Exclusive Interview with Viktor Davydiuk

Jun 18, 2024

Go behind the scenes with NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet Choreographer Viktor Davydiuk as he sheds insight into the work behind NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet. Learn about the casting and rehearsal process and get a glimpse into his latest project, Van Gogh, premiering this October in Poznan, Poland.

Check out Viktor’s interview below:

Hello, my name is Viktor Davydiuk. I am [the] choreographer of NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet.

Can you share a bit about your background in ballet and how you became involved with NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet?

“So, my background in ballet; I studied in Ukraine, in Kharkiv, in ballet school, then I go to Minsk and finish also at ballet school, and then I came to Poland, and like all my life, I work in Poland like a dancer and a choreographer.”

Are you currently working on any other ballet productions or projects outside of NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet?

“So, another product—another project, another performance I built: First, I built my company, Davydiuk Dance Company. Then, with this group of dancers, this whole team who works for this company, we built a new performance. It’s called Van Gogh, and we have a premier before we start touring the USA with NUTCRACKER!”

What inspired you to pursue a career in ballet choreography, and who have been your greatest influences?

“For sure, it’s like the beginning of my career as a dancer, I try to do some new choreography and try (it) myself like a choreographer. We have in the theatres some projects to help young dancers do their first choreography. And we are like around eight dancers, and we build one evening together. Each dancer has their [own] choreography. So it’s like my first official job as a choreographer.”

How do you approach working with the dancers to bring your vision to life? Do you have a specific process or method?

“Sometimes I work alone a lot, because it’s a big group. It’s not a lot of time to work with the whole group, so I need to come ready for the performance. I listen to music many times, I count all parts of the dance. I paint a lot and do structures like these eight taps. We work in this position. And then I paint how the dancers must run – and first, if it’s a group, we come to the studio, and I show them a whole position where they need to stay, and we do this [for a] long, long time. The whole position, they know where they need to go. Let’s say it is a really long process for dancers to understand. If we are speaking about Waltz of the Flowers, it’s 7 minutes of dance, and they need to know 7 minutes- where they go. We don’t do steps; we do just positions. Just picture how it must look, and then I start building choreography. And to this position, it’s not about running; it’s dancing. How to position this, manage it, or something like this depends on which part we are doing. So it’s this long process. First, if it’s a group, I work in this way. If we are doing some duet, it’s about music. I start listening to the music many times. I don’t count. I try to have the music completely inside me so I can express my emotions about this music and it’s going with the steps. Then, dancers build a bit more because they are improving. I think they give their emotions to this movement so we see not just my steps but also theirs. Again, we work together. I always search for this balance.”

How do you balance maintaining the traditional aspects of the Nutcracker with introducing fresh, innovative choreography?

“I try—dancers don’t repeat the same steps many times, so we have many pictures on the stage, and the dancers continue dancing. This is what I like to change. I feel bored when dancers stay on the stage in a static position and do the same movement without stopping. So, I try—it’s really dance. Because it’s my feeling, I work like this. This is what I like to do.”

How do you ensure that the choreography remains engaging for both seasoned ballet enthusiasts and newcomers?

“Like my work, as a choreographer, I don’t want to have choreography for the professional dancer and the audience. I built one picture, and it’s not about building such strong steps, so we are like, “Wow, they do cool jump or cool lift.” It’s something together. So I build more like one; I search for balance in the tricks and the dance and the position and the pictures on the stage – this is interesting. If we take a little bit  [of] this, and a little bit [of] this and put everything together, it is one picture, what is complete. This is how I work and build choreography.”

How do you see the evolution of ballet in the coming years, and what role do you hope to play in that evolution?

