Showcasing contemporary Russian choreography

For centuries, Russia preserved, refined and nurtured the conservative classical ballet.

By ORA BRAFMAN
March 11, 2019 20:52
2 minute read.
‘RUSSIAN VISIT’ by Diana Vishneva

‘RUSSIAN VISIT’ by Diana Vishneva. (photo credit: IRENA TOMINAN)

 
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The belated budding contemporary dance scene in Russia is taking its first steps, rather cautiously, hoping to close a few dozen years old gap between them and contemporary dance in the Western hemisphere and some Far Eastern countries, headed by Japan.

For centuries, Russia preserved, refined and nurtured the conservative classical ballet. Ironically, many pioneering Russian artists at the forefront of modern era that revolutionized the arts moved to Europe around the turn of the 20th century, while too many modern art practitioners – which remained in Russia – were silenced and oppressed.

Framework “Context” is a juried platform, founded recently by the famous Mariinsky Ballet’s principal ballerina, Diana Vishneva. It aims to help and promote the more gifted contemporary dance choreographers in Russia.

For Context’s first international tour in London, New York and Tel Aviv, Vishneva handpicked seven creations. Most are short except for one, which contains excerpts from a ballet called Letters to Rudy – referring to Rudolf Nureyev, the son of a Tatar Muslim family, who was born on the Trans-Siberian train and became an iconic ballet star. The piece was danced by two soloists from the Bolshoi Ballet, depicting the emotional content of the letters, including the one written by Natalia Makarova (1940), a diva in her own right.

Unfortunately, the letters were recited in Russian without visual translation, while the minimal dancing by itself was technically good, yet not quite satisfying.

The main common denominators of the first five dances soon became clear. Though they were made and performed by different casts – used different props, music or energies – it was hard to distinguish between their artistic approach and the individualist’s style, since most participants were still tied to balletic sentiments, as reflected in the conservative neo-classical style.

Contemporary dance surrounds a wide scope of expressions, which found their new liberating options after the term “modern dance” was explored and exhausted of most of its limits in the era of post-modern dance. Basically, its relevancy faded as times changed.

That group of five dance makers seemed too cautious in exploring the broad and layered perimeters of the available perceptions and chose the safer path, instead of touching the adventurous roads right in front of them.

It takes time, and perhaps we shall later hear more about choreographers like Olga Labovkina (Touch) with her right original touches and sensitivities.

Diana Vishneva is certainly aware of the long way towards reaching her goal. In fact, for her part, she chose to dance a short solo by a non-Russian choreographer, Marco Goecke (born in 1972, Germany) – one of the hotter names on current international dance scene. Her solo (Tué), is far off from her balletic comfort zone. Goecke is now into fearless sharp, extremely fast deconstructed moves and Vishneva – who spotted a challenge – bravely took that risk and gave us a new, fascinating facet of her vital artistry, which obviously didn’t come easily.

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