THE REGIONAL CHOREOGRAPHY BIENNALE – PILOT EDITION

In the first week of November 2016, the National Centre of Dance in Bucharest, with the help of East European Performing Arts Platform (Poland), has organised in Bucharest the pilot edition of the Regional Choreography-RE//Dance Biennale, the first event ever dedicated to contemporary dance in Central and Eastern Europe. According to Vava Ştefănescu, the idea of organising this event has “sprung up” as early as fall 2013, when she was made manager of the National Centre of Dance, because of the need to connect internationally, to re-establish links with whatever happened beyond Romanian borders. Iulia Popovici argues that the Biennale’s focus is not the traditional concept of dance, hence the name of Choreography and not Contemporary Dance Biennale: “We live in a world pervaded by choreography. Choreography informs our society...everyone is moving.

Choreography dictates our daily lives. The idea that dance is only happening between three black walls and the fourth made up by the public, and that it needs all the artistic and professional apparatus required by the classic concept of dance is pretty far from what contemporary choreography means today. There is a diversity of forms which speak more plainly to the average guy precisely because contemporary dance has never been a mainstream form of art and has no chance of ever entering the mainstream.”

The Regional Choreography Biennale has hosted shows and performances from Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Croatia, Poland, Hungary and Romania. The Mexican Cristina Maldonado is a resident artist in Prague and she has been invited to the Biennale with a performance-installation, which is addressed to only one user at a time: “The Stranger Gets a Gift Service – Interrupter”. Cristina considers her public guests, not spectators, because each of them is invited to use the installation alone.

 

Cristina Maldonado: “For many years now, I’ve been interested in creating experiences through which I can offer my public the opportunity to relate to things in a different way. Not just sit in a chair and watch something. Or like going someplace with some artist telling you to sit up in front of everybody and just participate. I really dislike stuff like that. It’s more of an invitation for somebody to dine with you, to taste things that you like. You create an environment in which the person can be taken aback by a simple thing, one that he or she sees every day, but which suddenly becomes interesting or slightly magic, a thing to be discovered by that person. It is like when you make time for yourself. To come into contact with your own thoughts or sensations…”

 

“Mothers of Steel”, another performance hosted by the Biennale, is a Polish-Romanian coproduction, a project created and performed by Mădălina Dan and Agata Siniarska. The latter tells the story about how they were arbitrarily assigned to work together in a European program: “We didn’t know what we were doing. The fact that both of us came from post-communist countries was the most evident thing that we had in common. We started talking about our mothers and how they were like during communism, in Romania and Poland. It was the starting point of this quest. We realized how many clichés about the Polish circulated in Romania and, conversely, about Romanians in Poland, how we thought there was only one communism, when, in fact, its forms of manifestation were so different in these two countries. But also, there were some connections. This cultural, but also historical, exchange was extremely interesting”.

 

The “Mothers of Steel” project is a study in the practice of weeping, a practice of working with their sensibility and, in particular, with what shedding tears means, as the choreographer Mădălina Dan tells us: “We were not necessarily interested in the personal dimension, but more in dimension of political ties. Or maybe we tackled national identity and what that means – why we must emotionally identify with our country and why there is a chance for suffering in relation to things almost at a nostalgic level, at a personal history level, the places that we lived in, language… Both of us were interested in that dimension. She was more into the dimension of pathos, which is reflected in monumentality or propaganda, what’s like to really have feelings for your homeland, which is what was expected of us in communism. I was more interested in the emotional dimension: what are the mechanisms, how we end up feeling what we fell, identifying ourselves emotionally with the national dimension”. The Regional Choreography Biennale offers Romanian contemporary dance the chance to reconnect with regional contemporary dance, but also to the Romanian public to see what the current directions are outside our national scene. Vava Ştefănescu, the National Dance Centre’s manager: “A trip will always teach you something about yourself, it teaches you to reposition, to develop, to rebuild yourself. It’s what’s happening with the circulation of regional artists and the ideas they put forward through their performances. If you stick to references originating from a very limited and closed space, you don’t have many chances to evolve and to develop your thinking. It is not merely a fad that mobility programs of all sorts have been paid a lot of attention lately. I think what goes on the Eastern-European scene is very significant, not as a rift between West and East, but rather and especially due to the very authentic openness of thought that we have. Once this openness is confronted with market systems, the responses are very different. We’ve realised that the situation of contemporary dance in these countries is somehow similar and that all of us need pretty much the same things, especially this boost in the capability of connecting with the public”.

 

Article by Luana Pleşea for Radio Romania International.