The context. Diana Vishneva, an international festival of contemporary choreography, kicks off on Sunday, bringing together groundbreaking choreographies from Spain, Estonia and Russia and presenting an extraordinary premiere inspired by Farah Pahlavi, the widowed Empress of Iran.
Make room for the new Russian dance
Vishneva, the artistic director of the festival, wishes to anchor Russian choreography in the world of contemporary dance. As more and more Russian choreographers make their names in modern dance, Vishneva tirelessly strives to make the festival an integral part of the process.
Vishneva was introduced to contemporary dance in 1994 when she won the Grand Prix and the Gold Medal at the prestigious international ballet competition Prix de Lausanne.
She was 17 and the competition marked a turning point for this aspiring young dancer, who would eventually split her time between St. Petersburg and New York City as the principal dancer at the Mariinsky Theater and the American Ballet Theater.
“I came home [from Lausanne] a different person, ”the dancer said in an interview with the Moscow Times. “In the West, I felt the spirit of freedom and learned a whole new attitude towards dance. I knew then, at the age of 17, that I wanted to follow this path, however difficult and long it may be. “
“I was lucky enough to join the Mariinsky Theater when it was discovered by contemporary foreign choreographers,” she continued. “I was fortunate enough to work with John Neumeier and William Forsythe when I was still very young and ripe to push the boundaries of my classical repertoire and start learning new choreographic languages. For nearly ten years, j tried to perfect my classical dance while studying recordings of modern western productions, ”she said.
Today, Vishneva is renowned for his ability to brilliantly dances a repertoire that is both contemporary and classical. She is the driving force behind the contemporary dance festival that bears her name and which is in its ninth edition. Since she founded the event in 2013, Vishneva has not only been its artistic director, she has been its staunch headliner: every year she brings audiences a new cutting-edge modern dance piece. This year will be no exception.
Start with the coronavirus
The festival opens with ‘FN’, a new production from the famous Estonian contemporary dance company, Fine 5, which is loosely based on personal memories of the dancers in the troupe, who reflected on their time spent in isolation during the Covid19 pandemic.
“The pandemic and the long period of isolation have raised many unanswered questions and doubts – what is the significance of dance as an art form in today’s ‘new reality’ and what will it look like? future of dance? ” Renee Nõmmik, the choreographer of “FN”, told the Moscow Times. “During the lockdown, I missed things that were normal before the pandemic – watching live shows, working with people in a rehearsal space, and creating together. Without these things, I still cannot imagine dance as a living art form… The influence of pandemic and isolation is both personal (psychosomatic) and universal (we have to learn different means of communication) . Many people are now afraid of working in close contact with others. I think we have to find ways to feel confidence and security. “
“FN” will be screened in Moscow on August 29 and 30 at the School of Modern Dramatic Theater, then in St. Petersburg on September 2 at the new stage of the Alexandrinsky Theater.
From Estonia to Spain
Another must-see production is Marcos Morau’s “Passionaria” by the famous Spanish contemporary dance troupe La Veronal. The new dance is a dark fantasy about what would happen to humanity if gadgets replaced humans, destroying human feelings and expression. “Pasionaria” is rich in references ranging from Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Solaris” to Japanese manga. In the musical score, the nostalgic sounds of the 80s take us into the future.
“‘Pasionaria’ is an allegory of the future, but the present is in fact called into question,” Morau told the Moscow Times. “In ‘Pasionaria’, everything happens without depth, without emotion. He presents us beings similar to us, but detached without emotion or passion, in a society where the collective is always chaos, and the individual always selfish. Could it be planet Earth? May be.”
“Pasionaria” will be performed in Moscow on August 30 and September 1 at the New Opera Theater, then in St. Petersburg on September 4 at the Baltiisky Dom Theater.
East comes west
“Schaherazade” is a powerful and colorful ballet that tells the extraordinary story of Farah Pahlavi, the first and last Empress of Iran, who now lives in Paris at the age of 82. The show saw its world premiere at the Perm Theater and will be screened outside its place of origin for the first time during the festival. The Perm ballet company will also present its production “Le Bouffon” on the same evening.
For Vishneva, the dance echoes the Revolution of 1917 and the history of the family of the last Czar of Russia. “The irrevocable loss of power, the pain of loneliness in exile, the inability to return to her homeland, the loss of her children (two of whom committed suicide) – Farah has endured many hardships,” said the dancer.
The various scenes from Farah’s life in the ballet seem to appear arbitrarily, but they are dramatically integrated into a single plot that intertwines the heroine’s memories of her youth, her studies at university, her first meeting with Mohammed, the coronation wedding and the awe-inspiring 1971 parade for the 2,500th anniversary of the Persian Empire.
“The parade scene is spectacular: 70 soldiers parade on the stage, repeating the poses and gestures of the bas-reliefs of the frescoes depicting the campaigns of King Darius the Great,” Vishneva said. “And, of course, the ballet also addresses the tragic events of the Iranian revolution. We travel through time on the waves of Farah’s memory. The choreographer was also inspired by the Rubiyat of the Persian Sufi Hafiz Shirazi, one of the most brilliant poets of the Orient, which greatly enriched the flavor of the production.
Alexei Miroshnichenko‘s ballet “Schaherazade” on Rimsky-Korsakov‘famous score, will be premiered on September 3, 4 and 5 in Moscow‘s Mossoviet Theater, and September 9 and 10 at the Alexandrinsky Theater in Saint Petersburg.
Dancing in museums
The new spaces are almost as important to Context as the new names, because their change of perspective places the dances in a new context. Some of the performances of this year’s festival will take place at the Pushkin National Museum of Fine Arts.
On August 31 and September 1, the museum rooms will host “The Paper Man” by Pavel Glukhov. This unorthodox solo production, performed by Vasco Nasonov, offers to look at human nature as the protagonist of the work of art.
Although Russian museums are more and more open, their halls were not designed as stages, which presents an additional challenge for the show.
“For a choreographer, an unfamiliar space filled with different meanings is a great opportunity to show off his creativity,” said Visheva. “You have to find a new approach, new ways of feeling your body and music in a new space – it’s a very creative process. Experiences like this are very interesting, inspiring and demanding. The museum’s exhibits are inherently static, but here a dance is born and dies before the eyes of the public, who are just a few steps away. It’s an amazing experience for both parties, and we will certainly continue to explore new spaces. ”
The festival, which includes several programs, master classes and other events, runs until October 4. For more information and the full program, visit the site here.