Keðja Wilderness Dance in Bebrene


Today, on May 11, 2014 at 15:00 in Bebrene/Dviete there will be a second showing of the outcomes of the keðja Wilderness Dance residences. Norwegian choreographer Ingri Midgard Fiksdal together with Pernille Holden, Ingeleiv Berstad, Eivind Seljeseth and Kristin Helgebostad were in residency in Bebrene from June 13 till July 4, 2013. This year from April 22 till May 12 a group of Finnish artists (Satu Herrala, Eva Muilu, Anna Mustonena, Masi Tiittahave) been living and working in Bebrene. We will see how the showing will go this time, we’ll try to ask people. Meanwhile we are publishing an investigation text about the last year’s performance. As you know very well in small villages it doesn’t matter what really happened, what matters is what people think and say about it.

What people say about Bebrene/Dviete Wilderness dance

Inta Balode

Norwegian choreographer Ingri Midgard Fiksdal together with Pernille Holden, Ingeleiv Berstad, Eivind Seljeseth and Kristin Helgebostad were in residency in Dviete (June 13-July 4), which is a region in the south-east of Latvia and the most unique floodplain in the country. After 3 weeks in the village of Bebrene, having gone through the elaborate Midsummer celebrations in Latvian style, Ingri & co finished the residency on July 3 with a showing for the local audience. The Norwegian group has been working on a choreographic script by Norwegian poet and Janne-Camilla Lyster “Vi forlot den stille skogen” (“We left the silent forest”) to be premiered in October in Oslo. Read and watch their notes on the Wilderness blog:”, this is the basic information which got spread about the first Latvian Wilderness dance residency.

To get to know more one should get up and get out. I tried. I had never been to Bebrene and Dviete before. I didn’t have those names on my mental map. I wanted to go and see the final showing or at least some of the rehearsals. I was communication with project manager Laura Staš?ne and already got some sense of how the things are going in Bebrene. I also got to know that the local host Jurgita Gruberte is so amazing (you know her already). I got really intrigued about going to Bebrene. But at the end I could not go on the performance day and the artists were too sensitive to let me sneak into the rehearsals. So I changed the strategy. And realized that actually what matters most and relates tightly to the Wilderness dance idea is how the residency is perceived by the local community?

Bebrene method

On the next week after the presentation of work in progress “We left the sileny forest” by Ingri Midgard Fiksdal on July 3 I made a list of the most important phone numbers if you want to get to know what the village thinks. It was easy because I come from the village of similar size: library, post office, school, the only grocery store, local municipality. As I found out Bebrene has two extras: tourism information center (the phone number is the same as for the municipality – it really makes sense!) and the blog which is called Bebrene blog, which looks great and is really up to the date. I think this is a very rare thing and imagine who posts most of the things? Jurgita Gruberte. When I called I introduced myself as Inta Balode from dance journal and asked if the person went to see the performance by Norwegian artists or maybe they took some of the yoga classes thought by the guests.

Bebrene Story

When I started calling I had three facts in the mind:

– it is summertime and it is nice and sunny so many people are on holiday working in gardens or swimming in the lakes and rivers;

– it is right after the huge Song and Dance festival in Riga taking place every 5 years and joining people from all over the country, so people linked to culture were overtaken by the event and now must be tired and still recovering;

– it is summer holiday for children so there might be nobody to talk in schools.

Tourism information center: phone line – no answer. Mobile phone gets picked up by a women (at the end of conversation I get to know that she is Benita Štrausa, the head of the local municipality, later I also got to know that she is friends with Jurgita). Yes, she saw the performance, but she has a person next to her who can tell much more. I’m saying that I would like to hear also her opinion. She tells that she met the artists also before, they were fixing some everyday issues; there were no problems during the residency. Everything went very well*, the artists were very responsible. Their communication with local people was limited because of the language barrier. She also went to yoga classes; they celebrated Midsummer’s Night together, and were also performing together. Six people were going to yoga classes. Benita thinks that it could have been more communication with local people. And what about the performance? The colleague can tell more.

So here I get Jurgita Gruberte on the phone, I didn’t ask her right away who she is but it is clear after couple sentences. Jurgita tells about the performance and the residency as the whole: “It was the raw material of the upcoming performance, but it had the form of the performance; there was also an after party. They were showing what they had done; it was without lighting, without live music. They just started to work on the new piece in Bebrene. They brought manuscript, for one week they worked with it. Showing lasted for 40 minutes, 20 minutes of which were less active, without culmination, so for the inexperienced audience members it was quite tiring and slow, everything happened in slow motion. Next 20 minutes were more active. The artists were also working with the point of view. The audience was sitting on the floor, lower than the performers, so the perception changed. The ideas of the performance were clear; they were broad but not too abstract. The audience was around 30 people, also tourists from Daugavpils and Riga. Unfortunately for the post performance talk very few people stayed. So the artists left without getting an idea about how the work was perceived, they really lacked the discussion. What do people say afterwards? The evaluation is very positive, of course, it is new, it is little scary, but even the older generation appreciated the work, they had something to think about, they had special experience. It is interesting that the younger audience members lacked some show, some glamour, they lacked outer beauty. We are lucky that everything went well and that the artists were satisfied. They had peaceful atmosphere to work productively, we didn’t press them to be involved in everything so they can work conscientiously. The village felt the presence of the residency event but, of course, especially the ones who were interested and wanted to be involved.

