Criticism of IFMC’2018

Vitebsk Ark of the Arts (Tatyana Ratobylskaya);
2018 - Plastic decision-making (Svetlana Gutkovskaya);
2018 - 31st International Festival of Modern Choreography (Farkas Kristóf);
2018 - Being on the other side (Lina Puodžiukaitė-Lanauskienė).


Vitebsk Ark of the Arts
By Tatyana Ratobylskaya (Germany) - Candidate of Art Criticism, musician, journalist, researcher of the theatre and modern dance
Member of the Expert Council IFMC'2018

The programme of the first day of the festival was already impressive: three exhibitions in the foyer. It was possible to get acquainted with the history of the festival, to see artistic photographs; Alexey Vorobiev's bronze sculptures with doubled and upturned faces, the bronze tree of life invented by him, like a dance around the perimeter of the contour of a fir-tree looked extremely stylish. In the performance of the Swiss group “Joshua Monten Company” played in the foyer among the spectators, the artists practiced with ecstasy face-punching and other “combat techniques”, ironically anticipating the spontaneous theme of the competition programme with the dominant “unsentimental” duets. Guest performance at the opening ceremony of the festival - spectacular, “performance without words” of the Moscow Provincial Theatre under the direction of S. Bezrukov “Caligula” - showed the breadth of expansion of modern dance to the neighboring stage genres. The story of the bloody Roman emperor, mired up in in debauchery and unpunished murders, became the canvas for the plastic story, played by a dramatic troupe with big names. A play by A. Camus dressed in designer scenery and costumes, among people and centaurs on the stage there were huge fake heads of killed cronies.

Belarusian part

For a long time Belarusian dance groups have participated not only in a special regional competition, but also in an international programme on equal terms. Moreover, some of the projects are selected into the playbill of the public evening shows. Thanks to the Vitebsk festival became famous such dance groups as “TAD” of Dmitry Kurakulov, Diana Yurchenko's studio theatre of modern choreography, “D.O.Z.SK.I.” of Dmitry Zalessky, “Karakuli” of Olga Labovkina, Olga Skvortsova’s theatre, “Svoy pocherk” of Marina Kushnereva,  “X-periments” of Valentin Isakov and many others.

The Belarusians tend to have a choreographic composition with a complete plot, a desire to make it look theatrical. They willingly use the elements of scenery and props. Diana Yurchenko (Vitebsk) also sometimes takes famous literary works as a basis for the composition. She works a lot for the drama theater, where she puts on plastic and dance. The choreographic performance of the past 2017 “Look, or you will hear”, marked by the first prize of the Belarusian competition, was with its own plot-dramatic theme.  A cascade of games-dances by eccentric, almost clown trio began to the sounds of a harmonica. Some kind of nostalgic-Fellini atmosphere was created, which was then invaded by the howl of a siren, it was turned manually in a frenzy by an unheard woman. A cry in the wilderness was represented plastically witty and with the taste of a theatrically minded artist. At the 2018 competition D. Yurchenko showed variations on the theme of the play “Contrabass” by P. Suskind. Despite the spectacular details of the theatricalization, the performance turned out to be not very good because the contrabass was a sham, it did not become a spiritual partner of the protagonist-musician.

The Gomel group “X-periments” also loves theatrical choreography, populous compositions, elements of scenery, unhurried habitation of the stage.  When inventing choreography, Valentin Isakov starts from some state. “The man dancing”, “Reflection of the flight” - the titles already contain the themes and rhythm of his choreographies. In the composition of 2018 “Reflection of the flight” the choreographer used metal sheets that reflected light and shadows of dancing couples as an element of decoration.  The dancers lived moments in the dance, spellbound by their own reflection in the metal sheets. The plastic person, discovering and interpreting his nature and self in interaction with the surrounding space of objects and sounds is the direction in which the Gomel group develops.

The Vitebsk group “Svoy Pocherk” of M. Kushnerova showed their own version of plastic thinking on the same theme in the composition “Subtly. Fragile. Spicy”. The dancers tried to visualize the sound of broken glass fragments in a musical score with the help of flowing group plastics, repetitive gestures and movements, as well as the pantomime of a closed space. A man in a crumbling confined space, which he himself constructs again and again around himself - this is the way to interpret this composition. 
The Minsk company “Tremors Dance Company” also demonstrated its own handwriting by playing with the English word “Look”, as the musical- plastic composition was titled by the directors - the brothers Slizhik and Daria Tarasova. The participants were practically unable to “watch, see” directly: three dancers were moving blindly, with faces covered with masks-stockings and one eye covering bandages. Their dependence on each other, the attraction of bodies caused by the blindness of group consciousness, the dissolution in which, leads to the “absence” of individuals. Depersonified people seek other opportunities for individual contact, fall into techno-electronic coldish relations (they correspond to the electronic space music background), turning into deconstruction of a three-headed monster. “Behind the face there is consciousness,” the creators of the play wrote in the annotation, “Is it possible to create different, not “similar” face? And why is it like that? And where is your third eye?”.

