“I close my eyes and see a magnificent ballet”: Alla Dukhova, the heart of the TODES dance world

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“TODES” is an amazing and exciting dance world that strikes with its beauty to the very heart. The world that has grown under its wings for two generations of incredible dancers, while continuing to bring fabulous, wonderful dances to the art world. Today we bring to your attention an interview with the charming Alla Dukhova, who is the inspiration and heart of this immense dance world.

"I close my eyes and see a magnificent ballet”: Alla Dukhova, the heart of the TODES dance world

– Alla Vladimirovna, please tell us how have the doors to this amazing and absolutely mesmerizing world of dancing opened before you? What was the beginning of the creative path?

– This wonderful world first appeared before me when my mother took me to the Latvian national opera to the legendary ballet Swan Lake. I was only 4 years old then, and no matter how many events in my life have happened since then – I remember that moment as vividly as if it happened yesterday. Then I was simply shocked by everything: grace, music, incredibly beautiful packs, pointe shoes, all this majesty that blew from the stage, reaching the hall. And from that moment I could no longer think of anything else. It was no longer possible to tear me from the mirror. Every free minute I tried to reproduce any dance moves I could stumble upon. At that time, Soviet television showed mainly ballet performed by an incredible galaxy of our ingenious dancers. And although I was small, for me it was a real miracle. The door to the world of dancing, it seems, has always been open for me, both literally and figuratively. As a child, my parents sent me to study piano at a music school, and there was a ballet class next to mine. The door to it was always open. And so, when my lesson would end, I always went out into the corridor, sat on a chair opposite the ballet class and watched the dancers. My mother worked in this House of Culture, so I could sit there for hours while I was waiting for her. And then, coming home and standing in front of the mirror, I reproduced all the movements that I was able to remember. For a very long time I begged my mother to let me learn dancing, and, in the end, she took pity on me. And thus, with the dance group “Ivushka” my career began.

– What sensations did you experience when you first stood at the ballet barres?

I think no words of the world will be enough to try to convey these feelings.” There was a feeling, as if my wings had fluttered in an instant, a fire broke out in my soul and worlds were lit. I liked the dances so much that I did not spare any strength for them. I remember a new assistant came to my first lesson and made a comment to someone. It seemed to my teacher that he made it to me, and began to explain to him that I was new and this was only my first day. Then the guy’s face was extended, and he said with undisguised surprise: “But… I didn’t make a remark to her. How is this “first day”? It cannot be!”. That is, as you see, my amateur classes in front of the mirror, nevertheless, have benefited me.

– And did you have moments when you thought you wanted to do something else?

– Looking back, I understand that, after all, no. I never had a question of who I want to become in the future – I made my firm decision in the concert hall as a four-year-old girl, and then reinforced this confidence when I first stood at the machine. Then in Riga we did not have institutes with a specialization in choreography, so I was going to enter the Institute of Culture of St. Petersburg. But here, when I was in grade 10, the famous circus of Anatoly Kornilov came to our city. I made friends with his daughter Taya, who is now the national artist of Russia. Taya Kornilova studied at our school, and we quickly found a common language. I started running to her circus, and she came to me to perform. And then, one fine day, she suddenly said to me: “Alla, come on to our circus?” I really liked this idea, which, of course, cannot be said about my parents. Then Taya’s parents assured my mom and dad that they would definitely look after me, and they had nothing to worry about. As a result, my parents trusted them, and I went to work at the circus. After that, a series of rehearsals began – I really loved this amazing world of circus performances. I thought I would stay there for a long time, but … One day, preparing to leave during one of the performances, I suddenly broke my leg. Moreover, quite seriously. It didn’t heal for a very long time, it didn’t grow together correctly, they broke it for me again, again applied plaster. In general, there was a whole painful story. I got out of shape and I had to leave the circus. Then I thought that my life was over, because dancing was everything to me. At that moment, I did not see a bright future for myself, but, as you see, fate decreed in a different way.

– To get such an injury when dancing is the love of a lifetime is very difficult morally. How did you manage to pull yourself together after what happened and continue to go to the dream no matter what?

Dancing, being the love of my life, helped me to pick myself up. Love of dance, as well as the desire and ability to work. When they ask me what traits a good dancer should have, first of all, I reply that love of one’s work, ability to work, and then personal skills and talent are important. Because, from time to time, brilliant dancers are born, even without a pronounced talent. Dances were definitely destined for me. I could feel it, and therefore did not give up. In the summer I went to work at a pioneer camp, where various events were often held. This camp was very famous, and foreign delegations often came there. I started putting on shows in my unit, and our camp manager noticed me, at that time he was also the director of the Culture Center in Riga. Then he suggested that I would go to work for them. I happily accepted the offer, but before that I dared to have my own condition: if I am allowed to assemble my team – I accept a job. And they gave me the go-ahead. I put together a team of my friends and started rehearsing. Later we moved to the House of Culture A.S. Popov and named our team “Experiment”. At that time, discos and various festivals were very popular, we performed at some of them, took first places, and as a result became a famous collective of modern dances. And from here, from 1987, the story of our TODES dance group begins.

– Now “TODES” is a legendary dance group, which is known to absolutely every person, even far from the dance world. Please tell us how it all began? What work has been done to reach such heights?

