For a week, the Belarusian State University’s major building hosted an interactive exhibition of contemporary visual creativity while theatrical performances enjoyed full-houses at Broadway Club. Young companies from Belarus, Turkey, Armenia and Germany depicted their joys and sorrows through body language, alluring spectators into a complex and associative world of dance, while stirring the audience’s imagination and bringing aesthetic pleasure.
Almost every performance at Koufar_Plastilina told of love: happy and unhappy, as a passionate natural power and as a bitter and deceitful smile from fate. The complex diversity of love was passionately and selflessly demonstrated by the artistes, each in their own way. Some, like the Armenian Mihr Theatre, used props. In Dreams in Dreams, their cold, geometric figures could be perceived as parts of a single construction. As soon as one component was removed, the whole construction broke. They perhaps didn’t aim to show that the industrial beginning of a big city suppresses personality. The performance itself was extremely technical and sometimes reminded one of Shostakovich’s Bolt ballet. However, where Shostakovich used irony and bitter sarcasm, Mihr Theatre demonstrated serious compliance with its topic.
The New Thematic Dance Theatre from Berlin preferred bright images and mysticism in its Yesenin’s Wife. The Last Dance of I.Duncan. The famous love story has been interpreted many times in contemporary art, often tending to move away from the real characters, making it sometimes impossible to distinguish between the real Yesenin and Dunkan and their copies. The German performance envisaged the lovers meeting in the spirit world, playing with light and semi-naked. The work made the Berlin actors among the favourites of the festival. Sadly, one young German artiste broke her leg during rehearsals, leaving a male to take on the part of Dunkan. However, the artistes’ dedication and self-sacrifice ensured them a great ovation, the audience echoing the enthusiasm seen on stage.
Diana Yurchenko and her Theatre-Studio of Contemporary Choreography, from Vitebsk, was Belarus’ only representative. Her choreographic seriousness was a surprise for those seeing her for the first time, although her long-term fans were familiar with her talent — perhaps the most notable in her field in Belarus. Her Travel Notes proved that Yurchenko, having won various international festivals, is growing significantly as a stage director. She is certainly not one to rest on her laurels.
She used the motif of travelling lightly and ironically, using plot integrity and rhythm to create a memorable show, worthy of any international festival. The Vitebsk dance studio showed eloquently that choreography is at a high level in Belarus, surpassing that of some of our European colleagues. Only natural modesty can harm our dancers, who behave more as sparrows than hawks.
“We didn’t determine the best performances, nor make judgements; we were pursuing a completely different goal,” notes Yekaterina Solodukha, Director of the Teatralny Koufar Festival, summing up the week. “Each theatre was presented with a symbolic ‘koufar’ (trunk). We like this symbol very much. Over the week, we’ve given interesting shows, comprising various stylistic pieces of theatre, photography and music, each greatly expressive. We hope that our performances have planted seeds of creativity in those who don’t dare to take to the stage.”