At such an abstract level of body comprehension in space often work Western European dance groups, the aesthetic closeness to which provided Belarusians with one more prize nomination in the competition - “Transition” (Dmitry Bezzubenko's project, Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts). The partner dance of a man and a woman, technically honed and plastically recognizable in the everyday trifles of gender behavior, sometimes suddenly “freezed”, stopped. It was a partner who suddenly admired his gesture or pose or just started thinking alone. A woman shook him again and again, bringing back to reality. In the dance, which was prone to narcissistic reflection, androgenic details of changing roles gradually accumulated: the man showed the features of female behavior - capriciousness, sensuality, smooth gestures. And in the dance of the woman disappointment was becoming clearer, alternating with courageous determination to make radical decisions such as the final farewell of the couple. Each went his own way in different directions.

Olga Labovkina with the project “Air” got into the evening programme of the current year and thus to the category of leading figures of the international scene. In the composition at the abstract level are interpreted the ideas of emptiness and free fall in various manifestations. From flying among the foam clouds to the image of a drowning house in which there was not enough air for two, or the cold feeling of airy emptiness, where everything was filled only by the sound of the wind. The choreographic trajectories of the three dancers obeyed the triangular graph of the ABC relationship, as an endless pursuit of the bird of happiness and inaccessible love. Their dance was subordinate to the rhythm and polyphonic movement of the voices of Bach’s fugue.

The heirs of Russian modern dance

The geography of the international competition of the anniversary season was impressive: China, Russia, Armenia, Ukraine, Poland, Italy, Germany, Lithuania. The largest part, traditionally was from Russia. For me, the discovery was the dance group “The road from the city” from Kazan. They showed three completely different performances united by one thing: dance and thought grow out of one rhythmic pattern, which subordinates the collective movement and stage setting. The video stumbled, freezed along with the rhythm of, let us say, tango, as it was in “Dedication to Evita” (choreographer Daria Dzhabasova). What do Kazan girls have to do with the first lady of Argentina, who made it to the top of power from the beggarly slums? Or with Greek nymphs (“Apollon musagète”)? The starting plot points of choreographic compositions were obviously exotic and seemingly not of this world. But when dancers went on stage in colorful chintz dresses and in heels, with hair gathered up into identical buns and dancing to the rhythm of tango, and here one figure got out of the general system, fell, and rising again moved against the flow - there were associations with our post-war generation of women. They went to the movies to watch someone else's happiness. Modern girls also try on exotic images of on-screen heroines with incredible, fascinating and fabulous twists of fate. Of course, a modern Cinderella fairy tale is read here. But through this dance they wanted to convey to us the inexhaustible life optimism and impulse of a lifelong struggle: with poverty, rudeness, setbacks, envy, loneliness, and whatever else. In “Apollon musagète” the colored dresses were replaced by tunics, and everything that was happening took the form of an ironic dream. 

This time from Russian dance companies strong projects were brought not by capital dance groups, but by Siberia, the Urals and the Volga region: Kazan, Vologda, Perm, Tyumen, Chelyabinsk, Omsk. One of the strongest competition performances was Denis Chernyshov’s project “Dandelions” (Chelyabinsk). There was one person on stage, a soldier uttering monologues without emotion and marching along the perimeter of a closed square. But we “saw” all he talked about: the barracks, the testing ground, the canteen. An unemotional text (a soldier is not supposed to have emotions), combined with simple and of the same type semi-automatic movements and elements of break, made a stronger impression than sentimental outbursts of emotions. It seems to me, Denis Chernyshov (a student of Olga Pona) is one of the best young choreographers in Russia today. It’s not the first time that he comes to Vitebsk. And I remember his remarkable performance in the last international competition “Error” with elements of break and computerized movements of a robot. His character was literally crammed with all kinds of equipment, the wires were taken out of sleeves and even from his mouth. He tried to free himself from this technocrat shell, and when he did it and got completely “naked” (here visual exposure was interpreted as a technical concept - network wire exposure) – he weakened, lost energy and crawled exhausted backstage. The theme of a dancer was interestingly interpreted as a “conductor” for spiritual energy. 

