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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Dance you Want to Watch Forever
Text Elena Rubinova

This year “The Golden Mask,” a major Theatre Festival and National Theatre Award, celebrates its 15th anniversary and once again promises to become a display of spectacular achievements. Hosting 49 theatrical productions from different parts of the country, the festival does not only cover the entire range of Russian theatre, but also brings it in line with high metropolitan and international standards. The principal sensations of the Golden Mask Ballet Award 2009 is expected to be in the “non-competition” category: Legendary Performances and Performers of the XX Century project. Yaroslav Sedov, influential critic and member of the Golden Mask Expert Council emphasized in an interview with Passport Magazine that “all the participants: ballerina Sylvie Guillem, choreographers Irzhi Kylian and William Forsythe are well-known and loved by the Russian public.” The works selected for the Golden Mask Festival have been created independently and at different times, but they are united by one idea: “a search for the boundary where movement on the stage gains or loses qualities of the art of dance.”

Nobody is going to argue with the statement that Russia is a country with great ballet traditions. Be this as it may, contemporary dance productions represented in a regular repertoire on the Russian stage usually testify to the fact that the country suffers from a severe shortage of choreographers with the imagination and skill to create significant new dance. The public will have the chance to see the best of European modern ballet where such dance has been one of the major art forms in the past half of the century. A well-known ballet critic and editor of Ballet magazine Valeria Uralskaya is convinced that “performances selected for the ‘non-competition’ category, in fact, cannot speak for the whole of 20th century dance, but it goes without saying that real legends are coming to Moscow.” Yaroslav Sedov goes further by saying that “Kylian and Forsythe belong to a selected circle of masters who established benchmarks and draw guidelines in contemporary dance.”

For the first time, the capital’s ballet-lovers will have an opportunity to see Sylvie Guillem, a world famous star of such acclaim that no theatre can claim any rights to her name. A classical ballerina by training and profession, she has for years preferred to work with modern choreographers like Russell Maliphant for example, whose ballet she will perform in mid-March on the stage of Moscow Art Theatre (MHAT). Russell Maliphant, trained at the Royal Ballet School, has created over 20 ballets for renowned companies and artists including Lyon Opera Ballet, Ricochet Dance Company and Ballet de Lorraine. In 1996 he founded his own dance company and in 2003 began working with Sylvie Guillem. PUSH, which comprises of three solos and one duet allows the public to be fully absorbed by Maliphant’s fluid and physical choreography. Initially “PUSH” was staged by Maliphant but Sylvie Guillem insisted on his own performance that clearly adds an extra personal dimension to a highly emotional production. Even in the opinion of the most demanding critics, such as UK Sarah Crompton, PUSH demonstrates the “dance you want to watch forever” phenomenon. Many agree with her that the combination of Maliphant and Guillem is dance at its very best.

The Ноlland Dance Festival will feature a performance of Last Touch First by Irzhi Kylian.

This world-renowned Czech dancer, ballet director and choreographer who has created 72 ballets for the Netherlands Dance Theater (NDT) recently celebrated his thirty-year association with NDT that, thanks to him, has become one of the best contemporary dance companies in the world. According to Valeria Uralskaya, the choreography of Irzhi Kylian with its romantic and classical roots, is stylistically closer to Russian taste than many other European dance masters of the new generation. “In his best works,” Uralskaya says, “this artist draws on the abstract language of dance to explore the depth of the human soul, though in his latest works he is searching for new forms.”

Last Touch First will be followed by the Royal Ballet of Flanders’ performance of Impressing The Tzar, created by William Forsythe who was for many years Director of Ballet Frankfurt. After leaving his post in 2004, Forsythe established a new, more independent ensemble – The Forsythe Company, though the performance that is to be shown in Moscow is a revived ballet staged by Forsythe back in 1988. At the initiative of the Royal Ballet of Flanders, the work was brought back to life and was one of the most important dance pieces at last year’s Edinburgh Festival. Perspective and pictorial composition are central to Forsythe’s work, which makes connections between the 15th-century Italian Renaissance and the ballet-boom of 19th century St. Petersburg. The subject matter is appealing to the Russian audience: part one is called Potemkin’s Signature and refers to a Pushkin story about the court of Catherine the Great, an early patron of Russian ballet. Often called a choreographer of extremes, Forsythe combines very theatrical and classical elements with unique ballet aesthetics, which without denying traditional ballet, challenge its lexicon by constructing a new deconstructed technique. It is most encouraging that Russia’s main theatre festival is gathering pace despite the unfavorable economic situation. The festival will last almost three weeks, from 27 March to 17 April 2009. On 18 April, all the winners will be awarded their Masks.

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