Diving Into The Lilacs

Dancers Angelina Sansone & Geoffrey Kropp. Photographer Steve Wilson.
Dancers: Amanda DeVenuta and Thom Panto. Photography: Brett Pruitt & East Market Studio.

Choreography by Yuri Possokhov
Music by Boris Tchaikovsky
Scenic Design by Benjamin Pierce
Costume Design by Sandra Woodall
Lighting Design by David Finn
Lighting Recreated by Trad A Burns

For choreographer Yuri Possokhov, the scent of lilacs transports him back to his years as a ballet student in Moscow, where he measured time by the phases of those fragrant flowers. Diving into the Lilacs, which premiered in 2009, is about “feelings of the time, of moods,” he says. “It’s not about memories; it’s about emotions when I was in the school. So many things were happening, and sometimes there’s happiness or sadness but on such a huge emotional level that you don’t know why.” Those powerful emotions influenced the choreographic choices he made decades later in Diving into the Lilacs.

The ballet, with seven couples and three contrasting duets for the principals, starts in silence, an idea that Mr. Possokhov drew from his memories of a dark, silent Moscow. From there, the ballet’s four movements—a sonatina, waltz, adagio, and rondo—propel the viewers through various moods. “For me, it’s kind of seasons of the lilac,” says Mr. Possokhov. The first movement is “wintertime—it’s gloomy, no light, black and white; everything is strange. The second movement is spring—fluid, calm. After that, late spring, when we always fell in love.” The fast-paced fourth movement, he says, is when the flowers were in full bloom.

Mr. Possokhov expects his audiences, like his dancers, to take from the ballet what is meaningful to them. It’s like listening to music; each of us responds to it through a filter of emotions, experiences, and references. He makes that point when he talks about the music for the third movement, which has “some kind of magic thing, completely personal,” that binds listener and music. “When I’m listening to it I think it’s only for me,” he says. “It’s a huge personal connection.” In the same way, the emotional subtext of Diving into the Lilacs, like so many of Mr. Possokhov’s ballets, gives it a resonance that endures beyond the span of a performance.

Program notes by Cheryl A. Ossola

World Premiere: 2009, San Francisco Ballet, War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco California

Kansas City Ballet Premiere: May 5, 2016, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, Kansas City, Missouri

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