Magazine article Dance Magazine

Belarussian Roulette: A Choreography Competition in Vitebsk Ignites Careers outside the U.S

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Belarussian Roulette: A Choreography Competition in Vitebsk Ignites Careers outside the U.S

Article excerpt

COMPETITIONS IN CHOREOGRAPHY, while not wildly popular in the United States, can really make a difference to budding choreographers outside the U.S. A young choreographer in Europe or Russia who wants to make her mark must first attract attention at a competition like the Bagnolet platform near Paris, the International Choreographic Festival in Hanover, Germany, or the Golden Mask in Moscow. The Bagnolet platform alone brought major dance artists like Philippe Decoufle, Maguy Marin, and Angelin Preljocaj into the public eye, and Hanover gave us Marco Goecke.

One of the oldest choreography competitions is the International Festival of Modern Choreography held in Vitebsk, Belarus, homeland of painter Marc Chagall. Established in 1987 by the pioneering Marina Romanovskaya, it showcased modern, postmodern, multimedia, and hip hop well before the collapse of the Soviet Union opened the doors to cultural information from the West. It nurtured the talents of three highly original and utterly contemporary choreographers: Olga Pona, based in Chelyabinsk; Sasha Pepelyaev from Moscow, and Tatiana Baganova, director of the world traveled Provincial Dances Theatre. (All three appeared at American Dance Festival this summer, and one reviewer noted the influence of Chagall on Baganova.) In addition, it made a star of the late Evgeny Panfilov, one of the first modern choreographers in Russia (see "Transitions", April 2003, page 85). Because Panfilov, a native of Perm--Diaghilev's hometown--was beloved by the festival, it now bestows a prize in his name to a promising choreographer.

Last November, when more than twenty-five companies gathered at the festival, there were two signs that dance is more accepted here than in tire United States. First, the local media came out to cover the event, and second, there was no dearth of male dancers or choreographers. In fact, one of the strongest entries was from TAD, a group of three men and one woman from nearby Grodno. In The Smoke of Buenos Aires, choreographed by Dmitry. Kurakulov, the men wore trench coats and dragged on cigarettes while they spun, flipped, and generally plagued a feisty woman in a slinky green dress. The dance had a self-mocking wit and daring that would have delighted audiences anywhere.

The opening (non-competing) performances of the festival featured MovesPerMinute, an inventive Swedish hip hop group; Chelyabinsk Theater of Contemporary Dance's dream-like Waiting by Olga Pona; and Panfilov's suite of brazenly showbiz vignettes inspired by Phantom of the Opera. The festival included master classes in modern, jazz, and choreography.

Prizes went to groups from Estonia, Poland, Russia, Germany, and China. The Panfilov prize went to Sergei Smirnov for a beautifully crafted ballet depicting inmates in a mental ward. …

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