[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dFCqiv8gn8] The Dance Theater Workshop Suitcase Fund, along with support from the Trust for Mutual Understanding, sent Carla Peterson, Kate Mattingly, Sahar Javedani, Marlon Barrios Solanos, and myself to the 2009 Balkan Dance Platform in Novi Sad, Serbia, which presented the best selection of contemporary dance works made by established authors and emerging dance artists from the Balkans.
My overwhelming feeling when leaving the Balkan Dance Platform was one of surprise and excitement about the works coming from the Balkans. Of course the works presented were not representative of the whole scene, but I was impressed by the diversity and differing approaches to making work:
The opening performance of BDP was Madalina Dan’s Dedublarea. Madalina is a friend of mine, whom I met doing the 2008 danceweb Europe Scholarship program at Impulstanz. So I might be biased, but this is one of my favorite works by a peer artist. It is young, smart and simple, with multiple layers of performance to engage with. On one level there is a text, which each performer recites to reveal the logic and language behind the phenomenon of contemporary dance. For contemporary dancers the text is familiar, almost too familiar. It is text that you hear again and again, some absurd and some honest and true. On another level is the moving performer, dancing the ideas the texts communicates. Then there is an absurd level of animal costuming: porcupine, parrot, donkey and sheep. I will not say anymore because I’m crossing my fingers the piece will come to New York (hint hint DTW).
The Giant Women, by Dragana Bulut, Gillie Kleiman and Ligia Soares, is a piece that I ended up performing in because Ligia could not make it to the platform. In 3 days I learned the piece and ended up performing in Serbian National Theater of Novi Sad on the large stage with a white Marley floor. The theater is so large that they ended up putting seating downstage onto the stage. We arrived early the day of the performance in order to tech the piece. No one was there to begin with. Then 5 men arrive, who presumably are the tech crew. One of the men introduced himself as the lighting technician. He then proceeded to build the lighting cues. Then come two men who are responsible to find a table for the piece. Then a half hour later 5 men come who announced themselves as the projection crew – the piece has a short projection of a video at the end of the piece. One of the men in the projection crew asked one of the choreographers, Dragana, how to turn on the camera. We were amused by the number of tech staff it took to tech a piece, which was originally performed with one technician onhand. Dragana explained that the National Theater in Novi Sad still holds the same structure as it did during socialism, as a result there are many people who have been salaried for 20 plus years and will continue to be so until they receive their pension. This situation was interesting for me, coming from New York where we are lucky to have one efficient tech person tech and run and entire show just as complicated as The Giant Women. Serbia’s evolution into capitalism and privatization, seems to have not drastically changed the structure of the National Theater in Novi Sad, this pleases me very much...
Dance Me Out Please by Rosan Hriar and Gregor Lustek of Dance Theatre Ljubljiana was and unintentionally un-funny movement theater work for a group of movers/actors, but the audience seemed to really enjoy the work. They used their bodies and voices in minimally isolated and repetitive ways to create group rhythms and tableaus. Slovenia’s scene, I learned, supposedly includes a lot of physical theater type work.
Aleksandar Georgiv from Macedonia presented a simple solo called Heidi. I saw a lot of potential in the young dancer. His presence was strong and wavered between effeminate and awkward postures and articulations.
Kinesthetic project from Bulgaria presented Void, a trio for 1 female and 2 male dancers. The work was one of the most virtuosic of the pieces at the platform, reminding me of a lot of 90s release based work coming from San Francisco, but somehow felt more contemporary.
BADco from Croatia presented 1 poor and one 0. I walked away from the work feeling I had seen something very familiar as if it was a piece by a New York performance group. It contained a formulaic amalgam of quirky pedestrian movement, found footage and text.
Overall, I left the platform feeling like I had just expanded my sense of community in the dance world. The designated café for the platform was a great meeting ground to chat with all of the artists involved with the platform. The various small scenes in the Balkans are producing interesting work and work that I can relate to. It reminds me again of how contemporary dance has quickly become a phenomenon that is easily recognizable around the world, even when there are substantial differences.
My participation in BDP 2009 was made possible by Dance Theatre Workshop’s Suitcase Fund as part of the East/Central Europe Cultural Partnerships Program, with support from the Trust for Mutual Understanding.