SCHÖN! 11 SPARKLE! LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
in print @ schonmagazine.com
We’ve made our way to the ends of the earth and back again, pillaging and plundering and conquering all to bring you a treasure chest bursting with sparkling talent: from the boldly androgynous to the colorfully whimsical … with just a sprinkling of royalty. Our eleventh issue has been devoted to all that sparkles—and we aren’t just talking about jewels. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will be celebrating her Diamond Jubilee next year, and we are delighted to present an exclusive preview of the National Portrait Gallery’s touring exhibition of her portraits planned to commemorate it. We are honoured to publish Chris Levine’s image of the most photographed woman in the world on the cover of Schön! 11. Our fashion alternative to The Queen is the rising star of the modelling world Skye Stracke, previously featured on the front pages of international publications, including campaigns for H&M and Lanvin. Skye dazzles alongside the very suave Miguel Iglesias in the fashion spread “Paris is Burning,” shot by regular contributor Jannis Tsipoulanis. We are also proud to present an elite league of up and coming, not to mention extremely successful, male models in Issue 11: the gorgeous Willy Cartier and Stephen Thompson, who have campaigned for Givenchy, and Sebastian Sauvé, who was featured in the latest Zara campaign and shot by Dimitris Theocharis for Schön! 11, have enough talent to impress even The Queen. Continuing in our royal theme, Saskia Reis interviews a queen of the stage: prima ballerina of the Staatsballett in Berlin, Polina Semionova. And Thanassis Krikis presents “Home Alone,” an enchanting editorial spread with an air of melancholy nobility about it. Back to art, we’ve discovered some hidden gems for you in Elena Bombardelli and Stephan Balleux: two painters from two different countries, both with an extraordinary gift. I won’t spoil the fun by telling you all the secrets of what talent we have enfolded within our pages … but I will say you don’t want to miss Stefan Milev’s Little Red Riding Hood-inspired shoot, just in time for the upcoming film, Rocio Frausto’s interview with Oscar and Golden Globe nominated Visual Effects frontrunner Alex Frisch, nor actress Lisa Edelstein’s candid conversation with Andre Da Silva about winning her first award and the price of fame. Like the rarest diamond, Issue 11 of Schön! Magazine has been perfectly formed to bring you the best and brightest talent the world has to offer. We’ve filled our pages with the crown jewels of the creative world just for you, our loyal readers—only the best for the best.
Raoul Keil, Editor-in-Chief
POLINA SEMIONOVA She is prima ballerina of the Staatsballett in Berlin, but the road to this top position was tough and stony: her childhood in Moscow was shaped by discipline, competition and an enormous amount of pressure to succeed. No wonder the 26-yearold does not consider herself a child prodigy: hard work was the only way to the peak of ballet.
Interview / Saskia Reis Photography / Maria-Helena Buckley
When you ask her Why?, she mentions love. When you then try to hit the core of this love, she says: “I guess it is something you are born with,” and it sounds as if she is leaning back. Talking to Polina on the phone has its own magic. We do not know each other but there is something that makes her feel close. It is not common that an interviewee is picking up the interview questions as a stimulation of the mind. Polina just lets it happen. More than anyone else she really seems to be in accord with herself. You can feel that the words shaped by this woman come from her inner-self. Surrounded by a sagacious self-confidence, she is never likely to appear arrogant because she is way too down to earth. Just returning to Berlin after four weeks of touring through Asia, Polina does not sound exhausted at all. A few days of relaxation in order to return to the place you might want to call her comfort zone: the stage. Behind the boards that mean the world, of course, we know, is a whole lifetime of endeavour and physical pain in the training rooms.
“I guess it is something you are born with.”
It was rather practical reasons that made Polina change from figure skating to ballet when she was six-years-old: “The ice skating teacher recommended my brother to change to ballet. It was just that the two schools were at two different ends of Moscow, so my parents decided to take me to ballet as well.” Aged eight she went on for education in the legendary Bolshoi Ballet Academy. “It was definitely the hardest time,” she says. “I spent my whole days there. The competition was so strong and every day you had to prove that you have the right to study at this school.” Some teachers liked her and others didn’t. Some
Photography / © Maria-Helena Buckley @ buckley-photo.com
believed in her and others didn’t. “That was hard for me as a kid,” she admits. Some parents would bring presents to the teachers which could quite influence their kindness. “My parents never did that and I never wanted that kind of support. I found that unfair.” No special treatment, no encouragement from the school. Polina really was that girl determined to be middle-quality, never grow-up to become a principal dancer. “I can’t say that I was so sure of myself when I was in school, but somehow I wanted it very much, I felt it. I believed that I could, because I loved it so much.” And still today she thinks if you love you can achieve. Love was and is her motivation. She received support as well and, of course, endorsement can have many faces. Yes, her parents were not rich, but they bought her the clothes and the pointe shoes she needed. And no, that was not all they did - they gave her what Polina calls mental support: “Every day when I came home from school my mom asked me what the teachers complimented, what they criticized and sometimes it took me two hours to explain everything to her. My mom was so into it, she was basically living this life with me.” Polina considers this constant communication as an important part of her development and it gave her more strength to follow her love for ballet.
