Russian-born choreographer Yuri Possokhov is among the most active and imaginative choreographers working in ballet today. After receiving his early training at the Moscow Ballet School, Possokhov danced his way to the San Francisco Ballet and joined as a principal dancer in 1994. Following his retirement as principal dancer in 2006, Possokhov was named choreographer-in-residence. As a choreographer, Possokhov has amassed a long list of credits including the Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Outstanding Choreography. In addition to Anna Karenina, Possokhov has choreographed The Joffrey Ballet’s Bells, Adagio, Don Quixote, and The Miraculous Mandarin. Lake Forest’s Melissa Trandel—a women’s board member—asks Possokhov about his vision for Anna Karenina, his work with The Joffrey, and his long friendship with Artistic Director Ashley Wheater.
Trandel: What is your vision for this version of Anna Karenina?
Possokhov: As a choreographer, I think it’s so important to start ballet from ground zero and music is number one. This music is genius, and so we are looking to amplify the music by finding the love and passion through movement. Every dancer in this company is unique and sometimes seeing different people dance completely changes my vision.
Can you describe IIya Demutsky’s music in the ballet?
He has a tendency toward minimalism. He’s a unique person. It’s hard to find someone with a symphonic background. He knows how the music is orchestrated. He’s doing music with a contemporary twist, but his background is symphonic, which is rare. He is unique in this time.
What qualities do Victoria Jaiani and Alberto Velazquez possess that make them perfect to portray Anna and Vronsky?
Without them, I wouldn’t know how to start choreographing this ballet. If you don’t know the perfect people for the roles, it is hard to create and teach. They have a certain individuality that’s matched to these roles, even if we never discuss the book … it’s not necessary. People read Tolstoy their own way and I don’t want to bring that into it. I’ll give them my interpretation of what the characters are thinking—and sometimes, on purpose, I don’t want to push them to do what I feel, because it is much more natural coming from them.
You and Joffrey’s Artistic Director Ashley Wheater danced together in the San Francisco Ballet. How is it to be working together again? How has the relationship evolved?
I think our friendship grows stronger and stronger. It doesn’t matter how much we talk or how often we see each other, inside the feeling is strong. It’s like a heartbeat. I like having him in my life. This is a very touching moment for me.
Is there an aspect of The Joffrey you admire most?
The dancers. I’m also so impressed with the ballet masters and principal coaches, but most important for me is the artists. It’s not always easy for me to choreograph, but it is with Joffrey because the dancers are so openminded, they easily pick up choreography, and musically, they are amazing. They are so helpful. I credit that to Ashley. He built this.
For more information, please visit joffrey.org.