ASTANA – “Zhusan,” a one-act ballet telling a story of the Great Steppe, premiered Dec. 10 and 11 on the stage of the Astana Opera. The performance highlighted the attention to creations of Kazakh authors in the troupe’s repertoire.
The offering, which recounts the formation of the Kazakh people’s identity, was warmly welcomed by local audiences and generated much emotion and applause from the city’s art-loving scene.
“Zhusan” (Kazakh for wormwood, a plant inherent to the steppes) was created in the genre of “plotless ballet,” which directors note does not mean the absence of content. According to young choreographer Mukaram Avahri,she was guided by strong feelings and emotions while creating the dance movements.
“This performance is ambiguous. We see young women and the bride and all of a sudden the picture is swept by the Samum steppe wind and filled with sand. Then suddenly we see a picture from past times. And everything is conveyed through the monologue, the story of sagebrush, steppe grass – Zhusan. For me, Zhusan first of all implies an emotional state. The performance in general conveys the mood, the state. An emotional state was important for me,” said Avahri.
The work of the choreographer is divided into nine scenes: The Bride, Samum (Sandstorm), Wormwood, Centaurs, A Gift from Heaven, Hunting, Massive Loss of Cattle, Awakening and Invasion. The main idea of the ballet is based on the legends and myths of the steppe people; their allegorical image is embodied in the dance. The central theme of the play is the steppe’s memory awakening with distant and recent events. A short but very meaningful description by the author says that past and present, war and peace, inland and outland, serene and alarm, captivity and freedom, passion and tenderness are elements of the content.
“Nameless herbs’ memory will not tell all these to you, but it ‘remembers’ their tragic images. Happiness is never long, but it is like the sun – bright and vital. Special colour and mysticism is given to the play by a combination of choreography and extracts from great European, Russian and national music, as well as lighting design with video projections overplay. All these help the audience immerse in the atmosphere of a real journey through the vast steppes, legends and myths,” the description reads.
Outstanding local and Russian dancers, including Alila Alisheva, Aigul Tati, Nikolai Markelov and tutor Zaure Umbetkulova, participated in the staging of the ballet.
The music also came from various prominent composers, such as Kuat Shildebayev, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Arvo Pärt and Karl Jenkins. Shildebayev’s melodies create the musical core of the ballet.
Costume designer Olga Shaishmelashvili, a director and designer from St. Petersburg, was able to combine the experience of the past with original, modern findings.
Astana Ballet dancers have been well received domestically and internationally. “Alem,” their first performance, was a notable success both on the Kazakh stage and during the world tour in Vienna, Paris and Seoul.