Author, producer, and arts and culture ambassadorand Founder of SOULIRIS Productions
Souliris Productions is an independent ballet production company that specialises on producing unique story-based dance performances staged in exclusive locations such as palaces, ball rooms of luxury hotels, castles, private mansions, and royal court theatres.
We chatted with its founder, Russian-born, Geneva based, Seraphima Bogomolova, to learn more about this interesting production company and their passion for the art of dance.
EAT LOVE SAVOR EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
Q- Tell us about your upbringing and how you came to write for ballet
SB – I grew up in a family of doctors and intellectuals. My parents are scientists. Both were working at secret research institutions – one doing experiments with lasers and the other overseeing the development and production of fuel for space ships. As a kid, I went to a French language school. I never really liked it and on my own initiative signed up for a language course to study English, as I always dreamed of becoming and international affairs reporter who travels the world and reports about interesting political, cultural and art happenings. My parents thought it was a not so good idea, as they did not see writing and journalism as a real profession. So, I went to a private Institute of Foreign Languages in St. Petersburg to study English language and English and American Literature and History to become a translator and teacher. But after graduation it happened so that I took a slightly different path.
I discovered I had a talent for marketing and PR. I got myself a job in marketing for print media and had worked on some interesting publishing projects in London and Moscow. In 2010 I met a person in New York while on a visit there, an encounter that had prompted me to start writing books. I can write both in Russian and English and since that fateful encounter has written 5 books – 2 in English and 3 in Russian and has translated one of them from Russian into English.
Writing librettos for ballets: When I write, I like to keep it short and clear. My writing style is very much influenced by the genius of the Russian classic poet and writer of the 19th century, Alexander Pushkin. My books are based on witty and fast paced dialogues that tell more about the characters than any long-winded descriptions. Many readers have commented that this kind of style suits for script writing and movies. And ideally, I would like to write scripts for movies. However, getting into the movie production scene is rather challenging and requires connections and knowing right people. I love the idea of materialising my characters into being, giving them a chance to live in real world and communicate with audience in flesh. So, since I also love dance and music, I thought why not take a slightly offbeat route and start writing librettos, which, in essence, are scripts only for theatre productions. They, of course, do not have dialogues, as dance is a language of body, but this is even better as each dancer can add something personal to their character. This is how I’ve come to writing for ballet.
Q – What is the origin of the name?
SB – ‘Souliris’ is a combination of the two words – ‘Soul’ as in a soul of a human being or a living creature, the core, the essence of somebody or something – and ‘Iris’ – a circular structure in the eye, responsible for controlling the amount of light reaching the retina. I love this combination of light and essence together in one word. Also, the word ‘Souliris’ has a link to Cosmic creativity and intelligent force that can recreate our thoughts and ideas, materializing them into being. The name ‘Souliris’ is a play on the title of one of my favourite films ‘Solaris’ (1972). It is a Soviet science fiction art film, an adaptation of Polish author Stanisław Lem’s novel Solaris (1961). ‘Solaris’ is an oceanic planet which has the power to materialize thoughts, connected to someone’s existence, and also ‘read’ someone’s brainwaves giving them an ‘independent’ life on its surface. Similarly, the Souliris productions company materializes and gives independent life on stage to stories and ideas that float in our common creative sub-conscious.
Q- What was the inspiration to create an independent ballet production company?
SB – The inspiration has stemmed from the wish to be independent from any other production company, to have something of my own that reflects my aesthetics and beliefs and also to have an official platform from which I can launch beautiful ‘Solaris’ like ballet creations into being and living.
Q- In your view, what is the future of ballet?
SB – In my personal view, the future of ballet is to transform itself into an art form that will encompass in itself synergy between our souls, bodies, and minds. Our body is just a physical form and only one element of our whole being. At the moment, many ballet pieces appear rather one-sided, lacking on emotions, content, and soul. They are still either primarily about technique and moves for the sake of moves or way too experimental for many people to understand and connect to. I believe initially ballet had come to being in order for us to master our bodies, expand horizons on its physical capacities, and, also, appreciate its beauty. That time has already past. And now has come the time in ballet/dance to start learning synergy between Soul, Body, and Mind, incorporating all three into visually harmonious creations that can be experienced in a wholesome way.
Q- Who is your ideal audience? Who comes to see your productions?
SB – My ideal audience would be people who come to see my productions because they feel connection to the theme, plot line, music, or all three together. Also, those who are in need of love and magic but cannot find it in their everyday life. I strive to create an experience, a special atmosphere where my audience can live through and feel the story that is performed on stage. That is why my productions are exclusive and limited to a certain number of seats. I want people to become intimate with the story, the place, and the performance. In reality, it is a bit of mixture. There are some people who come to see my productions because they love ballet, some because they love the places where they are staged, some because they would like to be surrounded by beauty, and some who want to have an enjoyable experience. And there are even some who are not sure why they attend. Something has pulled them to my event and they had to come. These are the ones who are the most cherished, as they are the ones who needed to be there and were guided to my production to receive a message or encounter someone or something that will be instrumental in their self-development. In this case, it is really their Fate…
Q- What can an audience expect of one of your productions?
