‘Dancing is pain’: Igor Moiseyev ballet dancers take RT backstage

Dancers from Russia's Igor Moiseyev Ballet perform in a charity show at the Palace of Culture in Amman May 22, 2012. (Reuters / Ali Jarekji)
The Igor Moiseyev Ensemble is widely acclaimed to be among the world's top dance companies. RT went backstage with its dancers to find out what it takes to stay true to the high standards set by one of the 20th century's greatest choreographers.

"Dancing is pain. Sometimes it's less painful, sometimes it hurts so much you just want to stop it all, forget about everything, cry and leave. It's like that for every dancer," Ramil Mekhdiev, who's been with the company for almost nine years, told RT Documentary (RTD).

Yet the dancer went on to say there is "nothing better than the Moiseyev Ensemble at the moment,” adding that dancing is "one hell of a job" and "hard work which takes blood, sweat and tears.”

"Where can you go if you leave? Nowhere," Mekhdiev said.

READ MORE: Dance legend Moiseyev dead at 101

Igor Moiseyev, who became world famous as one of the greatest 20th century choreographers of character dance – a style similar to folk dance – started his career at the Bolshoi Theater in the 1920s. In the 1930s, he staged acrobatic parades on Red Square. The Moiseyev Ensemble was born in 1936, and soon rose to the top of the country's cultural heritage list. The company's repertoire includes hundreds of dances of various nations around the world.

The founder of the company is remembered to be a harsh teacher and is still referred to as "the Master" by the ensemble's dancers.

"The Master created the standard of traditional dance...his spirit is still with us, he's the master of everything here," Ramil Mekhdiev told RTD. Although the talented dancer has been enjoying many solo performances within the company, he still cannot be named as the ballet's star.

"Ensemble means together. That's why we've never marked anyone out as a star. There's no such thing as a celebrity who will only do solo numbers. Igor Moiseyev would say: 'Call yourself a star, tomorrow I'll kick you out of the theater,'” Elena Scherbakova, artistic director of the Igor Moiseyev dance company, told RTD.

Still from RT video

Scherbakova, who is now in charge of the company, remembers quite well how one "needed four leotards for a three hour rehearsal, because you were all sweaty and wet." She passes her knowledge and experience on to new generations of dancers.

"People say [Moiseyev] was merciless to the dancers during rehearsals. He wouldn't let anyone out of the hall until he found the right rhythm and the right movement. But your technique has to be impeccable," dancer Veronika Denisova said.

Members of the Igor Moiseyev Folk Dance Company perform the Russian dance entitled "Summer" at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. (RIA Novosti / Vladimir Vyatkin)

With the sweat and tears left backstage, the ballet's colorful performances brought the company international fame. "No other figure in Russian culture has done so much for the country," Elena Scherbakova said, adding that the ensemble "opened up cultural links for the USSR all over the world."

"It was the first to perform in the US after the Cold War; the first Aeroflot (Russian airline) flight to Israel had ensemble dancers on board," she continued. "Everyone greets the Moiseyev ballet with peace and love. Everyone, regardless of political views."