Russian contemporary dance continues to be especially strong when it touches upon some painful problems of our time, when it picks up the emotional string of historical time. Sometimes household or ethnographic details, which are pointwise inserted into a choreographic score, help, as Ilya Oshi from Vologda, for example, does. His dance is a different type of stage existence, I would say, of Chaplin direction. He presented two performances: “…I wasn’t told about the main thing…” and “Endangered species” with elements of improvisation on the musical ballad “Hiroshima. My love” performed by Anna German. The dancer (also the choreographer) had some kind of gutta-percha body and delicate ear for music; tremulous, with self-irony dance had improvisational nature. He used the pantomime and techniques of contemporary dance. One semantic detail in his choreography could add metaphor to the whole composition. In the first performance, bordering on an amateur variety revue, these were red socks, functionally transformed into the pioneer's red tie. And in the ballad of A. German it was a tennis racket, which the dancer folded to his chest, then pensively waved it in the air, floating on the wave of memories of youth or childhood; as a thing concentrating a non-existent past. Russian modern dance is something special, I would even say, closed in itself. Without a context - literary, historical, modern - much in the compositions of both beginners and mature choreographers remains misunderstood. On the other hand, if Russian dance begins to imitate European - it becomes frankly boring.

"Unsentimental duets" and solo suffering

Duets and solo performances became the genre dominant of the international competition programme. Solo female performances, in contrast to male, differed by their bias towards suffering, appealed to open sympathy. The theme of violence was taken by Italian choreographer Vito Alforano for his production. In his composition “Viola (ta)” a dancer showed the post-traumatic state of an abused woman. Until the very end we didn’t see the woman’s face hidden behind her hair. We saw only her back and lower torso, unprotected and humiliated. The actress translated the mental numbness of the victim into bodily statics – she almost did not move. A parallel sound sequence with the voices of children playing and the everyday life of the street contrasted the devastation of the soul of an offended woman. 

Rima Pipoyan from Armenia with another solo “Woman before Decision Making”, I think, could easily fit into the dance theater of Pina Bausch: the same style of movement, thematic set, non-standard appearance – short stature, bush of hair, echoing sweeping gestures and wide clothes. The decision making was interpreted as “maturing”, the formation of the character’s personality. 
Solo dance as a genre involves the lyrical statement of a dancer and choreographer. Not by accident, in solo performances the dancer and the choreographer are often in one person. For the choreographic utterance is quite intimate, too individualized. Duet dance is something completely different, it allows you to focus on human relationships, primarily men and women. And thus, look at the person as a valid, social individuality. 
Some mental, biblical and mythological foundations were touched by duet performance from Kiev “I Am Lost” (choreographer A. Shoshin). With the lyrics of a folk song performed without accompaniment a man went out with a woman-girl in his arms. They looked like one being, inseparable: she curled up on his chest like a twisted branch that grew on a tree trunk. Then she began to grow, bend, and separated from the body of the man. Natural and plant motifs, organic to the folk mythology of the Ukrainians, were plastically associated with biblical – the birth of Eve from Adam's rib. No matter how hard the characters of this duet aspired to gain independence of plastic existence without a partner, their natural connection was eternal and they left the stage as a single fused creature. The woman-girl still climbed onto the back of the man as in a wandering house. For a moment they froze like such a fused tumbleweed. 

Close to Belarusian “Transition”, unsentimental duet dance was shown by Chinese students from Beijing Academy of Drama, who took as a result the Grand Prix of the festival competition. Brilliant in technique of performance “Games for Adults” were distinguished by audacity, almost cruelty, and also undisguised sensuality. There, too, we are talking about changing roles, not women-men, but who would be able to take over the partner, seize power over a person, subjugate the lover. Both were able to do that. Each in their own way. There is no end to this love-enmity. There are no winners and losers, everything goes round and round. Chinese dancers remarkably mastered the vocabulary of modern dance. Their technique was comparable only with the technique of dancers from Panfilov theatre in “The Impostor”. But at the same time something especially Chinese was felt in the graceful softness of their movements. Maybe in the way how he or she twined like a vine around a partner's leg and with snake grace crawling up to hit back with lightning speed, crushing the partner to the ground. Cruel love games of a fascinating plastic poem were performed to the accompaniment of a lonely shrill saxophone solo.
A rare thing happened in the final: the selected competition programme of young choreographers looked not worse, and sometimes even more interesting than full-length box office performances for the audience.

