condeloro, and Russian actor B. Eifman.
...The fact that my goal has been accomplished can be seen through the audience’s seats of Astana Opera that are always full...