Gainesville’s new leading man

Published: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 30, 2005 at 2:58 p.m.

Suburban culture does not yield many opportunities for epic gestures of royal manhood — few murderous villains and hardly any dragons — but DanceAlive! principal dancer Nikolai Morschakov naturally incorporates the strong nobility of his characters into his everyday life.

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He carries the heavy things, cleans when his girlfriend cooks, opens doors for women and sends money to his beloved babushka in Russia. He likes beer, can change the oil in the car and catch a fish.

In other words, he is the perfect leading man: a regular guy who just happens to have a preternatural ability to do things with his body that most of us can’t do with a yo-yo.

According to Kim Tuttle, director of DanceAlive!, it is this natural masculinity that makes him such a distinct presence.

“He’s 5’10”. He’s blonde. He looks like a prince. Elegant,” says Tuttle of Morschakov, who turns 29 this December. “He’s the kind of person any ballet company wants to have. He can dance diffi- cult solo parts, plus any girl wants to dance with him. He’s a wonderful partner, because he’s strong.”

Morschakov was born in Krasnador — a city in southern Russia on the Kuban River — to an extended family of artists, thinkers and adventurers. His paternal grandmother was a famous actress in Russia; his father is also an actor, as well as a drummer. His maternal grandfather was a fighter pilot in WWII, and went on to be a test pilot. And his mother is a physics teacher.

He wanted to be a pilot like his grandfather, until at age 14 Morschakov accompanied his cousin to a dance class as a favor. His innate talent became quickly evident and Morschakov soon danced his way to an invitation to attend the Saratov State Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet, the oldest musical theater in Russia.

“I worked hard,” Morschakov says of his time at Saratov, his English embellished with a Russian accent. “I understood that it was my future.”

After graduating, Morschakov joined the Grigorovich Ballet, working under the legendary artistic director Yuri Grigorovich. Morschakov was a soloist from 1996 until 1999, then moved effortlessly into the role of principal dancer until 2003. In Russia, he was the laureate of the Philip Morris International Ballet Competition in 1999 and again in 2001.

With Grigorovich, he performed as Romeo in “Romeo and Juliet,” Prince Ziegfried in “Swan Lake,” Jean de Brienne in “Raymonda” and Mr. Jaque in “Golden Age,” to name a few.

But the role he’s liked the most was that of Krassus in “Spartacus.” “Compared to all the other roles, there’s so much expression in this role,” Morschakov says. “Krassus has got a strong personality. He must change very fast from positive to negative, which is how I am. Although, in life, I try to be more positive.”

The dancer says he realizes now that dancing allows him to fill similar creative roles as those he would have filled had he followed in his father’s or grandmother’s footsteps: “Like a drummer or actor, I have to show expression, what it is the hero is feeling at this point,” he says. “Like an artist, I have to paint a picture by piecing everything together.”

“You want to make the movements together look like one picture. Like if you hear a violin and a cello, you hear two instruments but it’s one sound,” Tuttle says. “He’s so artistic, that’s what he does. He really participates in creating the art.”

Morschakov came to Sarasota in November of 2003 to dance with the Sarasota Ballet of Florida. He auditioned for the company because some of his Russian friends had worked there. In March of 2005, he auditioned for DanceAlive! and was hired shortly thereafter.

This winter, Morschakov assumes the lead role of Cavalier in DanceAlive’s production of “The Nutcracker.” It will be the first time Gainesville gets a look at this talent, whose cell phone ring tone is the Russian national anthem. W h i l e i n G a i n e s v i l l e , Morschakov hopes to improve his English, so he can attend UF for his bachelor of science in business.

In the meantime, Morschakov is happy for the experience of being in a new town, and looks perfectly acclimated in his shorts and flip-flops, with a pair of sunglasses dangling from the collar of his shirt.

“I enjoy my life,” he says.

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