|Evan McKie, Principal Dancer of the Stuttgart Ballet
|| Version française
December 14th. 2011 : Evan McKie, Principal Dancer of the Stuttgart Ballet
Evan McKie was born in Toronto, Canada, on April 7th, 1983. After beeing first educated at the National Ballet School of Canada, he went to the Kirov Academy of Ballet
of Washington D.C., in the United States, where he was trained in
compliance with the principles of the famed Vaganova method. He then
left North America to go to Stuttgart, where he was invited by the
celebrated teacher Pyotr Pestov (Pestov died in 2011 aged 82 ans, and
taught, among others, Vladimir Malakhov, Nikolaï
Tsiskaridzé and Alexeï Ratmansky). He attended the John Cranko Schule and joined the Stuttgart Ballet
in 2001. On the occasion of his unexpected travel to Paris, where he
was called to replace the Paris Opera Ballet Etoile Nicolas Le Riche,
injured, as Onegin, Evan McKie kindly accepted to answers the questions of Dansomanie.
the fact that Suttgart is a somewhat “americanized” city,
because of the presence, since the end of WWII, of US and canadian
soldiers and their families, make it more easy to adapt yourself to
european lifestyle? Did you learn speaking German?
I don't find Stuttgart very Americanized. Since I arrived in Europe, I
felt more at home than in North America. Actually I feel the most
at home in Paris and I always have. I come here a few times every year.
My friends think that I'm strange, they prefer New York or London but I
am a Paris boy in my heart. Of course, dancing in Stuttgart I learned
to speak German and I understand Russian because my great teacher Pyotr
Pestov taught me. I love languages and become obsessed with how they
sound and doing accents. At work I speak in accents with my friends all
the time which always leads to hysterical laughter.
joining the Stuttgart Ballet did you already had any special
interest in choreographies by John Cranko, or, at least, in dramatic
– theatrical ballets?
My whole family is artistic. My Grandmother was a play director and
Grandfather was a lighting designer. My mother is a makeup artist and
father a musician. I went to many plays as a young child. I love plays.
One of my favourite plays is Le Dieu du Carnage (God of Carnage). But the very first ballet I ever saw was actually Onegin (in Toronto) so that's why I decided to try to act through dance.
In Stuttgart, how are the Cranko ballets being taught to the dancers?
With love, care and attention to detail. People like Reid Anderson, Marcia Haydee or Georgette Tsinguirides who
all can tell you exactly what Cranko's intentions were because they
knew him so well. Cranko's Pas de Deux are usually difficult but I
never think about that because Cranko is all about the 'essence' of a
were your first roles in Cranko ballets? Is there anyone you prefer to
others? And is there a role that you haven’t danced until now and
that you’d like to dance?
I danced the old men
in Onegin when I was 18! This was my first challenge to 'make a moment'
onstage. Not to over-do it and make it look stupid or under-do it and
make it boring. I actually imagined myself as an old man at a party in
Russia. What would I do? Who would I want to talk to? How would I move?
I was surprised because I received a lot of compliments about that tiny
role. But that proved to me that if you do something really well (even
the smallest part) then you can take the performance to a much higher
level for the audience. I have danced many big Cranko roles like Romeo
and most parts in Taming of the Shrew but my favorites are Onegin, Lenski and the third movement in Initials R.B.M.E
which has a very melancholic solo followed by one of the most beautiful
pas de deux I have ever seen or danced. The music is by Brahms and I get a
very special feeling dancing it. The connection with the ballerina has
to be very strong and then it can be magical.
you see an – even tiny – evolution in the interpretation of
the choreographies by Cranko, in Stuttgart or elsewhere? Does the
dancers of the Stuttgart Ballet still have contacts with eldery
dancers or balletmasters who knew Cranko personnaly, and which are able
to transmit the repertory to the present generation of artists?
Sometimes I think the Cranko magic gets lost a bit with certain dancers
because they don't trust themselves enough to reveal the human
qualities that make audiences feel so connected to the works. Reid
Anderson and his Stuttgart team are so good about helping young artists
discover the theatricality of these ballets which leads to sometimes
wonderfully strong individual interpretations. But I believe if you
haven't learned to accept exactly who you are as a person then you
cannot ever be truly successful in a Cranko piece. You might be able to
do Don Quixote but not Cranko.
are the casts made up? Do the leading soloists specialize in some
specific roles matching their technical and physical capabilities, or
are they allowed to dance almost any role?
This is a question for my director. But Reid Anderson is very good at
casting the right person for the right role. It's one of his special
talents. Sometimes he will take the last girl in the corps de ballet
and make her a star because she is the 'one' for a certain role. In my
mind Mr. Anderson is very successful in his casting
instinct. He knows how to create buzz when the role is a perfect fit
and he also has a good feeling for exactly what makes the audience get
excited. The look has to be right from head to toe. But he also takes
Which are, according to you, the abilities required to dance the Cranko ballets properly?
