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The beginning of a new era:
New Baltic Dance 04

by Jurate Terleckaite

Image: Russell Maliphant Company by Hugo Glendinning

One of the largest Lithuanian festivals, New Baltic Dance 04, was held from 29th April – 6th May in Vilnius. It received very favourable comments from dance lovers and professionals, the Minister of Culture Roma Zakaitiene and leaders of the major Cultural centres in the country. The former President of the Republic Valdas Adamkus, Acting President Arturas Paulauskas, Ministers, Members of Parliament, and Ambassadors also honoured the festival with their presence.

The main sponsor of the festival for seven years has been Philip Morris (Lithuania) and this year additional support from the British Council meant that a total of twenty-one companies came from Sweden, Denmark, Russia, France and 12 from Great Britain. The organisers competed with Prague to stage the second British dance showcase held in central and eastern Europe; the first took place in Rumania, two years ago.

The Minister of Culture Roma Zakaitiene described the festival as professional, much-needed, enjoyed by young people, distinct from other festivals and an important “crossroads“ in the context of the Eastern and Western European countries. According to her, this year the festival was particularly rich and diverse.

For Lithuanian choreographer Aira Nagineviciute the festival brought a new space in which one can find new forms of expression and a diversity of ideas. Her colleague dancer and choreographer Darius Stankevicius said about the festival: “I received everything positively, all of it was interesting, there were a lot of things happening, particularly insights into 21st century dance, reflected through movement, lighting, music and space.“

Steven Brett from the British Council in London was delighted with the success of the British Showcase: “All that I have seen was marvellous!“ Brett was also pleased that the British Council had the opportunity to provide professionals from neighbouring states as well as locals with dance experiences, which might influence their creativity. In addition, it was an occasion for the British dancers to meet another artistic culture in which the national identity is particularly strong. Brett also pointed that he was impressed with the knowledge of the Lithuanian audiences and their responses to the performances.


Random Dance in "Nemesis Pt.1"

The most sonorous chord in the British Dance Showcase was played by Random Dance Company and everyone – spectators, professionals, and critics – agreed on that. Birute Letukaite, choreographer and artistic director of the Lithuanian dance theatre “Aura“ appreciated the company expressed her delight: “It is work on a higher level. Wayne McGregor impresses with his contemporary thinking, expression and his treatment of forms in space. After having seen his works it is hard to watch the others.“

The company brought two productions: “Nemesis Part 1“ and “Polar Sequences“. Random features remarkably trained bodies, perfect (dance) technique and intriguing duets and groups. Retro interiors, digital beings in video projection behind the dancers combined in a seamless collage in “Nemesis Part 1“. A different aesthetic was seen in “Polar Sequences“. Dancers in white (costumes) resembling insensate androids.                                                                                                                                                                                 

The British Council Showcase was also enriched by the solo from Russell Maliphant “One Part II“. Spins and squats, sequences of tai-chi and classical elements gave the impression of dance in a vacuum. Dance critic Aliodija Ruzgaite admired Russell Maliphant’s ability to express with movements the piano and cantilena sections of music. For choreographer Aira Nagineviciute, Maliphant’s solo, without any effect, is a truthful art, whereas for other choreographers works can become like sport or pop.

In last year’s festival, the duet “This is MODERN“, by “New Art Club“ was received with gales of laughter as they ingeniously and snappily joked on contemporary dance. This year their “Electric Tales“ also provided laughs, but they didn’t succeed in persuading me that relationships are more important than electricity and electric gear.

“Walker Dance Park Music“, with a synthesis of dance and live music, seemed to be answering Hamlet’s question: “To be or not to be?“ In “The Silence of the Soul“ Choreographer Fin Walker masterminded whimsical and over-frequent stationary poses, which seemed more like a question: “What to show, to dance next?“ It looked more like pretension rather than a search for sense of life. However, one dancer was injured and the work had to be hastily re-set on six artists and as a result the performance lacked the energy of the Cambridge performance in British Dance Edition 04. Halfway through, hearing the artists breathing heavily, I wondered whether Walker measured the abilities of her dancers before choreographing such speed and movement combinations.

Charles Linehan wove the duet in his “New Quartet“ from subtle choreographic sketches, light lines, unexpected passages, which gave a compelling impression of an inscrutable discourse.

Stephen Petronio’s “The Human Suite“, made for CandoCo, looked better on the Small Stage of the Lithuanian National Drama Theatre than on the larger stage in Cambridge, where I saw it previously. Nevertheless, the piece didn’t touch the feelings, as the company didn’t succeed in creating a mutual liaison, or touching the souls of spectators. Artists looked lost in the space, the sadness and weeping of men in wheelchairs and the participation in this as a sign of solidarity looked artificial and rather as theatre for children.

