First annual Vishnevafest Brings Unique Companies to Moscow
By Ryan Wallace
With a trio of performances ranging from traditional to theatrical, the second evening of the 1st annual Context: Diana Vishneva Festival offered an eclectic roster to the Russian audience. With a change of venue, at the Gogol Center in Moscow, the event began softly to the sound of piano and ended to the booming sound of applause.
Opening with a contemporary duet, one of the UK’s best contemporary dance companies, the Richard Alston Dance Company, set the stage for the evening. Entitled “Unfinished Business”, the duet was choreographed to one of Mozart’s final sonata’s K533. Composed in the latter end of his life, the piece took advantage of the emotive adagio, incorporating classic ballet technique and lyical movement in a silently graceful duet. Following Mozart’s cues, the pair advanced as the music led and were sent back to the beginning of their dance when the piano sonata repeated. Creating beautiful lines, while also bringing out the emotional depth of Mozart’s sonata, “Unfinished Business” perfectly blends the classical nature of the music and the modern contemporary technique. Imbuing a graceful femininity to the male moves, while still remaining overtly masculine, the contemporary movement allowed for freedom to interplay between strict gender guidelines—a motif that continued throughout the night.
Following the duet, the entire company took to the stage in an ethereal performance entitled “Illuminations”. An homage to celebrate British composer Benjamin Britten’s centenary, “Illuminations” set to motion the intensely tumultuous love affair between 19th century poets Arthur Rimbaud and his mentor Paul Verlaine. Famously known for his contributions to the decadent movement and influence on modern art and literature, Rimbaud’s passion and pain were embodied in the dancer’s contemporary motion. Breaking down the expectations of the audience, the piece defied tradition in innovative and inspiring ways. Bringing forward a male primary to center stage, disavowing the stringent tradition of gender roles in the theatre, and integrating stunning emotion into their movement through a blend of contemporary and ballet techniques, the Richard Alston Dance Company gave the Moscow audience a modern way to look at traditional theatre. With a strong male lead at the helm of the piece, and a depiction of a provocative historical love-affair, there was no surprise that the performance ended in a standing ovation.
Changing the ambiance and appearance of the stage, the next piece “Rooster” by the Suzanne Dellal Center and the Israeli Opera brought the audience into the illusive land of dreams. A multi-dimensional play, choreographed by Israeli dance choreographer Barak Marshall, “Rooster” blends theatricality, comedy and high-energy dance into a wondrous performance that pushes senses to new heights. A stark contrast to the technique of ballet, the staccato movements of the Israeli dance instantly grab the audience’s attention as carnivalesque music paints a picture of a dreamland. With impressive timing and near-flawless synchronizations, the intricate and concise isolations showed an impressive technique all its own. And just as sharp in movement as it was in wit, “Rooster” offered the audience as much an opportunity to laugh as to revel in the unique nature of this contemporary dance style.
Bringing not only different, but unique dance companies to the Russian audience, the Context: Diana Vishneva Festival is pushing back the veil of contemporary dance. Bringing stark contrast to the Moscow theatre scene, the festival is quickly becoming a hub for unique contemporary choreographers and companies alike.