Know yourself, trust yourself, be an excellent partner physically and
emotionally. Cranko ballets are about real people. This is my personal
there “a life besides Cranko” in Stuttgart? Is there some
room left for performing romantic and modern ballets which are not
belonging to the Cranko heritage?
Don't forget that Neumeier, Kylián, Forsythe, Scholz, Spuck all
come from Stuttgart Ballet and created numerous works for the company.
Also Cranko was the mentor to MacMillan and supported his choreographic
growth tremendously. Song of the Earth
is one of MacMillan's best ballets and was created in Stuttgart. Wayne
McGregor and Mauro Bigonzetti both had their first big ballet
commissions for a major ballet company from Stuttgart. (I have worked
with Mr. McGregor on three different ballets in the last 8 years). We
also have choreographers like Douglas Lee, Marco Gœcke, Demis
Volpi who are in demand all over. Actually Stuttgart Ballet and the
Paris Opera Ballet are very similar because in the whole world of
ballet, these are the two companies that offer the largest variety of
different choreography to audiences and dancers at the highest
were you told that you had to come to Paris so to “save”
the performances of Onegin after the injury of Nicolas Le Riche?
I was at the barre and someone rushed in and said that Brigitte Lefevre
had invited me and that I had to be on a train in 45 mins. I only had a
suitcase with an Onegin costume and the clothes I was wearing that day!
I felt uncomfortable about people saying I was 'replacing' Nicolas Le
Riche…True individual dancers cannot 'replace' each other and I
love Nicolas. I knew that Aurélie and I would be putting on a
whole different kind of show so I was confident that the audience in
Paris would get to see something new and unique and in the back of my
mind I was excited to see if they would like it or not. The time
Aurélie and I had to rehearse was so short that during the
opening night it was almost improvisation! This makes the emotional
connection even more real and that's what this ballet is all about. I
was surprised that Madame Lefèvre didn't change the dates so
that one of the other casts would do the premiere. She saw us rehearse
and right away, asked Mr. Anderson if we could do opening night and
continue with the scheduled four following shows.
it the fist time that you are dancing at the Paris Opera? Did you took
part in the Tour of the Stuttgart Ballet in Paris in January 2007?
I danced in the Stuttgart tour of Garnier in '07 yes but of course,
this is my first time with the actual Paris Opera Ballet itself. I know
that international guests are not common here.
Did you already had contacts with dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet, or even dance with some of them in galas abroad?
Manuel Legris has always been very supportive of me and I really like
him. Also, I just met Isabelle and Matthieu in Ukraine and we spoke a
lot about how much I love Paris and that I wondered what it was like to
live in my favorite city. We also spoke about Onegin
a lot after because Matthieu was given the chance to learn it and I
told him that he can always call me if he has a question about the
ballet. They made me feel so comfortable when it was decided that I
would be the invited artist. I am going to try to come back to Paris to
see their Onegin premiere together! The whole cast has been so generous with me. Karl, Joshua and especially Myriam who is so cute!
How did you manage to adapt yourself to Aurélie Dupont as partner in such a short time?
We didn't think about it. I could see immediately that her dancing is
all from her heart. She is so natural in her motivation for each step.
So many ballerinas offer a partner beautiful icing on the cake but when
you look closer there is only icing and no cake. With Aurelie it's the
opposite. There is so much substance to her as an artist that she
doesn't need anything extra! That is very rare and pure.
you fear the parisian audience, and possible
“nationalistic” reactions from people disappointed not to
see their local “Etoiles”?
Honestly, yes I did.
you been in touch with Nicolas Le Riche? Did he give you some advice
how to take over his role, and how to cope with the specificities of
the Paris Opera Ballet?
It is bittersweet that his injury created such a coveted opportunity
for me to get to know the Paris audience but perhaps one day I will be
in a position to pay him back. The universe works in mysterious ways.
Would you like to dance here again?
I am from a completely different background than the dancers here. My
classical training is extremely Russian and my theatre training and
etiquette is very English, so if I came here for another ballet I would
love to work very hard with the great etoiles of the past who now coach
so I can enjoy the special French details too. The dancers in the
company already treat me like I belong here which I'm very touched and
surprised by. Mostly, I would love to come back and dance with them
again because I really love them. In my wild fantasies, I would dance
something Noureev. Maybe your readers have some ideas?...
Evan McKie - Interview by R. Feist
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Interview made in English on December 14th. 2011 - Evan McKie © 2011,