When dancers stir feelings on stage

Vitebsk hosts International Modern Choreography Festival

By Victoria Mikhailovskaya

Unsurprisingly, the Grand Prix of the event was won by the state dance company of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army; who can surpass the virtuoso technique of the Chinese? Maybe this was why choreographic groups from the Baltic States and Belarus have tried to deconstruct the genre of modern dance, feeling their way to the very edge which divides physical movement from the essence of dance. At what point do physical dance movements become a true performance?

Who can say why simple movements on stage can arouse cheerful laughter among the audience yet injure the feelings of a professional jury? Just a few hundredths of a point separated Belarusian D.O.Z.SK.I. from the main prize, with choreographer Dmitry Zalessky — a Vitebsk’s public favourite — staging Nothing Common, an eccentric short. In his performances, Dmitry usually works skilfully with colours, preferring a dramatic palette to the semi-tones of black, white and dark blue. He chose an amusing children’s song for his new performance — Two Merry Geese Were Living With Granny — with the two dancers conflicting in the same way as the characters from the song. Zalessky has found conflict between European, Chinese and Belarusian contemporary dance at international festivals. “Our modern dance is classical,” he notes. “Various dance styles are seen in Europe but aren’t always interesting to audiences. We have nothing in common.”

Meanwhile, the acknowledged Italian Spellbound Dance Company (translated as a ‘dance enchanted studio’) was among the leading stars of the recent event. Their Downshifting ballet impressed both IFMC entrants and the professional jury. Dancers from the Kiev Modern Ballet were left with great impressions for several hours after the performance by Mauro Astolfi’s troupe. From a technical point of view, it was perfect ballet with prolonged action, requiring some time to understand.

The Italians were impressed by the organisation of the Vitebsk event. According to choreographer Astolfi, if such a festival had taken place in Europe, it would have been shifted to Paris, making it a premier event in the dance world.

This year’s IFMC brought together 25 artistic troupes from Belarus, Germany, China, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Ukraine, Switzerland, Estonia and Japan. As is traditional, next year, the Vitebsk festival will embrace troupes from throughout the nation. According to Marina Romanovskaya, Deputy Director General of the Vitebsk Culture Centre’s Special Projects, new dance groups are already sending applications from Minsk, Grodno and Soligorsk, many for the first time.

Asking Mr. Zalessky whether he’ll be able to stage a major performance in time for the next IFMC, he noted, “I’d love to but I won’t jump the gun. This year, before the festival, some colleagues were blowing their own trumpets, saying they’d be performing at the IFMC as guests. However, many didn’t make it onto the contest programme. We shouldn’t rest on our laurels. We need to constantly reinvent ourselves.”

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