The Latvian Dance Award Ceremony. Photo: Margarita Germane

2019 Reviews

Gundija Zandersona


In 2019 a variety of writers submitted reviews to Dance.lv journal. This collection of celebratory, and critically reflective texts are a testament to the growing ecology, and recognition of dance practices in Latvia.

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The Latvian Dance Information Centre (LDIC) invited Larisa Abizova (a leading ballet critic from St. Peterburg) to review three works performed by the Latvian National Ballet.

In her review of “Antonija #Silmači” Abizova praises The Latvian National Ballet for its dignified status and history. Noting that the ballet has been staged with local artists Abizova praises the beautifully rich, detailed, and nuanced story-line accompanied with successful scenography.

Antonija #Silmači. Photo: Andris Tone

Abizova’s reflections on “Romeo un Džuljeta” are less favorable, criticising poor staging choices and ambiguities surrounding the roles and responsibilities of those who created the work. However, the ‘bedroom scene’ receives praise for the light and fluid movement quality of its duet, and frames the ending as a ‘typical ballet scene’ – beautiful, tragic and effective.

Romeo un Džuljeta. Photo: Andris Tone

For the third work “Raimonda” Abizova is concerned by the disrespect shown to Marius Petipa (one of the most influential choreographers in ballet history), when his name is barely mentioned in programme, but he is historically credited the original choreographer. In all her writing witty comments keep the reviews alive, but her critique is aimed sharply and directly at the imperfections.

Raimonda. Photo: Andris Tone

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Olga Žitluhina, and the Association of Contemporary Dance Artists (Ārā) created “3D par telefoniem”, [3D on phones] a social project, on telephone use.

The project toured schools with a performance that aimed to raise awareness on the influence of mobiles phones. The tour included many locations in Latvia where children might not be able to access contemporary art on a regular basis (such as the countryside, or smaller schools). The performance invites people the audience to be mindful of how they use their phones (rather than criticising or intimidating), and explore the subject through the medium of contemporary dance.

3D par telefoniem

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Rūdolfs Gediņš discussed the educational and artistic graduate platform “Ārējais klimats / iekšējais laiks”, [External climate/internal time] where Latvia’s youngest generation of choreographers are invited to share their choreographic ideas in an evening of performances.

Under the mentorship of Finnish dramatist Anni Klein, and arts producer Laura Stašāne, the artists were given free rehearsal space and technical support towards performances. The focus was giving the artists space to explore ideas without the pressure of producing a full-length show. To offer room for experimentation, mistakes, and development. The project was supported by two independent theatre companies – New Theatre Institute of Latvia and Dirty Deal Teatro.

Ārējais klimats / Iekšējais laiks. Līga Ūbele “Absurda varone”. Photo: Andrejs Strokins

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Marija Saveiko offers a descriptive and picturesque experience of traveling to the beautiful countryside of Lādezers to see “Kāda deja der laukiem?” [What type of dance is suitable for countryside?]. Saveiko discusses the mobility, freedom, and adaptability of dance to nearly any environment. She praises the simple staging and small audience, that added to the magical atmosphere of the night. Works shown included a fragment of Elīna Lutce’s current solo work, and a work in progress by Ilze Zīriņa made on year one contemporary art students from the Latvian Academy of Culture (LAC). Saveiko describes her experience as an audience member very emotional and rich in revelations.

Kāda deja der laukiem?

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LAC Theatre House “Zirgu Pasts” hosted a performance night “Rezonanses. Trīs” [Resonance. Three] that celebrated the artistic legacy of Ansis Rūtentāls’, (a mime, movement artist and educator). Annija Belogrudova writes about three works inspired by Ansis’ movement work and contemplates whether the artworks of the artist are the legacy, or if the legacy can be found in how those works changed, and ‘move’ those who have experienced them.