– We met with the guys from the St. Petersburg team “TODES” at one of the break dance festivals. We were invited to start working professionally by merging our “Experiment” and their “TODES”, and we agreed with pleasure. So, our journey began. We were one of the first who began to engage in modern choreography in our country. Since Riga was a port city, dance videos from abroad were available to us, which came to us earlier than in the capital. We were looking for phonograms. If the music was with foreign vocals, texts were translated, they were necessarily flooded. Studied, worked and practiced a lot. We were very well received by the directors of the House of Culture, giving us well-equipped choreographic halls, for which I am very grateful to them. Then the time came when we realized that it was time for us to move to Moscow. By that time, we had already become quite famous. We worked solo, were constantly on tour, and later people from show business began to invite us to work. There were few of us then, only 14 people. We rented two apartments, and so began our life in Moscow. We got used to the city, its rhythm for a very long time. We had no money, life was not arranged, but, you know, we were so happy. We lived with 9 people in one apartment, we made a schedule of cleaning, cooking. In the evening we lit candles and had warm, heartfelt conversations at dinner. And amazingly – we saw each other every day, but we always had something to talk about. We had no easy way; we were climbing to the peaks for a long time. It can be said through thorns to the stars. And at the same time, we were always united and happy.

"I close my eyes and see a magnificent ballet”: Alla Dukhova, the heart of the TODES dance world

– And why, you and the team decided to keep the name of the Saint-Petersburg team “TODES”?

– When we united in one team, of course, we had a fair decision to come up with a new name for it. But nothing entered my head at all. How we were then exhausted, you have no idea! We could not come to a common decision, but already needed to hang up posters. And then the director of the North Ossetian Philharmonic, to which we belonged, said: “I really like it! Joined together “BEATLES” and “QUEEN”, and cannot come up with a name! So that’s it. We write “TODES”. In general, that’s how it was decided, and we are incredibly grateful to him. It’s wonderful what exactly happened.

– “TODES” started as a dance group, and gradually it turned into a huge world, which opened the doors to its schools for young talents. How did you get the idea to open them?

– We realized that we needed schools when our demand began to grow. And, since we could not be in two places at the same time, the realization came that we urgently needed replenishment. At that time, modern choreography was very poorly developed, and we had to retrain the dancers arriving to us, who had previously danced in other styles. It took too much time, so we thought it would be better to train our dancers from scratch. And since we were from Riga, our guys were from St. Petersburg, and Moscow became our home, we decided that we should open schools in these cities. Now our schools are more than 20 years old, we have raised two generations of dancers and got into the Guinness Book of Records, as the largest network of dance schools in the world. We now have 120 schools.

"I close my eyes and see a magnificent ballet”: Alla Dukhova, the heart of the TODES dance world

– Alla Vladimirovna, and how did you understand that you wanted to be not just a dancer, but also to put on your own dance shows?

– You know, this will sound incredible, but I set my first polka when I was only 6 years old. It happened at a children’s summer camp. I was in the preparatory group and put 9 shows in our program. Then they told me: “Alla, you have a great creative future!”. So, the dream of being a choreographer has been growing with me since childhood. You know, I even had moments… here I sit, close my eyes, and see a ballet in front of me. A chic, luxurious ballet, but I myself am not among the dancers. At this moment, while the incredible beauty of the ballerina in my mind is spinning in the dance, I sit in the hall and clearly realize that the ballet that I see on stage now was staged by me. And that feeling has always been incredible.

 – Tell us about your work with Dimash. How did it go? Was there anything special about working with him?

– We started working with Dimash with great pleasure. When we received such an offer, we agreed without hesitation. Probably, the peculiarity was that, while working on productions for his performances, we were always overwhelmed by inspiration. When you set the choreography, it happens that something is born very quickly, but something doesn’t want to be born at all. As a result, you try as hard as possible and still you are not satisfied with the result, but this has never happened with Dimash. It’s precious when you work with an artist who inspires you.

– At Dimash’s concert in Moscow during the song “Mademoiselle Hyde”, the incredible Ildar Gainutdinov, the soloist of your theater, performed with him. Their creative duet amazed the audience to the core, and it was impossible to take their eyes off of Ildar. What can you tell us about him?

– Ildar is really a nugget, absolutely in love with the dance. He lives and breathes them. Ildar came to our school as a little boy. He always had a brilliant ability to work, amazing data and talent. And if something else inspires him, as it was when working with Dimash, then he blossoms like the most beautiful flower. This boy has a great future, I’m sure. Indeed, with his incredible dedication, it simply cannot be otherwise.

"I close my eyes and see a magnificent ballet”: Alla Dukhova, the heart of the TODES dance world

– Alla Vladimirovna, share your plans and goals for the future.

– Now one of our main goals is to fill our theater with a repertoire. We are working hard on the program, but as long as the period of self-isolation continues, it causes difficulties. At the moment, we are looking forward to relaxation, to immediately begin to engage in a new program. You see, we dancers should never stop, and we always need to stay in good shape. If you do not dance for a long time, one way or another, you get out of shape. Therefore, I want to wish absolutely everyone in this difficult time to hold on, not to get sick and gain strength. After darkness always comes bright light. The main thing is to believe in it!

– Thank you very much for your warm good wishes and an interesting conversation!

Anelina Nyssanbayeva

Translation by Dimash USA Fan Club