“If we are speaking about steps in classical ballet – for sure, we are arriving somewhere really high [level] because dancers do so many tricks and so many balance – we see emotion on the stage. If we speak just about classical ballet or neoclassical ballet, we are already somewhere really up. But if you are speaking about the performance and how to connect with your whole audience so the whole public finds interest, my way is to connect together pop-culture or pop dance with classical dance and find the best product which everyone understands. If I work with classical ballet, I watch, I understand all the steps, I know if it is correct or its not correct and for me, it’s clean. For the normal public, it is for sure like they see us nice jump and so many pirouettes, turns, and “wow” effect we have, but it can also be in pop culture, so I try to mix it together to build something more interesting. For me, this is- for me, its evolution. To come out from the classical theatre, come to the public – everybody sees this. Not with costume, we come to the opera, bravo. I also like this, but I am interested in how it can work if we see a high level of dance, a high level of light, and a high level of whole production everywhere. NUTCRACKER in the USA is something that I see like, “WOW – it can be like this.” It’s high level. In Europe, if we are speaking about a traveling company, there’s just a dancer, minimum light, and minimum costumes. It’s nice, it’s correct. But in the USA, this production has so many – like its puppets on the stage, and it makes sense. It’s not like, oh, let’s do some more or another bigger. It’s – everything makes sense. It’s going- like Cyr wheel, what we see in 2023, this person, The Herald, is really important. It connects the world Clara comes from to the world of the Nutcracker and Drosselmeyer, so it’s interesting, and it didn’t go out of the story. It is still in the story. It connects styles of the dance and some styles of the effects. Yeah, I like some of this. How I see Nutcracker in the USA – “wow”. For me, it’s super professional.”

How do your experiences with other productions influence your work on the Nutcracker, and vice versa?

“This – it’s like connection to what is going inside me – as I work about Nutcracker, I think about Nutcracker. Also, I work about Van Gogh. I think about Van Gogh. Here, I work just about choreographing Van Gogh. I think about everything, about organization, about so many things. [It] takes a lot of my time, but I also learn something new that I can put to choreography to understand how to work – how to work faster, or how to work more precisely some part of the choreography. It’s always connected together.”

What are your future aspirations as a choreographer? Are there any particular ballets or pieces of music you dream of choreographing?

“In the future, like new choreography but way where I want to go, it’s doing everything step by step like now we are working about one production, about one performance then l learn from this performance, and I search what is interesting for me new. Sometimes I just like new work, sometimes it’s a good idea. It’s good to show it in this moment; some new performance – about some person, some programs, or maybe we need more happiness. So, like it’s coming, my life is completely building something new all the time. So I walk, I sit, I eat, I am always thinking about dance, movement, how to do, what we can show new, and what we can be more interesting. For me to work, if we are to think about music, sometimes music gives me “Oh, I need to do for this music some part.” It’s always – it’s work like this. Or if I have this idea about something, I start searching for music for this idea. It’s a really long process because you need to listen to a lot of music from different composers. Yeah, and when I found, I said, “ok, let’s do this”. If it’s possible, if I have time and power and I want to, why not? It’s life. So, if I can give something more interesting to the public… I don’t have a tie to what I do next. Maybe I have plans, next and next, but they’re just plans. Maybe something changed and I think “Oh, between this, I need to do something.” What is important in this moment is for the audience, for the people to see something new – or maybe people find some inspiration after they watch my performance and they build something different.”

What qualities do you look for in dancers when casting for the NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet?

“We do auditions, so for sure, I source smart dancers. It’s one of the first criteria I would like to see in people working with me. Then of course, their level, school where they finish, how they work and how they understand steps and movement. If he or she does each simple movement correctly and reaches the brain, I know it’s a good dancer. I don’t need super beautiful lines, perfect lines, but this dancer can work so we can build and this dancer with me can grow a little bit more up. I can give my background to this dancer. And yeah, we search – again, it’s about balance. But if you search for a group, it must be a group, and people must understand how to work in a group. So, in the class audition, we see how people work together or someone does solo, and we don’t need a dancer for the solo at this moment, just dancers in the group.”

What changes or new elements have you incorporated into this year’s choreography for NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet?

“New elements or part of the NUTCRAKCER! is for sure Waltz of the Flowers from the second act and some parts in the first act. I also corrected and built new steps and small pieces for the performance.”

Can you share a memorable moment or success from 2023 rehearsals or performances?

“It’s something when you come to [the] stage, and you see the public, and they are applauding, and they are happy – that is the most important [piece of] what we are doing. We are like, “I work for the public, I try to dance my best,” and all company work, we are happy when the public has this positive emotion, like this energy before its Christmas time – so it is one of the most important for me what we are doing. I think in 2023, we do so many good performances.”

Can you describe your artistic vision for this year’s production and what audiences can expect to see on stage?

“In Waltz of the Flowers, there is no static. I want the audience to go together with the dancers, and they don’t want it stopped. It must be super interesting. This is what you feel like [excited gestures] when you watch the performance and you are growing with the dancers. This idea is definitely why I built this choreography in Waltz of the Flowers.”

Don’t miss your chance to witness Viktor Davydiuk’s innovative choreography firsthand this holiday season! Secure your tickets today to experience the magic of NUTCRACKER! Magical Christmas Ballet.

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