Ramona Galkina “(Ž)Alūzijas”. Photo: Margarita Germane

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Lāsma Goba reviewed “Divotne” [Twoness], a contemporary dance work choreographed by Anna Novikova and Rūta Pūce. Based on their experiences of motherhood, “Divotne” explores the malleability of self-image revealing a conflict between the identities of ‘old self’ and ‘mother’. “Divotne” is an emotional journey of seeking a balance between different selves that Goba found the whole experience empathetically powerful. The audience are guided through the work with an articulate, and emotive soundtrack. Recorded voices share the internal thoughts of pregnant, near-term, and postpartum women, and expose the expectations, choices, and reality of motherhood.

Divotne. Photo: Margarita Germane

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Annija Belogrudova vividly describes Rūdolfs Gediņš’ dance theatre work “Dievišķs fakts” [A divine fact] which formed part of his Master’s thesis. Using four characters to reveal his ‘interior identity’, Gediņš’ reflects on who he is through layers of embodied experiences. Belogrudova suggests the work is conceptually simple, but the performance so complexly layered it becomes difficult to understand. However, she notes the performance was described as playful chaos, with space for the audience to create their own connections between the signs and symbolic meaning.

Belogrudova suggests that self-reflection is part of (almost) every artist’s development process, that learning to explore your own interior helps you look at the experiences of others.. The process of creating the work has been extremely eye opening for the artists, reporting it has influenced some of their life decisions.

Dievišķs fakts. Photo: Margarita Germane

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Marija Saveiko describes her surreal experience of watching Krišjānis Sants’ art-work ‘Labrys’. A performance that takes her beyond the rational, where reality and imagination blend in one. The two dancers seem to be following an invisible pattern, a ‘game’ in which they try to exist a labyrinth by physically supporting each other. Saveiko wonders if the audience are expected to decode the pattern whilst following the movement, or to simply observe it. For Saveiko this perplexity seemed to be the works’ key ingredient.

Labrys. Photo: Sandra Poļegoško

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Ārējais klimats / iekšējais laiks” [External climate/internal time] returned for its second ‘cycle’ in May presenting twenty minutes long solos by three graduate students. The goal of the platform is to share new concepts, and modes of presenting works, and reviewer Rūdolfs Gediņš assists that process by articulating the missing elements of each performance. The evening provoked a further discussion on the disappearance on dancing in the works presented.

Ārējais klimats / iekšējais laiks

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Lāsma Podze expressed her desire to see Latvian Ballet take more risk, and make new works in different directions from the classical tradition. Podze reviewed two ‘short ballets’ presented on a single evening designed to help young ballet choreographers develop their craft. The first work “Hamlets” [Hamlet] by Antons Freimans had a modern set design and costume, but used classical ballet vocabulary, and structure. Podze found the second work – Elza Leimane’s “(Ne)stāsti man pasakas” [do(n’t) tell me tales] much more satisfying; a work full of surprises and colour, like the moment Father Christmas opens his sack to give you presents.

(Ne)stāsti man pasakas. Photo: Agnese Zeltiņa

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On the 18th of May, Ķīpsala hall hosted a concert of Staged Latvian Folk Dance, under the artistic direction (and curation) of Jānis Ērglis. The concert provided an opportunity for emerging Folk Dance artists to explore large scale work, and for everyone to share their love of dancing. As the genre of Staged Folk Dance develops, it is beginning to find a distinctive voice, and community of practice

Jaunus rakstus izrakstīt. Photo: Kaspars Andersons

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Ideal Fe[male]” by Eva Kronberga’s and Jānis Putniņš’ was presented part of the Contemporary Dance Festival “Laiks dejot” [Time to dance] in June. “Ideal Fe[male] is a personal journey, and experiment that attempts to talk about the interaction between feminine and masculine. Reviewer Jana Kukaine praised the rare appearance of a work that addressed gender representation, but questioned its realisation. In a richly evidenced and considered text, Kukaine queries the depth of research, and critical reflection the artists undertook. From the ‘obvious’ choices of costume, to the structuring of the work Kukaine suggests there are misplaced artistic intentions.

Ideal Fe[male]. Julia Zhitluhina

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Iespējams IX” [Possible IX] was the ninth emerging choreographers’ and performers’ platform presented at the Latvian National Opera and Ballet House. The programme included a wide range of works from classical ballet, to contemporary dance. The event also showcases practical dissertations by students from the Jāzeps Vītols Latvian Academy of Music choreography. “Iespējams” is an important event for the Latvian Dance scene, brings together artists from different stages in their careers, presenting classical dance alongside contemporary dance.

