While Norway celebrates 20th year of diplomatic relationship with Ukraine, A Norwegian ballet school strengthens this friendship by building artful bridges between the two countries.
Even though it is a private school, they have been carrying out important projects in close cooperation with the Ukrainian State Ballet. – If the Ukrainian people were not so open minded and If Vadim Pisarev’s support was not with us, we would not be able to achieve this artistic friendship, which is one of the most important part of the connection with Norway and Ukraine, says the director of Den Norske Ballettskolen (DNBS) Irene Aarset Johansen. She told The Nordic Page how they achieved to become a pioneering ballet school with their 400 students in Norway and their projects with the leading Ukrainian artists. How did you find
yourself in Ukrainian Ballet?
There have been always great talents in art and sports in
Eastern Europe. Especially during the Soviet Union, this artistic richness
attracted us to the region. My father had some painting projects. It led him to
Soviet artists and also to ballet. My eldest sister Heidi got the opportunity
to have been the first western girl to have taken education at Vaganova Academy
in Leningrad in 1988 and she came back to Norway with an unmatched experience
in top quality ballet. She particularly got help from a very experienced
ballerina Natalia Papinashvili. Then, my family invited Natalia to Norway after
How was Ballet in
Norway that time?
There was a big difference between Norway and Eastern
Europe. The quality was not very high here. So, we had expected she would be
welcomed, but there was a little clash
with the ballet circles of Norway. Maybe, it was not a time for her. The
reaction was a bit unexpected and unwelcoming, even hostile. My family helped
her to establish her ballet school in 1990. We were her first students. we were
training 6 times a week with Natalia. After 8 years, we finished the Vaganova
method. Then, my sister Siri became the first Norwegian to have been accepted
to Bolshoi Theatre Academy.
Then, did you
continue your early career in Ballet?
We actually never went for dancing career. We were studying
at UIO. Meanwhile, we started to teach ballet parallel to our university
education. Then after finishing, we founded DNBS in 2005. We had no students
and location in the beginning. Our father had already warned us about the
difficulties and we started very modest in gymnastic saloons of schools.
From left to right: Vadim Pserev, Siri Aarset Johansen, Vladimir Vasiliev, and Irene Aarset Johansen
What carried you out
of the gymnastic saloons to professional stages?
First of all, we were very lucky to have participated into
the gala performances which are organized by our family with great dancers of
that time. Vadim Pisarev, an internationally acclaimed Ukrainian ballet, was one of those great dancers. He became
very close friend of my father. In 1997, there was a big premier in Trondheim.
This was a result of the good friendship between two of them. One day, we
called Vadim during the foundation of our school, he helped us a lot.
We have had a great cooperation with Boslov (Boguslav)
Theater taking participation in performances in both Norway and Ukraine and
nurtured this close friendship. Our students went there and their students came
here. Even, this year, three of our children were accepted to Kiev Ballet.
How different is it
to work with Ukrainian artists?
We are always welcomed in both Kiev and Donetsk. It is both
good in terms of professionally to be in contact with great artists and also to
have nice friends there.
Do you have similar
challenges in Norway as Natalia did?
In fact, Norwegian people are travelling more, therefore different
ballet methods are getting acceptance among Norwegian artists, too. Even, we
sometimes have cooperation in some shows.
What is your mission
It is important to note that we have courses for not only
ballet but also in other areas. We have shows combining ballet, break dance and
theatre. In all areas we are involved; we aim to reach the international
standard. Our mission is to create internationally leading dancers and artists