Evening programme for the public

“Ballet of Yevgeny Panfilov” is a frequent guest at the festival in Vitebsk. Several generations of dancers have already changed, but Panfilov ballet dancers aspire to get here as in their own childhood. “It's like going back… to your home courtyard,” Alexey Rastorguev said in one of the interviews. Ballet of Yevgeny Panfilov is so beloved in Vitebsk that after the tragic death of the choreographer the E. Panfilov Special Prize was established in Vitebsk, which is annually awarded to the most promising choreographer. The choice of the jury and experts is very much appreciated in dance circles. During two jubilee seasons 2017-2018 the Vitebsk audience was able to watch 4 productions of Ballet of Yevgeny Panfilov: “The Impostor”, “Panopticon 12 Plus”, “Star 62092”, “Tolstoy”. 

“The Impostor”, staged by A. Rastorguev, was made on the basis of the “The Shadow” by E. Schwartz. On the stage there was a gray spiderweb, from the cells of which the torsos of people sticked out. Dancing couples, dressed in gray clerical uniforms of the last century, were moving downstage. Attention was drawn by a female figure standing on a pedestal in tinsel of shiny, almost carnival clothes, with a long mosquito nose – a kind of golden calf worshipped by gray dancing shadows. Nostalgic western hits of pre-war time were heard. Like the shadow of the past flashed a lady in high heels with a long cigarette between her fingers. A tall woman in a golden mask that looked like a Shamakhan queen tried to dance with each partner, looking for the next victim. A dance at her feet – a duel between destitute women and men – is ruthless and cruel: the man strangled the woman and dragged her into a landfill, throwing into a pile of petrified silhouettes of previous victims. In the end all passions and wild dances were absorbed in a gray tone, only the faceless dancing couples remained on the stage, and the main character froze like a spider in royal solitude in the middle of the cobweb.

Plastic fantasies and sinister allegories “on themes of Schwartz” can be interpreted in a different way than the literary motifs of the work by which they were inspired. The choreographic work of Ballet of Yevgeny Panfilov can be interpreted as a parable about how Time devours its inhabitants, how the past gets covered with gray ashes and cobwebs, or as a parable about the formation of the ominous kingdom of the Shadow that swallowed every living thing around. 
A.Rastorguev’s premiere this year is even more phantasmagoric. “Panopticon...” is declared as a work based on Turgenev’s verses, but the performance did not correlate with their elegiac atmosphere or traditional ideas about the life style of the inhabitants of a nest of the gentlefolk. It contained more of the author’s reflections of the choreographer and the acute realities of modern times. Video of the performance combining modern video installations with black and white animated pictures was great. A drawing cartoon time wheel was spinning on the black back of the screen, the screen was lined with squares, and something was happening in each square. This beehive resembled a concrete, dissected multi-storey building. Modern kaleidoscopic “clip consciousness” is monstrous and compared with immersion in the panopticon. The totality of the media stream “washes away” the consciousness of all. On the pedestal, as often Rastorguev does, some new deity, the personification of Death, was put. The wheels of time ground everything, flickering people and objects. A certain media-book, television-computer world was created with the help of a video installation and a black and white graphic animation. A lonely girl wandered among this world, like Alice in Wonderland, accompanied by a fat nurse. Maybe we see a crazy world with her eyes? In the final she jumped from the Tower of Babel of time (or the Tower of Babel of fantasies and dreams?) down. But where? – into reality or non-existence? And what is more irreal: a scenic painted world or darkness of obscurity – awakening?

The performance of Sergey Raynik “Star 62092” is dedicated to the early perished singer Viktor Tsoi, the legend of the generation of the 1990s. Tsoi for theater is mainly “the voice of perestroika”, which absorbed the universal thirst for change and hope for the future. Recalling this significant figure of the end of the Soviet era, Ballet of Yevgeny Panfilov is trying to understand and assess the changes in the public spirit of the present time. The chaotic-primitive, spontaneous state of the world with growl and throat singing, which permeated the musical beginning of the performance, is the precisely found basis, from which Tsoi’s hoarseness and the booming power of civil protest raised. The dance performance was reminiscent of a rock concert where the main hit with the slogan “We are waiting for change” was not sung, which meant that the singer’s message was removed from the agenda (what a pity!) as lost and forgotten “in our hearts”. The guiding star of the 90s went out: we are not waiting for change.

