Taiwan-born Allen Yu (余能盛) has been working in Europe for the past 20 years as a dancer, choreographer and ballet master. Currently the deputy ballet director and choreographer of the Opera House in Graz, Austria, he chose to spend his summer vacation remounting his 1998 ballet, Tchaikovsky — None But The Lonely Heart, for Taipei's Water Reflection Dance Ensemble.
Yu created Tchaikovsky for the Chamber Ballet here in Taipei, where he served as ballet director during his off-time from his dancing duties in Europe. The premier, also at the Metropolitan Hall, was very successful and the run sold out.
He said he had been inspired several years earlier, when he was dancing in two other pieces that used Peter Tchaikovsky's music, to do something himself.
“I thought I really, really liked the story, I wanted to do my own choreography,” Yu said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “His [Tchaikovsky's] story is so rich.”
“He had such an unhappy life, so many sad love affairs,” Yu said. “None But The Lonely Heart is the name of his favorite song.”
“I used the Symphony Pathetique [No. 6], the last one, as the central theme to tell his story,” Yu said.
Tchaikovsky's name is synonymous some of the most beautiful and romantic music ever written for ballets — Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and the Nutcracker. Music critics, however, agree that the Pathetique can be seen both as a reflection and the culmination of Tchaikovsky's tumultuous life. It also served as his epitath, since he died just nine days after its premier.
As a homosexual in tsarist Russia, Tchaikovsky had to live “in the closet,” always fearing disclosure of his secret. At age 37 he married a former student but the couple separated soon after, although they never divorced. He then began a 14-year long platonic relationship with a wealthy older widow, Nadazhda van Meck, who became is patron — on the condition that they never actually meet.
“His music is based on his loves — for his mother, for his girlfriend, his nephew ... so much pain in his loves, so many beautiful pieces,” Yu said.
He brought with him five dancers from Europe, including two Taiwanese, to boost the Water Reflection Dance Ensemble's strength.
Tchaikovsky runs for just over an hour-and-a-half (100 minutes), with no intermission, and the demands it places on the dancer portraying Tchaikovsky are immense.
“The Tchaikovsky dancer is a really big role, he never goes off stage. Balazs Delbo is the first soloist from the National Vienna Ballet,” Yu said.
“I also brought one dancer from my own company [the Graz Opera House], [Ardee] Dionisio, who is from the Philippines. One girl from the Vienna State Opera is Tchaikovsky's wife, [Rafaella] Sant'Anna. She's from Brazil,” he said.
“And the two Taiwanese, Miss Chang and Mr. Hsih, work in Germany. Both have danced this piece three times — 1998 in Taipei, again in 2000 [at the Landestheater Coburg in Germany] and now,” he said.
There are 20 dancers in all, including a young boy, who portrays the composer as a child.
“You know, to use Taiwanese dancers to dance classical ballet is very difficult,” he said, because there is no really professional ballet company here.
He hastened to note, however, that Tchaikovsky is “not so classical. It has point shoes, but its really free.”
Yu said that he wanted to give young Taiwanese dancers a chance to work with professional ballet dancers, and that is why he gave up his summer vacation to come back to Taipei to do this piece, and why he brought the five dancers with him.