“If I do not work now, later it will be too late.”
Media loves drama and superlatives. They created an image of the prima ballerina Polina, who is now known for her extraordinary diligence and discipline. All media coverage about her includes those “supposed-to-bemost-outstanding” characteristics of her to describe this woman who made it from Moscow’s suburbia Strogino
to the international elite of ballet. The relaxed Polina I talk to on the phone in her leisure time senses what is behind her “super sedulity.” She presumes it is part of her character at first, adds “I hope so,” and giggles. But she takes the question seriously and makes a little pause to think about it before she continues: “When I was in school I always thought that the time to work is now. If I do not work now, later it will be too late. That was and is something that pushes me.” And even though she charmingly giggles again, you can imagine that this attitude really is another important parameter within the approach to access the traits of Polina Semionova. And she still digs deeper. It must be a strong power from within. “You cannot stop. When you go on stage you have to prove something. People are expecting something from you and you have to show it to them.” She remembers her grandmother always told her that the discipline is in her character and young Polina understood: “If I do not do it, nobody else will do it for me. It was good that it was all in my hands.” “If I do not do it, nobody else will do it for me.”
Polina’s fairytale continued. When she was just 17-years-old, Vladimir Malakhov, intendant at the Staatsballet in Berlin made her a legendary offer in Hotel Astoria´s lobby in St. Petersburg: to become principal dancer in Berlin. At first Malakhov had offered her a corps de ballet contract, meaning to dance within an ensemble. As she had two offers for solo contracts he was forced to come up with something more to gain young Polina for Berlin. Malakhov is known as her discoverer and her mentor and to Polina he is even more:
“He is my director, my choreographer, my teacher and also my [dance] partner. At the same time he has become a friend and in all aspects he is very good,” she says, and continues, “but I am still looking up. I understand who he is. He is a legend.” She is still amazed by his love for the ballet. He is not just loving it, she says: “He is fanatic.” In public perception it is always reflected that ballet dancers are ethereal and pain resistant creatures who basically never leave the training room. And here Polina wants to emphasize that “we are really just normal people. When I am outside the ballet I also have to deal with insurances and clean my apartment.” If normality exists at all, isn’t it still outstanding, going through all the physical pain which is supposed to be part of a ballet dancer’s life? And while I ask her I do not believe that I dare to do so, whether there is some sort of artistic masochism involved in what she does. She laughs and I love her for not dooming me for this question. For a short moment she pauses though, until she replies with determination: “No, I wouldn’t say it is masochism. I do not feel pleasure through the physical pain that is involved in what I do. I just learned to live with it.” After all, what is the nature of ballet? What is its purpose? She breathes deeply. “The nature of dance is to express yourself. What makes it amazing is, when it comes naturally, when you don’t play it. When you are on stage and you really feel it.” Both the personality and the emotion of the dancer finds its expression through the ballet. It is an art form, but surely it is not just beautiful poses and pure feeling. And the perfect body is worthless if you have nothing inside. For Polina, the art of ballet is everything. It is music, theatre and sport. “You need the body and the emotion and you need the ballet gift. It is not possible to have all
Photography / © Maria-Helena Buckley @ buckley-photo.com
of it on a very high level, so you have a bit of everything and then you work hard to bring it to top quality.” This interview feels like a conversation in a confessional trying to approach the core of creative legislating as a whole. And Polina is not afraid to go beyond that. It is an avowal when Polina admits: “Sometimes you leave the theatre and you feel empty but it is still moving your soul and that is the most important.”
“The nature of dance is to express yourself. What makes it amazing is, when it comes naturally, when you don’t play it. “
It is hard to imagine that Polina was a shy child. So shy that she hardly spoke. She just loved to express her joy and her anger physically through dancing. She could become a teacher in the future. Or move over to film. But to be honest, I wouldn’t rely on that. Polina seems to be that type of person who comes up with surprises when you least expect it. “Maybe it sounds funny,” she says, as she appears not to be sure if it is right to tell me, “but I could imagine to be a waitress. It is something I would like to try: to accommodate other people’s needs.” She manages to be refreshing whilst maintaining a deep seriousness. And other than expected she allows you to get closer and closer. After having her biography published in 2010, she lately inspired a perfumer from Berlin to create a fragrance with her. “I come into his studio and he lets me test different scents, it is a total new experience for me,” she says and you just imagine whether this perfume will smell like the characteristics of Polina Semionova: discipline, devotion and passion.
Words / Saskia Reis Photography / © Maria-Helena Buckley @ buckley-photo.com
“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” – Sir Cecil Beaton -
Published on Jan 15, 2012