Festival of dance expands size of audience with each passing year

Gomel — 2011 Cultural Capital of Belarus and the CIS — fills visitors with high spirits and a sense of the surreal

By Nikolay Ryabnitsky

The Sozhski Karagod Festival of Choreography — one of the most spectacular cultural events of international scale — was recently hosted by the city over the River Sozh. The four day event saw several dozen amateur and professional groups gather, alongside around 400 artists from across Belarus, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Italy, France, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Moldova and elsewhere. They aimed to demonstrate their dance skills while reflecting the warmth and generosity of their souls and their colourful national traditions.

Tsentralny Stadium transported Gomel residents and guests back in time to the point where the universe created life on Earth. Huge crowds hurried to see the fantastic show, where comets and asteroids ‘rained down’ and where celestial bodies met, dancing around the Big Dipper; huge balloons represented the orbs of our solar system. Chief director Piotr Sverdlov, being keen to show us something new, recreated the idea of the cosmos, much to the approval of the audience, despite the evening chill. The spectacular choreographic holiday drew almost 2,000 people and was crowned by a fireworks and laser display involving eight fire theatres.

“Sozhski Karagod is not just a cultural and entertainment project,” noted Vladimir Dvornik, Chairman of the Gomel Regional Executive Committee, addressing all present at the opening ceremony. “It aims to promote, preserve and develop choreography as an art while strengthening creative ties and interaction between national cultures.”

Exotic images stirred the imagination not only at the stadium, but among the trees of Gomel’s Palace and Park Estate. Musical Assembly entertained us with wonderful melodies and expressive dancing from the Kvadrat Theatre while, Polymya gave us moving sculptures, druids, mimes and other fantastic characters.

“It’s so magical; we’ve never seen anything like it!” admitted Celine Marmelo, who heads a dance school in French Clermont. “The atmosphere is warm, encouraging us to eagerly share our dance achievements with our Gomel colleagues.”

There was a full house for the Iliko Sukhishvili and Nino Ramishvili National Ballet of Georgia, whose show was full of passion, colourful costumes and extraordinary dance techniques. Several generations of dancers from this bright and unique group, which was founded seventy years ago, shared the inner secrets of the Georgian heart, which cannot live without dancing. Other no less prominent professional groups also brought delight to audiences: the state dance companies of the Republic of Belarus, Lala — from Tajikistan, the Tsitovich National Academic Folk Music Choir, Belarusy band and Alena Lanskaya — the winner of the Grand Prix of the International Slavonic Bazaar in Vitebsk Arts Festival.

Gomel’s Cultural Centre hosted an overview of contemporary choreographic performances, as well as folk and pop dances, while the Sports Palace hosted 300 couples taking part in the Golden Lynx WDSF International Dance Sport Competition. It covered Latin American and European programmes, supported by the World Dance Sport Federation (WDSF) and allowed serious examination of representatives of the ten member countries. Newcomers were welcomed, alongside the world’s top ranked dancers — showing their mastery, dazzling costumes, and expressive and delicate moves.

Gomel residents again confirmed their ability to create a positive mood, delighting guests with their wonderful cultural programmes. Moreover, the Sozhski Karagod Festival gave birth to a new choreographic holiday, displaying the talents of 12 circus studios from Belarus and Ukraine, who gave performances near Gomel’s Circus.

The major prize of Sozhski Karagod — a statuette of a golden stork — was awarded to a dance group from the Choreography Chair of the Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts, led by Svetlana Gutkovskaya, the Chair’s Head. The group’s composition was given the title of ‘best ballet’ under the ‘Folk and Stage Dance’ nomination. The best groups in other nominations included folk dance groups Hopsani from Estonia and Alesya from Mogilev’s Arts College, the Fools Funny Crew break dance band from Gomel, Yunost dance ensemble from Bryansk’s Regional House of Children’s and Young People’s Creativity, and the Childhood Studio from Bryansk’s Centre for Extra-Curricular Activities.

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