Artiklar från 2008 – till idag

Artiklar från 2008 – till idag

Linnar Looris

Linnar Looris during the Ballet Summer Program. Photo Jack Devant

21 okt

Meet Linnar Looris Artistic Director of The Estonian National Opera

Dansportalen has got an interview with Linnar Looris – Artistic Director since autumn 2019 for the The Estonian National Ballet.

I had already seen, before the interview, two ballets by the principal dancer in the company, Jevgeni Grib, Picasso and Tango as a double bill. The evening was something to get one's humour to increase, the dancers did their utmost and seemed to be happy to perform again. A good start to a new beginning.

But first, who is Linnar Looris? I find him as a very friendly person with a vivid smile and a sense of humour, easy to talk with. He is a former dancer in the company, with much experience also from other stages around the world.

Linnar Looris

Linner Looris in Tallinn. Photo ENB

Can you tell me how everything started? As in many cases, did your mother push you to take ballet lessons for some reason?

In the beginning I wanted to be a drummer, says Linnar and seems amused. I was regularly watching my parents performing in shows in Viljandi, the place where we lived. I think I was impressed by the rhythm, he adds.

When my parents then decided to take me to an audition for ballet studies in Tallinn, I didn’t know what it was all about. But – when taken into the government Ballet School in Tallinn (Tallinna Balletikooli) I knew that I would enjoy it.

I, then some 10 years old, started to feel comfortable with the studies, and advanced to a level showing possibilities to become a ballet dancer.

Linnar and Luana 

Linnar Looris and Luana Georg in Romeo and Julia, chor. Tiit Härm. Photo Rünno Lahesoo.

Can you mention any persons who were especially important for your development as a dancer?

Yes, there were three persons at the Tallinn Ballet School, Vladimir Artamonov, Ago Herkül and Aleksandr Basihhin, the last mentioned being the most important teacher for me there. I graduated under his guidance in 2001.

He himself had graduated from Moscow Ballet School and was a ballet soloist in the Estonian National Ballet until 1991.

In the company I worked with ballet masters Tiit Härm, Juri Jekimov and Viktor Fedortshenko. I was a corps dancer until 2003 when I was nominated as a soloist at this very opera house.

I had also studied abroad at courses in France (2000-2001) for Vladimir Vassiljev and for Monique Loudiers at the Europe Dance Festival. In this connection I was also offered to dance as a soloist.

Linnar training

Linnar Looris giving class at Summer Course 2021 at the theatre. Foto: Rünno Lahesoo

You were also premiered already in the beginning?

Yes, in 2002 I got the Philip Morris Young Dancers award and in 2004 and 2006 the Estonian Price of Culture.

My most important roles then were Karenin in Anna Karenina, Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet (choreography by Tiit Härm), the Prince in Mai Murdmaas Nutcracker, and Albrecht in Giselle (Härm).

You had already during that time visited and danced roles from the current repertoire in Sweden, Finland, Ukraine, the Soviet Union and in the USA, After some years you decided to go abroad?

I got the possibility to dance as soloist in Birmingham Royal Ballet with many interesting tasks. I stayed there for five years, and then moved to Houston Ballet in Texas, USA where I danced for 12 years, until 2019.

Linnar Giselle

Giselle (Härm) Olga Rjabikova, Linnar Looris. Photo ENB

You had a great career, danced the main male roles in Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet and many others, also in more modern ballets as works by Balanchine, Kylian, Elo.

In a critic published on a website of your apearance as Petruchio in Stevensons The Taming of the Shrew, for instance, I read as follows: Looris formidable acting skills (Katrine Lang 2015)... a perfect ending to a love story.

One should have as a goal to reach higher and to be better all the time, I have learned. So I had a target.

When I then was asked by the previous General Director of the National Opera in Tallinn, (Aivar Mäe), if I was interested in the position as ballet director, I decided to come back to Tallinn again.

Which were your expectations and how did you find the company to be?

Having visited the company a couple of times before I saw that there was much potential in it. My predecessor Thomas Edur had done a good job – he had succeeded in internationalizing the ballet.

There are many good dancers with ambitions, many of them coming from abroad and working hard. I was eager to develop this company further.

We start to talk about persons working as repetitors. After having followed the company for years I have been able to follow their work, too.

Linnar Looris MacMillan

Song of the Earth, Houston Ballet, chor. Kenneth MacMillan. Linnar Looris, Danielle Rowe. Photo Houston Ballet.

One of them is Viktor Fedortshenko, now retired, who already was ballet master when Linnar Looris was dancing in the company.

I also see that one of my own favourites among dancers, the former principal Luana Georg with much sensibility in her roles has, after retiring started to work training the dancers. And, as director of the ballet you also have an assistant, Jared David Matthews?

Yes, Jared is much appreciated at his task, and so is also Luana, she started when I called her and asked if she would like to come and take care of some tasks.

She was my partner, too, and she has the right touch to dance and how to approach the roles. When dancing herself she was very light and did not fear anything – any jumps or lifts.

During the autumn and winter we run several shows again, there are for instance in the repertoire – except the short ballets mentioned – the evening called Tchaikovsky Masterpieces, Swan Lake, Anna Karenina by our Marina Kesler, repetitor and choreographer. Further Alice in Wonderland, Giselle and Snow White, and of course Nutcracker in the midwinter.

Linnar and Luana

Luana Georg and Linnar Looris in Romeo and Juliet, Estonian National Ballet. Photo Rünno Lahesoo.

What about the theatre building itself? The theatre and concert building was inaugurated in the autumn 1913, and it was destroyed in 1944 by the Soviet aerial bombardment. Then rebuilt, and even later on partly rebuilt and renovated several times. Except the Opera located in one wing also the State Concert Institution and the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra are located in the other. The area is not too big?

Linnar Looris face is very serious when he starts to talk about this:

No, we wish we could get a bigger stage and more suitable premises for our work. The fact is that they today are outdated. This is one of the most important things that is needed to be resolved so that we could develop – develop the functions and develop further as a company.

A larger stage would allow us so much more possibilities. For instance Swan Lake, that is shown regularly in our program: Everyone can imagine how it would be with more dancers dancing as swans on the stage, it would impose the audience.

More space for big jumps is needed, and in order to get bigger productions done and imported, there must be proper space for them.

I have read about plans to build an annex to the building?

Yes, but that is not possible right now and not so easily done. Before – and if – it can be realized it takes time; so many interests are involved. But there is a light . . .

* * *

After having done this interview I am contacted from the theatre and hear that the Estonian government now has got a program for financing the building project. When this will happen is not known, but the light has been shown . . .

We have had a most lively conversation. The work in the theatre goes on.

Anita Jokela
Tallinn, Estonia

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