May 21–23, 2010
Reviewed by Donald Hutera
Members of Provincial Dances in
This Is Not a Love Song, by Uri Ivgi and Johan Greben. Photo by Vladimir Lupovsky, courtesy Intradance.
Three years in the making, Intradance was quite an undertaking for a country with highly bureaucratic policies but precious little infrastructure for contemporary dance. Representatives of the cultural institutes of France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, and Portugal funded this ambitious project. After sifting through applications submitted by more than 100 choreographers from 18 European Union countries, a five-member panel matched up seven of them with contemporary dance groups from as many different Russian cities. Their purpose was to create a clutch of new co-productions, all of which were shown over a single weekend in Moscow.
Despite the best of intentions, however, this intriguing festival turned out to be a hit-and-miss affair. The most rigorous, kinetically thought-through and powerful piece came from Provincial Dances, a company founded two decades ago in Yekaterinburg by choreographer and artistic director Tatiana Baganova, She was one of the dancers in This is Not a Love Song by Uri Ivgi and Johan Greben of The Netherlands. In their identical, gray-toned prison garb the memerizing ensemble embodied various states and stages of oppressive behavior. They slumped on padded trapezes, slithered and scrabbled across the floor with animal stealth, or marched with militaristic fervor before the 70-minute work finally reached a slower, quieter, and more human resolution. This was a portrayal of the harsh price a society pays when forced to succumb to a herd mentality.
In Next in Line Asier Zabaleta put the Chelyabinsk Contemporary Dance Theatre, directed by Olga Pona. through some deliberately much slicker paces. The Spanish choreographer’s theme was the interactions of young, discontent heterosexuals caught up in clubby, consumer-driven overkill. His centerpiece was the admirable Elena Prysvisina, victimized equally by vampy female cohorts in shiny disco dresses and a small pack of sleek-suited males who pushed and pulled the poor girl senseless. Production values, including panoramic film footage of a hoard of frenetically gyrating youths, was top-notch, and the live dancing contained blasts of quirky athleticism. But in terms of its content Zabaleta’s work revealed little that was truly fresh or surprising.
The most demanding collaboration was Borschevik…A True Story, made by France’s Rachid Ouramdane in tandem with the ensemble Migrazia from Kirov (a city, not to be confused with the ballet troupe of the Maryinsky Theatre). Ouramdane is a mood-maker with a flair for resonant stage pictures. Here he combined slow, ritualistic movement and film footage of bleak, foggy winter landscapes framed inside a setting that suggested a recessed cave of white fabric. Some of this played out like a kind of strange, cold underwater dream. Supported by a pretentious (at least in translation) text, apparently it all had something to do with returning to the place of origin that we once fled. But lacking sufficient clarity, Ouramdane’s immersive and tableau-like musings soon grew tedious. Befuddling.
The rest of Intradance was similarly varied in its artistic impact. Working with a company from Kazan called Panthera, Denmark’s Lotte Sigh produced a piece marked by the kind of convulsively peppy, virtuosic modern urban miserablism that has become a global cliché. Paired with Germany’s Christoph Winkler, Ëd Physical Theatre of Saint Petersburg indulged in likeably loose, unforced but only sporadically engaging semi-improvisation.
All of the above performances were presented at the classy, modern Fomenko Theatre. Across town at the converted factory known as Proekt Fabrika we saw an agreeably overfamiliar piece of dance-theatre by Victor Hugo Pontes, from Portugal, and Moscow’s LIQUID Theatre; and the Belgian Karine Ponties’ work with Dialogue Dance Theater, from Kostroma. Entitled Mirliflor, the latter was much more original and a subversively funny exercise in oddball physical theater for a quartet of cool fools. Chalk it up as a festival highlight.