Milena Sidorova
Milena Sidorova in the studio | Photo: Altin Kaftira

‘Regnum has become a darker piece than I originally had in mind’

16 August 2022

Interview with Milena Sidorova

Author: Rosalie Overing

During her 17-year dance career with Dutch National Ballet, the Ukrainian-Dutch Milena Sidorova already created more than 20 choreographies, part of which in the position of Young Creative Associate with the company. Having recently decided to continue as a full-time choreographer, she now embraces the task of opening the 2022/2023 season with her latest ballet Regnum, set to Mozart’s Symphony No. 25.

What story do you want to tell with Regnum?
Regnum is about power; about powerful and powerless people, and everyone in between. And particularly about the pursuit of means that can help you gain power. The ballet has different storylines related to these themes. In various combinations – solos, duets, trios and groups – the 22 dancers embody the characters and relationships within these stories. Some storylines are more obvious than others, and they don’t all have to be followed by the audience. For me, the main thing is that viewers get caught up in the work and enjoy it.”

Before becoming a full-time choreographer, you’d already been dancing with Dutch National Ballet for a long time. What’s it like now, standing at the front of the studio and working with your former fellow dancers?
“I’ve worked with most of the dancers from the company before in my role as a choreographer – after Reset (September 2020 – ed.), Regnum is my second work for the regular programme of the main company – and I’m really enjoying it. Everyone’s hugely talented and I think it’s actually an advantage to have already worked as a dancer with many of them. It means I know them well; exactly where their strengths lie and how to bring out the best in them. However, Regnum is my first work with a full orchestra and custom-made sets, and, with 22 dancers per cast, the group is bigger this time. With two full casts and a partial third cast, it means there are sometimes nearly fifty people in the studio at once. That was something I had to get used to at the beginning.

What role did Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 play in the creative process?
“For some time already, I’d wanted to make a work about power, and when I first heard Mozart’s Symphony No. 25 – an absolute masterpiece – I immediately felt how well it fit the theme. The work has such wonderful drama, intensity, melodic lines, emotional extremes and sudden changes in tempo and dynamics. It’s the perfect composition for choreographing a ballet and it formed an important source of inspiration for the concept of Regnum.”

The original season opener Celebrate! has been replaced by the present programme Shadows. How do you feel about that?
“I’m really happy with the change, and I think Shadows suits the current situation better. I was born in Kyiv and feel very strong sympathy for the people in Ukraine who are suffering the unjustified war with Russia. It’s hard to imagine that such a terrible war is raging at the moment in Europe. It has all had a big influence on me over the past months, and therefore on my choreographic work as well.”

In what way?
“My ballets are usually quite light and hopeful, but now the world has become a darker place it’s inevitable that this should be reflected in my work. So Regnum has become a darker piece than I originally had in mind. If you were to ask me what it would have looked like if there’d been no war in Ukraine, I wouldn’t be able to answer. Because the situation is as it is: the world has changed.”