For many years the amplitude of evening performances has been defined by a triangle: neoclassical ballet performances (Valentin Elizariev, Yuri Troyan or Radu Poklitaru) – Western dance theater of different styles and – Russian golden fund of contemporary dance. This time the neo-classical was represented by “Kyiv Modern Ballet”. They showed the premiere – an updated version of the Tchaikovsky Sleeping Beauty staged by Radu Poklitaru. Fresh, some kind of youthful performance. The princess in this performance was an extravagant, angular teenager who wanted to do everything in defiance. The score of her dance, with sharp bursts of emotion, periods of frolic and tenderness, great technique was an impressive performance win. Fancy masks (in which the princess's courtiers were dressed up) and dolls were effectively used in the choreography. Poklitaru’s performances, uneven in level, sometimes eclectic or too down-to-earth and roughish, sometimes galloping upon the plot, or simplified by the topic of the day, but always colorful, technically virtuoso, joyful in spirit, with crazy lively turbo rhythm and an iron tempo, are loved by the Vitebsk audience and adorn the festival programme.

The European guest of the Vitebsk festival 2018, the famous Roman “Spellbound Contemporary Ballet”, was consonant this time with the festive neoclassical. The Italians played Rossini's Overtures (staged by Mauro Astolfi) as an enchantingly organized turmoil in a magnificent stage enclosure with many windows, hidden and obvious doors. From there they constantly looked out, jumped out, slipped there and got away, numerous characters in satin camisoles and white knee socks eavesdropped there. The bed was one of the most important platforms, the field of frivolous frisky games and erotic trickery, laid out from the wall as an element from Ikea. Dancers were a generalized set of characters from Beaumarchais's comedies. Rossini was taken in the quintessence of plot unimaginable twists, with permanent pranks, temptations, half-deceptions, love games, dress-ups. By this gallant rococo comedy, a spectacular theatrical joke was concluded the anniversary International Festival of Modern Choreography in Vitebsk.


2018 - Plastic decision-making
By Svetlana Gutkovskaya
Choreographer, Laureate of international competitions, Candidate of Philological Sciences, professor, Head of the Department of Choreography at Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts
Member of the Expert Council IFMC'2018

IFMC Festival and Competition Programs

The 31st International Festival of Modern Choreography in Vitebsk summed up the results and determined the winners. This is not the first time that the Grand Prix has flown to China. Everybody wins - from spectators to participants. After all, apart from the monetary prizes, which traditionnaly have to be shared, there is also an artistic component and it tends to multiply.
This year the guest program seemed very attractive. I agree that not all acts turned out to be true festival ones. There was an expectation of chic stage costumes that could attract the audience. Or expectation from the name of the musician whose songs were used. But if the poster of any forum contains several performances that cannot be avoided, already this is to consider as a victory for the organizers - and an enrichment for the national culture. This year, there were, in my opinion, two performances that could have claimed an artistic discovery.

The wardrobe and a black void

“Rossini Overtures” by Italian ballet company Spellbound weave into an inextricable link between life and creativity of the composer, whose name became one of the Italian brands. Due to all its phantasmagoria ballet raised the theme of the most thoughtful process: choreographic "poems", somewhere joking, and somewhere the philosophical and tragic, were born literally before our eyes, as if from the household "garbage" that surrounds each person, with the mythologization of the personality of a famous musician. Mauro Astolfi's choreography allowed each of the perfomers to become both a part of the "cardeballet" and to have its solo part in a variety of duos or trios. The continuation of Jiří Kylián’s traditions gave its fruits: it was impossible to take your eyes off the plexus of bodies and many plastic inventions. Fashionable scenography in the form of a huge wardrobe with many drawers, which can be particularly popular in the puppet theater, was not only surprisingly functional, but also semantically justified. After all, the closet did not open so much of a door as the hidden corners of the soul, life and death behind them. It is no secret that Rossini was one of Mozart's followers, continuing the so-called line of “mozartion” in music. The finale of the play unexpectedly combined the two creators: a strange creature, as if the Black man who ordered the Requiem, led the composer to a black space void.

Of course, the performance was designed for connoisseurs of music and Rossini’s life. But even those who are impessive to the world of art could not help but appreciate the incredible plasticity of the artists, their passion for movement, beauty and ingenuity of the choreographic act. Although, I do not rule out that on different stages (in our Bolshoi Theatre, in Gomel and in Vitebsk) the performance looked different - perhaps, depending on the lighting equipment.