Iespējams. Photo: Ginta Garūta

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Latvia held its first Dance Award Ceremony that solely celebrates dance (as an arts practice) and the dance artists who have made significant contributions to the dance sector.

“Dance has always been an independent art form”, writes Marija Saveiko, “and today it has taken on big responsibilities to speak for the most pressing issues in the world and smaller regions, to reflect the society or in contrast – reveal the dreamy memories which reminds us of the need to stop, see ourselves as if from the outside and remind us where we come from and where we are going.”

Prior to the event a significant amount of information about the nominees was distributed publicly. From written, and recorded interviews, to ‘meet the nominees’ events, there was an active awareness building of dance in Latvia, with access given to anyone who was interested.

The importance of the Dance Award Ceremony was underlined by the collegiate manner in which the event was planned, organised, and attended. Even speeches from guests and laureates recognised the significance of a shared endeavour, and successes.

The Latvian Dance Award Ceremony. Photo: Margarita Germane

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Baleta zvaigznes Jūrmalā” [Ballet stars in Jurmala], celebrated twenty years of performances this summer, and the international ballet event delivered an excellent show. While there was an emphasis on works from modern, and contemporary dance choreographers, the classical tradition was well represented.

Baleta zvaigznes Jūrmalā

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Naktene” [Nightshade] by Alise Putniņa was the realisation of a long cherished idea, that has been developed without arts funding. The solo work is meant to be sensed (rather than understood) and brings our focus to her presence in the space. Agnese Bordjukova believes the work has great potential, and should be developed further. “Naktene” begins with the performer lying in the floor, navel uncovered, and she begins to undulate from the waist. These undulating movements flow continuously and form the central vocabulary of the work.

Naktene. Photo: Diāna Trope

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pusOtrs” [one and a half] was one of the summers strongest dance works. Created by Liene Grava’s movement theatre the work was created to inspire and entertain children. Shown as part of Valmiera Summer Theatre festival pusOtrs portrays the rich fantasy world of childhood, the joys of free play, and games. There is no attempt to judge children for how to play today, or to instruct them to be different, it simply shares the joy of simplicity.

“pusOtrs” tells the story of two twin brothers who play competitively (but positively) in a back yard. They engage in a range of simple activities such as riding wheelbarrows, cherry stone spitting, and water fights, games that evoke fond memories for the adults watching. The work is funny, and engaging for children while being professional in its execution. The performers are technically skilled dancers who fully embody their characters, leaving no moment where we stop believing in the world they create.

pusOtrs. Photo: Lita Millere, Gatis Priednieks-Melnacis

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The 15th edition of “Homo Novus” the International Festival of Contemporary Theatre, took place in September. Artists form Japan, USA, Australia, Belgium, Norway, Estonia, Latvia met in Riga for a week long festival of Performances, workshops, talks, and encounters. This year’s special event was ‘Sonic Dawn’, a 7hour festival within a festival, and underlined the “Homo Novus” mission of supporting the emergence of the unheard. A wide range of movement work was present in this years festival, and the youthful spirit of the festival was very noticeable.

Homo Novus.
Ahilan Ratnamohan (Antwerp) ‘Klapping’. Photo: Ingus Bajārs

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Agate Bankava is a young choreographer that has invested a lot of work in dance sector and has already received a significant amount of acknowledgments and prizes for a lot her work and engagements.

Kur tu esi kad es guļu” [Where are you when I sleep] is her solo performance that brings attention to one’s own and others’ body experiences in different social contexts. It is about the conversation between body, mind and soul, ego, id and superego, norms, codes and morals. Not only does the performer speak to viewers through movements, she also uses spoken text throughout the performance.

“Kur tu esi kad es guļu” is an immeasurably complex dance experience, an experience of your personal and your collective body that no technology can ever replace.

Kur tu esi kad es guļu? Photo: Evija Sedola