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Contemporary Dance in Russia: Yesterday's Expectations and Today's Mindset

Contemporary Dance in Russia is about the same age as Gorbachevs Perestroika. To a great that was because of Perestroika that Russian contemporary dance was called into being and proved to be in tune with it: demolition of classical dance traditions through contemporary dance echoed in demolition of totalitarian state body. While construction of new elites, communities and aesthetics were undergoing under direct influence of the political climate. Gorbachev's Perestroika and Derrida's deconstruction that came into Russia one after another, became the cornerstones for contemporary art dissemination in in the country.

Contemporary dance came as one of reactions to changes in social life. Non-classic, non-totalitarian movement wasn't necessarily expressed as a protest. It became possible. Founders and members of new dance companies felt incredible enthusiasm. They were convinced they would open a new dance era for a huge country. Freed body was happy to misbehave, be delirious, unexpectedly brake or assert itself in a new way, draw newly gained senses, expressing through the body developing and transforming liberties. This was a kind of primary dance that creates healthy basis for existence and that precedes the dance of personality. Such dance would exist simply because there is a body.

People wanted to sing different, new songs, they wanted to dance different dances without knowing exactly how but having much enthusiasm, which for a long time remained the main fuel for Russian contemporary dance community. Workshops of international choreographers and dancers, festivals of American and European contemporary dance, organized with support of foreign embassies by Vladimir Urin, Natalya Chernova, Olga Korablina, Lev Shulman, Margarita Mojzes became an additional stimulus. Workshops of the world renowned artists in Moscow and various national dance platforms (French or Dutch, for instance) gave possibilities for Russian dancers to try themselves in foreign schools and academies. Many of them once having graduated from Angers, Rotterdam, Lyon, Wuppertal didn't come back to Russia. Yet they were eager to give workshops for very modest fees in their native country knowing how useful they can be here.

Euphoria period gave birth to a number of names and companies that still define the landscape of contemporary dance in Russia in our days. These are Tatiana Baganova's Provincial Dances in Yekaterinburg, Olga Pona's Theatre of Contemporary Dance in Chelyabinsk (www.olgapona.com). Their survival and later success were the result of determination and persistence of companies' leaders, broad contacts, and good management, which choreographers and dancers self-acquired in parallel with learning dance techniques during their internships abroad. A member of a dance company should posses multiple skills: he/she should be able to clean the floor before the performance, design and then make the costumes, assemble the set, design lights and sound, he/she should be able to live with very modest money and better know where to look for it.

In 2005 Russian Dance Theaters Agency TSEKH (www.tsekh.com) produced a film Three Kamarinsky, about the first generation of Russian contemporary choreographers as it was attested by its creators. The film tells only about three choreographers: Tatiana Baganova, Olga Pona, Alexander Pepelyaev. Their names are the most cited among the festival audience and media, but that first generation included many others: Olga Bavdilovich from Vladivostok, Natalya Agulnik from Kaliningrad, Lev Shulman and Oleg Petrov from Yekaterinburg, Vladimir Pona from Chelyabinsk, Natalya Fiksel from Novosibirsk, Nikolay Ogryzkov, Gennadiy Abramov, Andrey Timofeev and Alla Sigalova from Moscow, Alexandr Kukin from St. Petersburg. All these people are interesting and unique. They all moved alone on intuition, overcame much and achieved much simply because they wanted contemporary dance to be there in their cities.

Being ideally foreign to any hierarchies, art of contemporary dance did not embrace the communists idea of equality and brotherhood. Only those who learned to deal with foundations and administration officials actually survived. There was not (and there still is not) any infrastructure basis that would provide for sustainability at present and expand horizons for this art in future. Despite this, new names and new generations keep being discovered: physical theater d in St. Petersburg started its web resource (www.dance-buro.ru) about contemporary dance in St.Petersburg; Irina Afonina's theatre-studio for contemporary choreography (www.moderndance.ru) became well-known in Moscow by giving classes of modern dance to the very young kids and later putting them into adult performances. The youth takes classes with the same as ever aims and goals: to acquire a new body and create a new world with it, but this time it happens without any political motives. Yet Russian contemporary dance always taught to feel infrared radiations of true revolutions and this is both its strength and weakness at the same time.

Today contemporary dance became an incorporated part of contemporary art in Russia. Golden Mask National Theatre Award and Festival (www.goldenmask.ru) has been having contemporary dance as a separate nomination for 7 years now. Contemporary ballets are in the repertoire of leading Moscow Theatres Bolshoi (www.bolshoi.ru) and Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow Music Theatre (www.stanislavskymusic.ru). Tours of established contemporary dance companies have much success.

First faculty for contemporary dance was founded 5 years ago at the Ekaterinburg University for the Humanities (Arts). Applicants are examined by Tatiana Baganova, leader of the leading Russian contemporary dance company Provincial Dances. The founder of the very faculty and Provincial Dances , Lev Shulman, currently runs a project of contemporary dance education for teenagers from orphan homes in St. Petersburg (Green House Project supported by Embassies of some European countries).

Vaganov Academy of Russian Ballet (www.vaganova.ru) has done much for institutionalization of contemporary dance education.

Some of the graduates of foreign dance schools and soloists of dance companies return to Russia.

Kristina Ogryzkova, doughter of Nikolay Ogryzkov who was a founder of the first contemporary dance school in Moscow in 1992, after her farther's death made her decision to return from Holland to Moscow to succeed her farther.
Dmitry Fedotenko, who has worked with Franois Verret's company, and his partner and wife Natasha Kuznetsova, who has worked with athilde onnier in Montpellier accepted proposal for production in Russia.
Elena Fokina, who has been a soloist of Wim Vandekeybus Company for 10 years, is now planning for a production in Russia.
Denis Boroditsky having worked for several years with Bill T Jones Company in the U.S. founded his own Denis Boroditsky Dance Company in Moscow (bd-dance.com).

Every year Moscow hosts contemporary dance summer school organized by Russian Dance Theaters Agency TSEKH. TSEKH is also the organizer of International Contemporary Dance Festival taking place every year in December.

Russian contemporary dance, having lost much of the credibility that the society granted it in the 1990s, in 2000s plunged into everyday laborious work which remains the only way to sustainable development. Unable to change its past, Russian contemporary dance is working to form it's future, which holds many prospects.

Article by Yekaterina Vasenina.

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