Without dividing into good and bad

As always, great hopes were placed on ballet by Radu Poklitaru. As Valentin Elizariev’s pupil, once he took part in Vitebsk competition, and now he has been the head of the jury for many years. This time his team "Kiev Modern-Ballet" brought a recent premiere - "Sleeping Beauty", which was the final part of "triptych" of rethought ballets by Tchaikovsky. So far, the Council has turned to the Nutcracker and Swan Lake, sometimes discovering paradoxical meanings in them. The story of Princess Aurora falling asleep was no exception. No matter how many times journalists were writing about the victory of love in this performance, for me it is a discussion of betrayal, revenge, a vicious circle of destructive passions. And also about the recurrence of the historical process. Fairy Carabosse here is not an evil sorceress, but a bright, fiery girl who curses her chosen one and his descendants, as he left her and married another. And here you can draw a parallel with Medea. After 800 years, story repeats itself: Prince Desiree changes the hunt for tennis, but does not change his "royal" essence - breaking up with Carabosse, who ends up in a house for the mentally ill, and goes to Aurora that gave birth to his child.

There are no usual division into "good" and "bad", there are no completely positive characters in that play. The Queen, who was betrayed, leaves, though the King takes away her little daughter and keeps girl tied up to bed. Grown up and freed, Aurora behaves like a wild child, falling into the trap of her own disobedience. Carabosse takes revenge not on her abuser, but on that innocent child, who could be her own. Fantastic animals or cosmic creatures, which were assigned to guard sleeping Aurora, couldn't save her from unwilling pregnancy. After all, Desiree not only kisses unconscious girl, but also take advantage of her helplessness.

The choreographer turns to earlier version of the story by Giambattista Basile. The cruelties of the folklore origins, set out in his fairy tale "The Sun, Moon and Talia", get surprisingly natural connection with all twists and turns of Russian soap operas. But the impact of the mass culture, including return to the aesthetics of the public's favorite genre - fantasy, has proven to be just a "bait". After all, psychological subtleties came up front. As an example, fears of a teenage girl facing the courtship of adult princes. Symbolism of "inconspicuous" details, associations (for example, mithological creatures as clumsy waltz dansers, reminding of the first three-dold dance that already appeared in XIII century). Sparkling humor (among the gifts on birth of Aurora - a huge head of Swiss cheese, ‘cause this country financially supported project). And the main thing is constant choreographic inventions. Clear, memorable, understandable in meaning.

Not for the first time Poklitaru turns to puppet theatre in his ballets. On the poster of "Shekspirimentav" he was photographed "as" an infernal puppeteer, and the puppets in his hands had the faces of the dancers. In "Sleeping Beauty" used not only huge masks that turn dancers into fantasy characters, but also two small tablet dolls (and ballet dancers, by the way, have mastered the technique of handling them - under the guidance of professional puppeteers). Dolls not only replace children, it’s making them even more childish. So that makes the ballet sutable for all ages. Kids are attracted by unusually designed stage costumes and beautiful plastic. And adults are captured by intrigue.

The fragment is never enough

And yet the main intrigue of each IFMC is the contest within the festival. This year's competition program was international, which means even more exciting. Out of 39 performances 12 got to the second round and 4 of them were Belarusian. By the way, those members of the jury and expert council, who have been following the contest for a number of years, noted how the level of our participants had risen. And especially the students of The Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts of Choreography Department who were singled out, due to annually unusual performances. We would like to add that this year one of the winners of the second prize was Dmitry Biazzubenka's project from the mentioned institution. The act called "Transition" is devoted to gender issues: within ten minutes, while the miniature unfolds, a man and a woman gradually change their roles, acquiring the qualities of the opposite sex.

The same award was given to the Kiev composition "Alpha" and Minsk composition "Look" by Tremors Dance Company, where three dancers seemed to "grow" into one with partly closed eyes. Among other winners - Viola (ta) by Italian crew and "Dandelions" by Denis Chernyshev from Chelyabinsk ("For activity and social significance"), "About main theme I did not have time to say ..." by Ilya Osha from Vologda (Yevgeny Panfilov Prize), "I lost myself" by another performer Artem Shoshin from Kiev (third prize). The first prize went to Rima Pipayan from Yerevan ("Woman before decision making"). The Grand Prix had been given to our guests from China - "Adult Games" performance.

This year's competition," said Svetlana Gutkovskaya, member of the festival's expert council and head of the Choreography Department at The Belarusian State University of Culture and Arts, "had many solos, duos and other ensembles for three to five people. But mass works were almost absent. The musical basis has improved considerably - it has already become a tendency. At the same time advantage of tech and video has disappeared. But it doesn't mean that they were "forgotten". Participants simply began to trust the choreography itself, knowing that turning to digital technologies or other "additives" does not guarantee anything.