SB – The audience can expect magic, love, great characters who tell an intriguing story that is entertaining and beautiful to watch. A wholesome and enjoyable experience.
Q- From where does the inspiration come for the storylines for the ballet?
SB – The inspiration for the story lines comes both from life and from the collective subconscious. Stories are all around us. Artists are just mediums who transmit what wants to be revealed at each particular moment. In fact, we do not need to invent anything, it is all already out there. It is enough to listen to the Universe and life with an open heart and let stories flood in. So, that is what I do. It is really very easy.
Q- Tell us about the casting process for the productions.
Once I have an idea for my next ballet, I first write a libretto for it. While I do so, I’m already seeing the characters in my mind’s eye. I know exactly how they should look like and what kind of personality they have. With this in mind, I write an ad, describing what I look for and post it on www.dancingopportunities.com site. After that, it is really easy. Dancers send their CVs, videos, and photographs and I choose the ones that I like and that fit my characters. Normally, I make decisions very quickly. Intuitively I know who will fit and who will not. As it turns out, I’m rarely wrong…
The production process also involves looking at every scene and creating a structure for it, including an entrance onto the stage, ‘boiling’ point of an action, end and link to the next scene, key emotions and also the goal of each scene. These are very much the same things as in movies or theatre productions. But what defers my productions from, let’s say, theatre productions or some other ballet productions, is that I let dancers choreograph their own moves, making a character their own, trying to really live it on stage. I prefer to give ballet dancers a lot of freedom in self-expression, because only then something really genuine can be created, otherwise it can look too staged. The problem with classical ballet dancers and even some modern ones are that they are not used to freedom, they are used to follow the instructions of a choreographer. This can turn them into puppets. To overcome this, I have brought into my production team a Staging Director, Maria Rakotonarivo. She is a young producer who has also studied acting and acted from age 6. She teaches dancers to act and put emotions and feelings of a character into every move.
Production for me is more about preparation and a clear vision. The actual putting together of a ballet does not take that long. The most important thing is that everyone knows what they are doing and why they are doing it. The rest is mere technicality.
Q- What is the typical length of one of your productions and how intricate are the sets?
SB – The typical length is one hour. Nowadays people have so many options and I would not like to take too much of their attention or time. As with my books I prefer to keep my productions crystal clear and short.
The sets are intricate only in a sense of natural surroundings. In this case, they are the places I choose for each production like, for example, for the upcoming ‘I’m Your Man’ ballet (www.yourmanmusicalballet.com) it is going to be a wonderful The Alpina Gstaad (www.thealpinagstaad.ch) . Its interiors add to the ambiance of the story and remind of court theatres that are used to be built in palaces. For example, in one of the scenes we will use the light of candles to immerse people deeper into the emotional side of that scene. In addition, we’ll use multimedia projections such as video and images to create more immersive and intriguing experience. We’ll do projections on different surfaces which will allow us experimenting with visual effect. But really, in a right location a lot can be said with just few things.
Q- Why do you think that ballet has been such an enduring art form?
SB – I think it might be because dance is something that is accessible to all, since we all have bodies and it is a form that everyone can relate to. Also, maybe because ballet is a very sensual and thus is beautiful to watch. I sometimes think that people watch it because they can imagine themselves in a place of dancers. It is a liberating experience even if it only takes place in one’s imagination.
Q- What is the style of your ballets?
SB – My ballets are built on synergy of contrasting styles and techniques. I like to mix classic and contemporary, taking the best from each. It is like with interiors. Doing pure classic or pure contemporary can be too much of the same and can appear either stuffy or boring. But if you take, let’s say, classic as a base and throw in some contemporary elements, then it acquires an edge. And to make an interior really alive and memorable you add something touching and personal. It can be flowers or mementos of sentimental value. And then it turns into something special. The same with my ballets. They are real characters, unforgettable and lasting. One might love them or hate them but no one is left indifferent.
Q- Tell us about your upcoming productions?
SB – One of my upcoming production is the ‘I’m Your Man’ musical ballet (www.yourmanmusicalballet.com) that is dedicated to lyricist and musician Leonard Cohen. It is a very special production as it has a connection to the Leonard’s soul. I was very much guided by him and the choice of ballet dancers and people who work on it is no coincidence. They are all ‘pieces’ of the puzzle that will ‘fall’ into the right place on 22 July 2017. The ballet is a one-act piece that combines classic and modern dance techniques and has some physical theatre and acting elements. The lyrics of Leonard Cohen help tell the story and also act as a narrator’s voice with the contrasting element being classy and fairy tale like compositions of Joe Hisaishi. It is really a unique performance.
I also have an idea for the Christmas ballet piece, inspiration for which I’ve drawn partly from Czech fairy tale – Three Nuts For Cinderella, partly from Russian folklore, and partly from a play that I saw some years ago in London in the Savoy Theatre. The play was called Life Times Three. So, without revealing too much, as these are still early days, I can say that the working title for the Christmas production is ‘Christmas Times Three’. Most likely this production will be shown in two locations: in The Gstaad Palace Hotel in Gstaad, Switzerland, and a location in Courchevel, a French Alps ski resort, part of the Les Trois Vallées in France.
For more information visit https://www.souliris.com/