What would “New Baltic Dance“ be without the performances of the Lithuanian choreographers! And this year they received more space than in previous festivals. Birute Baneviciute and Birute Mar presented: “The Soldier’s Tale“, Aira Nagineviciute brought “Processus“, Andrius Katinas with Maria Saivoslami (Finland) showed “Moonlit Night“, Darius Stankevicius made “The Diary of a Thief“ and Vytis Jankauskas presented “Approach“ (excerpt). It is a pity that almost all reviewers felt, with regret, that the performances made a weaker impression than earlier showings of these pieces. One example is “The Soldier’s Tale“. Partly the performance lost its charm because of the unsuitability of the black Main stage of the National Drama Theatre. Secondly, the original artist in the role of the devil G.Ivanauskas, was unavailable and with his replacement, the performance lost its playfulness and in spite of the fine acting of Birute Mar, this performance was unsatisfactory overall. In addition, there was simply not enough dance - it had just an illustrative role.


"Moonlit Night", photoİright - Vladimir Lupovskoy

“This piece suggests that girls are so silly that after seeing some boys, they become like infatuated dolls and are unable to see anything else? I wonder what feminists would make of this piece?“ – asked UK dance critic Stuart Sweeney, after seeing “Moonlit Night“ by A.Katinas and M.Saivoslami. I tried to plead the situation: “Four girls competed for two men, as often happens in my country where women are in majority.“ “Four couples would not have saved the situation“ – was the valid answer. According to the dance critic A. Ruzgaite, “The boys seemed more interesting with their individuality and the girls looked similar to one another.“ Their dreams seemed neither youthful, nor mature.

The most impressive and distinctive Lithuanian dance work was “Processus“ by A.Nagineviciute. “I haven’t seen this before. It is auspicious,“ commented one of foreign guests. Their new principal dancer Paulius Tamole brought to the performance new colours, a different atmosphere and elemental energy.

D.Stankevicius dedicated his work “The Diary of a Thief“ for his friends who committed suicide. In his works he is guided by love for human beings.

We have to rejoice that our choreographers even working under difficult conditions, have their style, they bring their identity and personality into the their works. They do not copy Western fashions.


"Processus"   photo&copyright - Vladimir Lupovskoy

The choreographer of the Danish company “Granhoj Dans“, Palle Granhøj, seems to have a clear understanding of women’s psychology. In “8IQ – no woman no cry“ eight female dancers exploded with multicoloured emotions, feelings and temper. Two men beside them, excellent musicians Palle Klok and Niels Kilele, tried to get the hang of the female mindset. In this show, the artists played, danced and sang their performances. For some spectators it “smelt“ pop, but for me, with its plastique, staging and paradoxes this was the most interesting of the non-British participants.

The well-known Russian company, “Provincial Dances Theatre“ (choreographer Tatiana Baganova), ended the festival with the World premier of “Lazy Susan“. This time the company surprised most of the audience and choreographer B. Letukaite confessed that she was shocked that Baganova overloaded the audience with so many ideas and movements.

Metaphors swamped our senses, drowned out the form of the choreography and irritated with the meaningless mannerisms and movements of different dance styles. On the other hand, this colourful jumble with its unpredictable course wasn’t boring or depressing. It reminded us of our lives in “komunalka“ during the Soviet regime, where several families shared the same kitchen and commune corridors.

For dance critic Helmutas Sabasevicius: “The festival offered an excellent occasion to familiarise ourselves with the large scenery of British Dance: from technically complex and visually effective performances to conceptual dance works. This is an important gift for Lithuanian dance professionals and audiences. The British performances were attractive with their energy and professionalism and they revealed the full range of contemporary dance: technique, spiritual concentration, the use of computer and video technology and their witty humour allowed us to experience another aspect of contemporary dance culture (CandoCo, Urban Classicism, New Art Club). For ingenuity of choreographic expression, the most interesting were Random Dance Company and Russell Maliphant.“

The large number of performances in a short period was tiring and probably didn’t allow us to appreciate fully the artistic value of all the shows, with the result that even some potentially interesting works seemed overlong. Nevertheless, it was an historic event to have in New Baltic Dance 04 such a rich presentation of dance from Britain, one of the leading countries in contemporary dance, as until now no country was represented so widely. It is also important that it took place when Lithuania joined the European Union on the 1st May, 2004 and symbolised the beginning of a new era, welcoming Lithuania back into the family of independent countries, into another political space. In addition, the organisers gave the time and cash-poor dance professionals of the region the opportunity to see, admire and learn from British contemporary dance.


Edited by Stuart

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