Well, speaking of so-called "Chinese phenomenon": there are very serious searching process. And that process in recent years are strictly guided by member of the jury, a professor of the Beijing Academy of Dance Xiao Sukhumi, who is well aware of the requirements of the Vitebsk forum. That is why the best of the best of the best come to us from China: extremely aesthetic and very technical performances. In general, the further you go, the more it becomes clear that to the IFMC you need to be fully prepared. It is not enough to offer a fragment for the public. It is necessary to make performances especially to the contest.

№ 49 (1384) 08.12.2018 - 14.12.2018


2018 - 31st International Festival of Modern Choreography
By Farkas Kristóf (Hungary) - Dance writer, literary translator, researcher of contemporary dance and theater, author of the blog dedicated to Hungarian contemporary dance
Member of the Expert Council IFMC'2018

Though the weather in the town of Vitebsk, just like in my hotel room was a bit chilly when I arrived, the more than friendly welcoming and moreover familiar sensation of the whole festival wrapped me in a heartwarming feeling all along, just like my fluffy extra blanket did. The main event of the 31st IFMC is the Competition of Modern Choreography, which I joined as a member of the Expert Council who together with the International Jury awarded the Prize Panfilov to the "Choreographer of the Festival". 

In two days we saw 39 performances of 30 teams and on the third 12 of them again as part of the final. The projects beside the Belarus ones came from Armenia, China, Cuba, Germany, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Ukraine, which means that you could really have the chance to get a comprehensive view of this broader dance scene, where representative meets peculiar, independently of borders, of course. It was really interesting to see the divergence between two sets of views and the growing distance from the aloof tradition of classical and/or modern ballet education to the current trends of modern and/or contemporary "dance", a convers(at)ion in progress between various and versatile.

In my oppinion the quality of dance does not equal the quality of choreography, but the quality of choreography equals the quality of »dance«. The existance and importance of the so-called Russian tradition was quite obvious when I was watching most of the performances, and in cases where exquisite technique met ideas trying to think out of the so-labelled box was a unique opportunity to see the potency, which I could really miss sometimes from other performances, where concept(ualism) would deserve more practice. The phenomenon is unquestionable, just like the characteristic of the final selection which cultivates both "branches" in order to give opportunity to an awaited, possible reunion. 

After the announciation of participants, but before the final selection, during an open session held by the Expert Council, each of us had a shorter or longer time to give a summarization of our impressions at/on the festival. From my part I tried to give some statements and intend some kind of brief proposal of what am I looking for, what do I favour attention to when I see a performance, according to its chosen criterions: complexity it is. Etymology divides choreography into two parts: khoreia – dancing in unison – and graphy – denoting. In my oppinion, pure dance only exists in its own singularity: extension of a denotation (whatever it means and does) only through the body. But the choreographer is also a stage-manager when dance is put on boards, because of the usage of stage design (light, costume, music, setting etc.). One can not simply ignore to cooperate, if stage is used as a context for dance, which has to be in unison with these other elements.

That is to say not only dance is, which has denotations, supported by (let’s call them) layers, but every layer (including dance) has its own and that’s why choreography postulates and results in complexity. The most evident giveaway (an other layer), most of the time is the description, given/written by the creators themselves. Usually I don’t read these »guides«, but in a contest like IFMC is, I find them more than useful, because with their help you can add some guiding lines, concerning conception and realization. In this case, besides storytelling ones you could also find abstract and hot topics, but my main point of view all the while regardless of any »clear message« was to seek to complexity. For me it means that the choreographer is not only capable to take care of dance and/or aesthetics, but susceptible to choreograph those extending layers too, through and/or with which the body can dance, because in effect »dance« is, what is important. During the open session I didn’t have time to analyse any choreography, but it surprised me that after how many people asked for our oppinion. All in all, for me it’s obvious, that each performance I saw is a potent one and the only suggestion I could give now for all is to not just think outside of the box, but touch its sides, push them away and go further to see it on the whole, when you stop to look back. 

