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Contemporary Dance Festivals in Russia: How and Why, Problems and Prospects

Russia holds many contemporary dance festivals, some of which replace the ones that disappear. One of the first such festivals was held in the USSR in Vladivostok in 2000. It was organised by choreographers Olga Bavdilovich (Vladivostok), Natalia Agulnik (Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski), Olga Pona (Chelyabinsk), Eugene Panfilov (Perm), Natalia Fiksel (Novosibirsk) and critic Natalia Chernova (Moscow). One of the recent additions to the festival list, Diversia in Kostroma (see below). You can see the full list of major present-day festivals in the post-Soviet space below. Two of the most stable regular festivals of long-time standing are the TSEKH in Moscow and Open Look in St.Petersburg.

The best-known festival projects and classes are arranged in Moscow by Russian Agency for Dance Theatres TSEKH. It was 10 years last year that the Moscow TSEKH festival marked its first festival. This festival is a flagship for many enthusiasts of the Russian contemporary dance, also having a quite opponents in the camp of the lovers of a dance, because the TSEKH s strategies are oriented towards Europe, so the founders of the festival Elena Tupyseva and Aleksandr Pepelyaev come from their reliance on the concept-and-performance view of dance as a form. The TSEKH festival is held in December, showing virtually all the significant dance shows created in Russia over the previous theatre season www.tsekh.ru

St.Petersburgs Open Look festival was launched by Vadim Kasparov and is held in June and July. It is oriented towards jazz aspects (versions) of contemporary choreography. Vadim Kasparovs wife Natalia is a contemporary dance instructor and choreographer with a jazz tilt to it. As well as the TSEKH, this festival maintains large-scale collaboration with a number of embassies and cultural centres. Its strong emphasis is on master-classes taught by European and U.S. instructors. Along with evening performances of mainly Western and a few St.Petersburg tutors, the festival supports a programme of master-classes of European and U.S. dance experts, www.kannondance.ru/project.php.

The working languages of the TSEKH and Open Look are Russian and English.

Aside from the same-name festival, the agency TSEKH also organises two other important projects: the Summer School and running alongside it the festival named Personal Affair.

Dancers and choreographers of different skills and their particular time-sheets can become a part of the TSEKH Summer School other significant events, a summer school with its three blocks of classes. The TSEKHs summer classes have always been the venues for holding castings for European dance groups and watching performances of project productions of Summer School students. For producers, attending classes of Summer School were a welcome opportunity to watch dancers of different skills and styles rehears at one and the same time in July and August. www.tsekh.ru The TSEKH Summer School has always offered a variety of master classes in somatic, anatomy, breathing and various contemporary dance techniques.

For the 4 years of holding summer schools , the TSEKH Personal Affair festival features debut performances of non-verbal theatre dancers www.tsekh.ru, with stage productions and performances of students of summer schools. All these years they performed at the Acting Hall platform www.aktzal.ru. This way, along with the opportunity to estimate the physique of Summer School students, the scope of their artistic aspirations, the origins of their concepts and ways of their stage presentation could have been assessed. Personal Affair focuses on performance shows, which, as a rule do not have much dancing.

The St.Petersburg festivals where quite a few amateur and professional groups from that city, Archangelsk, Karelian region and other dance theatre groups of North Western Russia include Slovo I Telo (Body Word) www.bodyword.spb.ru, Isolenta (Insulation Tape), and Okno (Window) www.bodyword.spb.ru.

The duo dancers festival arranged by the company Dialog Dance friendly to the TSEKH is held in Kostroma in September. Its format is easy to understand, with only duos participating, which helps to save on the festivals budget and ease the participants own expenses. Duos from Russia and abroad come to Kostroma. www.dialogue-dance.ru/diversia_rus.html Diversion is a new festival that is growing from one strength to another thanks to the ability of its organizers to demonstrate managerial skills year on year and as well as present-day managers capable of working tin various foundations and speaking different languages. Diversion has much in store for it.

The festival of contact improvisation Movement on the Volga was launched in Yaroslavl more than 15 years ago, and is held on odd years in August. To a certain degree it has become a starting point and a reason for doing something good for Kostromas young people. The two cities are only a two-hour bus ride apart from each other, an insignificant distance by Russian measure. American influence is felt until now, because one of the founders of the festival was Lisa Fest, a relation of the famous childrens psychologist Benjamin Spoke. For the first time in Russia American and European instructors taught various body-mind techniques, including Alexanders technique and the art of performance. One of the enthusiasts of the festival Movement on the Volga Aleksandr Girshon, www.girshon.ru, is now based in Moscow, teaching contact improvisation and dance-movement therapy to quite a few students in Russia and elsewhere. The festival is not at its best at present, lacking funding and new ideas despite what its organisers do to keep it going. Nevertheless, best European solo performers including Julien Hamilton (Britain) or Oleg Sulimenko (Austria) come to perform here.

One of the most representative contemporary dance festivals with a large-scale programme of morning master classes and night performances, as well as a specialist ballet dance panel of judges has for 23 years been the International Contemporary Choreography festival in Vitebsk www.artmark.mm.by featuring groups from the post-Soviet space countries, including Moldova, Ukraine and Estonia, the fact that has a special value after the loss of cultural and administrative ties due to the formation of the post-Soviet space. One of important aspects of running the festival is the one that the present-day Byelorussian choreography has achieved a stimulus for development, with many groups working in Vitebsk, Gomel, Grodno and Minsk, to name some of them. It is exactly Vitebsk where contemporary dance groups from Russia that for some reasons are unable to come to Moscow. These include The Panther from Kazan (Tatarstan) and Olga Ziminas dance theatre from Sarapul (Mordovia). Thanks to its geography, Vitebsk can form a diversified festival programme, because it is easy to reach from Moscow, St.Petersburg, and the Baltic and European states.

The working languages of most contemporary dance festivals in Russia and Belarus are Russian and English. Producers, who arrive here, are sometimes amazed at watching the artistry of young contemporary dancers, their physiques, and the absence of excessive demands when it comes to signing contracts. Its better to not waste time. They will soon learn their worth.

Article by Yekaterina Vasenina.

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