International Ballet Competition in Moscow – Warning Signs – Part VII

Dear Readers:

Today and tomorrow we will be finishing up Anna Gordeeva’s review of the Moscow International Competition of Ballet and Choreography, which just finished its 13th (quadrennial) tournament in Moscow last week.

Marius Petipa

You know when you’re watching the Oscars, and they quickly gloss over the “other Oscars” which went on in the back room, far from the television cameras?  Namely prizes for the technical staff and all the non-glamorous jobs without which the pretty faces of the actors and actresses would have little to say or do, as they strutted about on an empty stage.

Similarly, at the Moscow shindig there was a series of prizes for the Choreographers.  To which Gordeeva devotes the final section of her piece, which is subtitled, intriguingly:

War Against Drunkenness

Unlike the ballet competition, which had three rounds, the Choreographers competition in Moscow had just one round.  Each contestant is required to show off two of his works.  First prize is $30,000, second prize $25,000, third prize $20,000.  And then three additional “encouragement” awards worth $5000 apiece.

In the course of a single day, the jury viewed over 50 works!  By the end of the day everybody — ballet stars, choreographers, and jury — were as stiff as a board!

Okawa shows off his interpretive dance

Unlike the ballet competition itself, whither flocked artists from all over the world — at the Choreographer competition, two-thirds of the contestants were from Russia.  Each contestant was given a maximum of 6 minutes to give a little speech explaining his or her work.  And just like at the Oscars, some people abused their time and went over. Most contestants launched into some boring anecdote to explain their masterpiece.  Some were rudely cut off in mid-sentence.

Dancer/Choreographer Anna Gerus

Despite what one might expect in modern pieces [yalensis:  Art for the sake of this guy named Art, plus a lot of writhing and shtupping], many of the works presented in Moscow were of the “socially conscious” variety or even claimed to be battling against vice.  Or promoting important ideas.  For example, Nikita Ivanov presented a work called “Friday”, in which a shambily-dressed office clerk dances with a bottle of booze.  The message is clear:  It is wrong to drink on the job, even on a Friday.  Another work called “Guilty” presented the idea that a certain young man had done something (unspecified) wrong.  Judging by the furtive expression on his face.  (Maybe he was just gay, who knows?)  Another choreographer, named Anna Gerus from Kiev, who clearly has a feminist bent, presented a work called “The Thing” in which the male dancer unpacks the female from a box and just carts her about like an inanimate object.  Anna’s ideological point:  Women are not things, they are people too.  The Russian nation probably not yet prepared for such a radical idea, but it’s good to get it out there already, via interpretive dance.

Dmitry Zalessky: Animals are people too.

Other шедевры (chef-d’œuvres) of interpretive dance included a dancer pretending to be a moth flapping his arms around a giant lamp set in the middle of the stage.  Belorussian choreographer Dmitry Zalessky presented a work called “Dancing With My Friend”, in which a lady and two gentlemen sit on the stage engaged in English High Tea.  Alongside sits a large wooden dog.  The woman embraces the dog so ardently, that all becomes clear:  She prefers the dog as a partner to the two English gentlemen.  Gordeeva hints that this piece skirted very close to the boundary of what is, and what is not, permitted to depict on the stage, according to Russian legal regulations.

WWTD? (What would Tsiskaridze do?)

But here is the thing, and this is what irks Gordeeva:  Not one of these “genius” choreographers of the Russian world has invented any new steps or tricks, or come up with any new “language of ballet” to express their ideas.  And this is supposed to be their profession!

Next:  I will finish up Gordeeva’s plaint and then go on a brief Jeremiad of my own, using as my springboard Episode 9 of Ballet à la Russe from earlier this year.  Episode 9 is an absolute classic, pitting the two sides of Good and Evil as starkly as in any Tolkien fantasy.

In conclusion:  To the two classic Russian questions, there are two classic answers:

  1. Who is guilty?  The untalented:  A combination of Modern Dance plus Western Bullshit(?!)
  2. What should be done?  Stop writhing on the stage and please don’t fuck the pooch.  Return to the classics, my friends.  And then:  Study, study, and study!

[rant to be continued]

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