The Post office: the person working there didn’t see the performance, she wanted to go to yoga classes but because of the working schedule she couldn’t. I ask if anybody talked about the show. No, nobody has involved in the conversations, the attitude is very neutral. Does she know who went to see the performance? She says she needs to look at the blog again, but what she remembers for sure is that Zelti?u family was there and also some teachers from the school.

The grocery store: the person who picked up the phone said she didn’t go to yoga classes, she is usually tired after the work, and she didn’t want to go to the performance as well because of that. Yes, the artists were shopping. They were buying many different things and they were buying a lot! They were talking in their language and in English, they just got what they wanted and then the shop assistant showed on the cash register how much they should pay. No they didn’t learn Latvian words or phrases. And almost nobody from the local people speaks English. I ask if she knows who went to the performance. She says that she didn’t try to get to know that. But there were very few people; she saw it on the pictures on the blog. I ask whether there are some reactions. She says it is very quiet now, she hasn’t heard any reflections about the performance, but also she hasn’t been particularly interested. The head of local municipality was definitely there – Benita Štrausa; and she is a friend and colleague of Jurgita, she suggested me to call them. I ask whether the librarian was there. Yes, she was there. And I get the cell phone number of the librarian.

The Librarian: I ask whether she saw the performance? Yes she did. I ask if she can tell me about how it was for her, how did she like it. She laughs and then says that she is pretty busy now. I ask if I can back. Yes. When? In 2 hours. Ok. I call exactly in 2 hours. No answer.

The School. There is an answer. She says that everybody are on holiday, she doesn’t know anything, she doesn’t know any journal, she is custodian.

The Culture house: no answer on the phone line, also no answer on the mobile phone of the director In?ra Lapa. I’m not surprised because it is shortly after the Song and Dance festival.  I call In?ra on the next day and got an answer. She wasn’t at the performance because she was in The Song and Dance festival in Riga those days.  She also didn’t go to yoga classes because they were taking place during the time in the evening when she couldn’t come because of the work she needs to do at home. Till now she also hasn’t had time to talk to somebody about the event, because she is busy with preparation for the next events. But she can give the phone number of somebody. She also met the artists during the Midsummer’s events; they were helping out as musicians, playing violin, they were involved in decorating cows with garlands as well. She says the artists are very open, simple people. There were two yoga classes in the culture house; she saw many cars outside at that time. She gives me phone number of Ineta Vasi?evska, she says she definitely went to yoga classes.

Ineta Vasi?evska. She didn’t go to yoga classes, but she will send me the phone number of another girl, who were going. I get sms comes and it is phone number of Inga Zelti?a and I remember that I have heard already from the post office employee that Zelti?i family definitely saw the performance.

Inga Zelti?a. I start with the question about yoga classes (because I was sent to her as the one who went there and also because it somehow sounds that yoga is more popular and easier to talk about than the performance). Inga says she was there only once and that it was interesting. Unfortunately she couldn’t go to all the classes but her sister-in-law was going so she could comment more. I ask whether Inga went to see the performance on July 3rd. Yes, she did and she liked it very much. She likes performances which make her think. It was slow, it switched her off everything; and then the culmination was faster. Afterwards she was thinking what it really was? Inga is trying to imagine how the final result will look like. She is also hoping to go to performance by Ingri which will take place in a forest close to Riga in September (within the Homo Novus festival). I ask whether it was easy to understand the performance. She says that everybody had their own associations; for her it was more about the peace and harmony in the countryside and the contrast of city life when you go to study there. Her 7 years old daughter also enjoyed the performance; she saw it as something mystical, she was watching with great attention. Inga tells that many people came, close to 30, which in her opinion is very good number for the size of the village (I remember that a person in grocery store said that there were very few people). Did they feel them in the village? They were taking their working hours very seriously, during the day they were working. People are busy; the ones who went to yoga met them. They were playing with them during Midsummer’s Night. She says it was very nice, they even didn’t need the notes they prepared for them; they entered into the spirit easily. What the project like this does for the community? It is hard to tell, it was a chance to see other, less usual aspects of the culture, the ones they haven’t experienced. Inga has seen some contemporary dance online before, but not much. Latvian contemporary dance performances haven’t been visiting the area. She says there was a ballet performance in the town not so far and there were very many people. I’m expressing my doubts that contemporary dance wouldn’t bring so many. Inga says that for the first time when people don’t know what it is many will come, then the next time the ones who really want will stay. She also stresses that people never buy tickets in advance, they are always busy and don’t know the plans, because the weather matters a lot in countryside.


*underlined are some phrases which seem to be important and telling a lot about some general ideas, feelings, values and perception of the residency and contemporary dance