‘Lithuanian Story’: Focus on a distant corner of dance

It opened with a composition of figures, dressed in unusually detailed black and white outfits, which covered their bodies entirely.

By ORA BRAFMAN
May 27, 2019 21:55
2 minute read.
‘Lithuanian Story’: Focus on a distant corner of dance

A SCENE from ‘Game Changer’ by Birute Letukaite and the Aura Dance Company.. (photo credit: SVETLANA BATURA)

The first to open the recent mini-festival of Lithuanian dance at the Suzanne Dellal Center for Dance and Theater was the Seiko Dance Company from Klaipeda, a small port town on the shores of the Baltic Sea.

Choreographer Agnija Seiko was inspired by Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for Cello Quartet and used a revised rendition for her Seiko Dance Company.

Four musicians were positioned on stage as a few dozen audience members sat around them, while four dancers did their part where there was any free space left. The choreography followed the music’s structure, and searched for ways to justify the music’s specific non-conventional version for that dance.

In spite of the fine musicians who survived under the circumstances and the intriguing presence of two older male dancers, Seiko, distracted by a multiplicity of options, lost its decisive direction and came out half-baked.

Game Changer, choreographed by Birute Letukaite for her Aura company on the second evening (24/05), turned out to be an interesting creation with a well-thought subtext and visual delights, supported by an international cast of handpicked, creative, individualistic dancers.

It opened with a composition of figures, dressed in unusually detailed black and white outfits, which covered their bodies entirely – including their faces with versatile headgear – tastefully designed by Guda Koster from the Netherlands.

Each outfit was unique yet followed a specific visual narrative which may depict, for instance, chess figurines taking part in Alice in Wonderland’s ball. They were inspired stylistically by Art Deco architecture’s aesthetics of the 1920s and ‘30s, along with references to Oskar Schlemmer’s innovative 1922 Triadic Ballet. The 3D geometry of the costumes hide the human body, and in a way, restrict and dehumanize it, following the work’s intended narrative. 

Yet another stage illusion strengthened the main theme. When the dancer’s body stayed erect and the long skirts covered their feet, it seemed that the dancer’s progression by fast, tiny steps gave a surreal impression that the body floated.

This particular technique was often used by staged folklore dances in Eastern Europe, particularly Poland, Georgia and Russia, following the renowned Russian Jewish choreographer Igor Moiseyev (1906-2007).

This impressive, richly textured first act with its meticulous use of space, indicated a highly original way to deal with the work’s main theme of oppression. It goes against human nature, implies the choreographer, and it will eventually inspire revolutionary urges.

Following this, the second act is about release, depicting free-style dance filled with colors, jumps and laughter, full of energetic gestures as the dancers celebrate their newly found passion and love. It was effective, and the dancers gave their all to impress viewers, and they succeeded.

Enjoying the dancers’ high jumps and shining smiles did send a message of hope, yet couldn’t match the more layered – visual and contextual content of the first act.

Even so, the concept of that small Lithuanian Story allowed an interesting exposure of a distant corner of the European dance field.


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