Trends in modernist style

International Festival of Modern Choreography in Vitebsk (IFMC) is not only the oldest contemporary dance festival in the post-Soviet space
International Festival of Modern Choreography in Vitebsk (IFMC) is not only the oldest contemporary dance festival in the post-Soviet space. It also boasts of being among the greatest number of foreign participants.

This year’s event, the 27th one, gathered video applications from 55 groups, from 17 countries, with 33 invited to erform in Vitebsk: dance-theatres from Russia, Ukraine, Great Britain, Sweden, Spain, Israel, the USA, Estonia, and Italy. Meanwhile, representatives from Germany and Holland sat on the jury and expert council.  

The Belarusian Minister for Culture, Boris Svetlov, notes that the IFMC is distinguished by its individuality, as recognized by audiences and experts. He tells us, “The festival is a reflection of the world trends in art. This creative laboratory of modern dance is always interesting for the audience and experts, garnering a lot of media attention. It’s been a platform for new names over the years.”

This year, more than half of the participants were attending for the first time, with Russia sending wonderful groups from Moscow, Vologda, Kemerovo, Omsk, and Ufa. Olga Gorobchuk, from the Omsk’s nOga Dance Theatre, was recognized as the best choreographer by the expert council: her Light performance won her the Yevgeny Panfilov Prize. Meanwhile, Ilya Oshi, from Vologda, took the first prize for At Your Finger Tips. Choreographers from the Theatre-Studio of Modern Choreography, from Moscow, took two third prizes: Home miniature (Yegor Maslov) and Three Sisters one-act ballet (Pavel Glukhov). Jealousy, by Yelizaveta Zhukova, from the same studio, received a special prize from the expert council, ‘For Expression’.

Belarusian groups took two second prizes: the Theatre-Studio of Diana Yurchenko, from Vitebsk, for Province; and Minsk based Sergey Poyarkov and Igor Nichiporuk, for Flowers for Julia. Gomel’s Valentina Isakova won ‘Talented Debut’ — a special jury prize — for Spectrum. Meanwhile, Olga Skvortsova, the Art Director of SKVO Dance Company, was awarded ‘For Developing Belarusian Contemporary Dance’.

The main criterion for victory is always talent: a quality immediately obvious. Accordingly, the jury chose the Grand Prix winner without much debate: Japanese duo Ayaka Habata & Cotaro Ito.

While the audience enjoyed the performances, the expert council of international ballet critics, teachers and culture experts explored the current state of modern dance. Its chair, Ballet Critic and Musicologist, Larisa Barykina, notes that the technical level of performers has grown but the problem of ‘form and matter’ still exists. She notes, “As usual, the festival brought to light some exceptional choreography but the group from Japan won because their dance artistry was evident throughout, without a moment’s lull. In the past, it was said that contemporary dance was dominated by ‘unhappy’ female choreographers, but men are now to the fore, and the theme of unhappy love is less pronounced. War, the search for mutual understanding and reunion are prominent: a sign of the times.”

Modern dance is ambitious in provoking the audience to explore uncomfortable themes, to ask unexpected questions and to evoke new emotions. The inexperienced viewer may believe that failed ballet dancers choose modern dance, but it really is another genre entirely, in which performers may stand, lie down, speak, use theatrical effects, mime or demonstrate acrobatics.

All choreography, classic and modern is an elite art, with a narrow circle. However, it’s said that, if you fall in love with ballet, it is for life. Vitebsk audiences fell in love with it many years ago, welcoming thousands of artistes to its concert hall, from more than 40 countries. It was here, where the 20th century avant-garde art was born, that many choreographers have made their debut. Vitebsk audiences are never sated. Meanwhile, even in Minsk, it’s difficult to fill a hall for five consecutive nights.

Traditionally, the IFMC features interesting exhibitions. This year, Moscow photographer Vladimir Lupovskoy brought his Twenty-Year-Olds series of portraits, dedicated to pioneers of modern dance. Meanwhile, Anna Moiseyuk, from Minsk, presents dancers’ faces backstage, and Belarusian avant-garde artist Alexey Kuznetsov presents his Non-figurative Art project.

None of this would be possible without financial support from the founders of the festival: the Ministry of Culture of Belarus, the National Academy Bolshoi Opera and Ballet Theatre, Vitebsk’s Regional Executive Committee and the Committee of the Regional Centre.

Marina ROMANOVSKAYA, Author and Head of the IFMC, Laureate of the Sergey Dyagilev Prize for the Best Producer Project in the Sphere of Culture and Art, tells us that the Vitebsk forum has been recognized as the best project at the Dyagilev Seasons: Perm — Saint-Petersburg — Paris International Festival:

We’ve tried to showcase diverse performances, presenting audiences with the same dance seen in Europe. I’m pleased that our artists are humane, exploring the search for harmony and mutual understanding. Accordingly, we’ve called the concert ‘Finding Yourself’. Dance does not have the power to change us directly but it can inspire us to think, look deep inside ourselves, and encourage understanding of other people. Although our world may be confused, artists are alive now and must respond to what they experience. We’ve welcomed guests from all nationalities, but we speak one language. I’m sure that we are spreading something good and making this world better.

By Olga Kruchenkova
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