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News 24 Mar 17

Dance Festival Brings Russian Ballet Legend to Belgrade

The 14th installment of Belgrade’s prestigious and popular Dance Festival is already slated to be the biggest and most widely-attended iteration to date.

David Galic
Introdans will be performing their ‘TUTTI' programme on March 29. Photo: Belgrade Dance Festival.

Belgrade Dance Festival, set to be held between March 24 and April 11, raised massive interest after it was announced that Mikhail Baryshnikov would be venturing out to Belgrade. The Russian superstar is frequently termed one of the greatest ballet dancers to ever grace the stage.

However, Baryshnikov’s performances will not be part of the actual festival programme, but rather a special appendage – an exclamation mark of sorts.

“We are getting ready for a fantastic edition of BDF, which keeps growing in terms of scope and audience every year,” Festival Director Aja Jung said at an official press conference held late last year.

Jung also said that “many international festivals may be envious of BDF this year,” adding that respected choreographers and dance companies from all around the world will head to Belgrade and bring with them some of the most talked about and exciting performances and choreographies of the past year.  

The success of the BDF is somewhat unexpected, considering the funding problems that many Serbian music and art festivals tend to have. Jung and her work have been recognized as a powerful force on Europe’s cultural scene.  In fact, she was recently knighted by French Ambassador to Serbia H.E. Christine Moro for her contributions to art and culture on account of her efforts with the BDF.

The festival founder and director was given the title of Knight of Arts and Letters, with Moro stating at the ceremony that Jung’s “enthusiasm for dance ensures that culture occupies a more important place in the lives of the citizens of Serbia, France and many other countries.”

This year’s festival begins with a special appearance by lauded Italian ballet star Giuseppe Picone, the newest director of the San Carlo Ballet Theatre in Naples. He will address the crowd before the festival kicks off a string of more than 30 performances in both Belgrade and Novi Sad, featuring 15 dance companies from ten different countries.

One of the most exciting performances will take place at the Atelje 212 Theatre on March 31st, courtesy of the Helena Waldmann Company from Berlin. The performance entitled “Good Passports, Bad Passports” takes on the complex social and political currents stirred by Europe’s refugee crisis.

Known for tackling important contemporary issues through her art, Waldmann told Belgrade daily Blic that the choreography is intended to work on an emotional level and is not intended to provide or disseminate specific political opinions.

“I am not lecturing the dancers or the audience,” Waldmann said.

“Like animals, we love to feel safe instead of free. That’s an important topic for discussion, but it’s much more common to hear about and read about ‘identity’ and ‘homes’ in our society, as opposed to discourse about our freedom,” she told Blic.

While the actual festival closes on April 11, dance fans will no doubt be most excited about what is set to take place a couple of weeks later. Namely, this is when the Baryshnikov performances will be held. He will dance in a total of three performances from April 23-25 at the Terazije Theatre.

The spectacle is a co-production of The New Riga Theatre and Baryshnikov Productions.

Brodsky/Baryshnikov is a one-man performance based on one of Nobel Award-winning poet Joseph Brodsky’s poems, directed by famed Latvian choreographer Alvis Hermanis.

“Alvis regularly says that this performance is like a collective séance with Brodsky. However, I do not really have that connection with the crowd,” Baryshnikov said in an exclusive interview with Blic earlier this year.

The performance was actually scheduled to take place in early March, but was postponed because of a knee injured that Baryshnikov sustained.

However, Ballet fans might be disappointed with the performance, as oddly enough, it does not have any dancing in it.

“While it’s true that I will not be dancing, I do move around a lot in the performance. We decided that there should not be any choreography as such, [but] rather to use pure reactions, emotions, body language and the electricity that streams through the body,” he said.

For complete information related to the programme, performance venues and tickets sales, visit BDF’s official website: www.belgradedancefestival.com

This article was published in BIRN's bi-weekly newspaper Belgrade Insight. Here is where to find a copy.

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