Considering his background as a soloist with the Kirov ballet — with its dramatic scores, elaborate sets and fairy tale themes — one wouldn’t expect Yuri Zhukov to lean toward minimalism in his own work.
But that aesthetic is exactly what inspires his choreography. Next week, Zhukov’s contemporary dance company presents a new two-act work titled “Shared and Divided” at Fort Mason’s Cowell Theater stage.
“I wanted a piece about space — the sharing of it and the relations that develop between people in large and small spaces — how we interact in a manner that is more than physical,” he says.
In spite of his penchant for spare visuals, Zhukov’s choreography digs deep. “I like a performance to take me somewhere and mold my feelings but I try to stay away from just emotions. I want truth,” he says. “It’s difficult to get to that important moment when everything becomes real, but we’re constantly working toward that.”
Zhukov, who has been painting and doing photography since childhood, is involved with every aspect of the production, including lighting and sets.
“I love Japanese art and designs,” he says. “They go straight to the point. I think decoration shifts attention away from the main thing. I limit myself to what is very precise and necessary.”
The founding of his company was the stuff of every artist’s dreams. “When I returned from Europe (as principal dancer with the Birmingham Royal Ballet) I joined City Ballet School, led by Sandy Lee, a friend of mine from Moscow,” he says.
“We were talking in the corridor one day about how much we wanted to do something great and different for the kids. She said, ‘Why don’t you try to do at least one show?’ Millicent Powers, one of the parents, overheard us and said ‘I’ll give you financial support.’”
Zhukov, also a former principal dancer and instructor with the San Francisco Ballet, requires rigorous classical technique from his dancers. “I love ballet-trained people — the discipline in the body. But I also love contemporary movement — [including] street dance. Anything great and interesting and new affects your mind and your work.”
The score for “Shared and Divided” includes excerpts from Estonian composer Ardo Part, along with cinematic and contemporary Latin music. “It’s a kind of tapestry to emphasize the movement, a collage of different sounds,” he says.
Zhukov’s clear-eyed vision breaks through divisions, and shares art.
IF YOU GO
Zhukov Dance Theatre
Where: Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street, San Francisco
When: 8 p.m. Thursday through Sept. 18
Contact: (415) 345-7575; www.fortmason.org/boxoffice