After I saw the 39 performances of the second round, I found the program more than colorful: an artistic spectrum I kenned. A festival for which is that important to present companies and projects from smaller venues dedicating attention to and introduce us (and themselves, the other performers) an even younger generation, is more than a noble gesture. It means cultivating and taking care of culture back and forth. Thanks to that, the opportunity to observe the dance scene like this in a broader context, is a remarkable thing. Mr Yury Sumaneev, general and generous director of Belwest, the greatest sponsor of the festival defined the community of IFMC as a family and I totally agree with him. He is right, not just because of close relations and long past featuring it, but of they welcome every new attendee, just like me, as a part of it, for which I can only say thanks. I hope to see you in 2020.


2018 - Being on the other side
By Lina Puodžiukaitė-Lanauskienė 
Dancer, Choreographer, Teacher, Head of the Contemporary Dance Association Lithuania
Member of the Expert Council IFMC'2018

The first time I was introduced to IFMC festival was when Dance Theater “AURA” came to perform at the competition. From those years I can remember a huge stage, warm and welcoming people, cold weather, a caring doctor who helped me fight fever, strong contestants and a special prize we won that year. I kept hearing about the festival almost every year - someone from Lithuania would travel there and we always talked about it being an important event for the world of modern and contemporary dance in this part of the world.

So, when I was asked to come and be on board of an expert council at the festival, I spent very little time debating the offer: it felt like coming to revisit an old friend whom you have not seen for a long time. I packed my things, jumped on a plane and arrived to the festival about 20 years later as a person, who is on the other side - not on stage dancing, but in the audience, judging and discussing.

The first impressions were the same, the cold weather outside and exceptionally warm, energetic and welcoming people and organizers of the festival, many of them still remembering Dance Theater AURA. On the other hand, being in the audience and among the great expert team, talking to the international jury and meeting the organizers of the festival, helped to grasp the idea behind IFMC much better.

The festival consists of the competition, seminars and workshops, and the official evening program. This year’s competition program had 36 participants from a wide range of countries - from China, to Russia, Armenia, or Germany, as well as a wide range of performers and their level of professionalism (from dance schools to professional companies or performers).

The first two days (the first round of the competition) were challenging as the amount of dance to be seen required deep concentration for extended periods of time. Eventually quite a few pieces felt the same with only few catching one’s eye as being different, interesting, carrying a strong feeling or message. Such can be the natural rhythm of the initial rounds of any competition. On the other hand, these long stretches of watching dance made it possible to start drawing parallels between countries and dance style that is preferred/studied/ liked/or preferred, of course, with several exceptions (e.g. Russian, Belarusian dancers proved to be well trained with a more traditional approach to modern choreography, Italian and German choreographers searched for more open movement vocabulary and less technique-based dance choreography, Chinese duets were well crafted, rehearsed and performed with technique and artistry). Probably the most rewarding was the third day when only the finalists showed their work - with a smaller amount of dances to be seen, one could really notice and appreciate the different styles and ideas come to life in the powerful, fragile, beautiful, funny, crazy, striking performances. The other two parts of the festival in comparison to the competition program seemed less exciting: seminars ranged from technique, to composition and movement analysis, to stage fighting techniques and the evening program that I could observe, presented companies from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus oftentimes appearing less interesting than the competition program (unfortunately I could not attend the performances by companies from Italy and Switzerland).

One could spend hours discussing and debating the pros and cons of the performers, their work, their passion or level of quality, but for me IFMC is actually much more than that. Besides being a competition that allows young choreographers to show themselves before a bigger audience, the international jury and dance critics, this festival has a bigger ambition - it is about creating a place to meet, exchange ideas, learn, teach, observe, talk, share. The wide range of countries, participating in the competition program, bring different performance styles (from more conceptual Western dance to a more technical Eastern one). The opportunity to stay for several days and observe each other, to take seminars, to watch evening performances by professionals in their field that the organizing team provides the participants becomes a powerful tool for allowing dance to grow and become more versatile. The meeting of the artists with the expert council allows the artists not only to have a short general feedback from the experts or a critique article in the newspaper, it presents with an occasion to approach and ask questions and receive personalized answers. Oftentimes this can become a really powerful tool to raise a new generation of choreographers. Combined with an introduction of young choreographers to the professionals in the field of dance, this festival can, and probably has, given many of the participants new opportunities.

With so much happening and the festival celebrating its 31st year one can only wish for IFMC to keep expanding and changing to adjust to the changing entity of contemporary dance: finding a strong evening program to match the competition (a program that would be an example of masters at work and maybe even presenting new ways of thinking, working with movement, finding new voices), presenting deeper discussions of works showed onstage and dance as it is in general, becoming a powerful place for learning, challenging one’s mind and body, and fostering future choreographers that will dare to present powerful, well crafted and immaculately performed works.