The dancing wolf(s). About the project “45+”


Vilnis Bīriņš, participant of the project

To tell about the project “45+” (Network, Lifelong Dance Practice: Project 45+), inspired by Olga Žitluhina, I must tell about myself. This is also a lesson from this project. Whenever I speak about something in generalisations, Ramona Galkina smiles and asks with mild irony: “How can you know that?” I sigh and once again admit that she is right.

There was once a time when I was obsessed with stories. They were generated by my fantasy in large amounts. They seemed so important to me that I could not keep them to myself. I had to share with someone. There was something in them, inexpressible by words and the only way I could tell would be – by movement. Others may call it dance.

There were many people around me. However, as time went by, I recognized that I had become the lone wolf. I danced hidden in the deep forests. In order to return to the city – to perform on the stage, I had to gather all my willpower. This was the way many of my shows were made, for many of which the second title might as well be “This is the last one”.

Then Olga offered me to get involved in the project “45+”. I agreed to the offer with great joy. I felt tempted to create a performance alongside experienced dancers and choreographers from the Baltic and Nordic countries, whose biographies are surpassing each other in brilliance. At the time of the first meeting, I rubbed my hands and began to pour out questions in a way I had accustomed to: “What kind of performance are we going to create? Who is going to be the choreographer? Director?! What about music?! When is the premiere planned?!” What I got in return was a cooling reply: “We are not going to make a performance. This is Networking!” I guess that the disappointment on my face was so obvious, that Ramona came to cheer me up: “Enjoy the process!”. The wolf inside had lost his vigilance and skipped one of the compounds of the name Networking – “net”! It goes this way when you let yourself go with emotions. But it was too late. The net had already been thrown. And I awaited every coming workshop with increasing impatience. Ant there was a reason for that.

A class at the Stellaris Dance Theatre (Norway). Photo from participant’s archive.

I am delighted to enjoy every second at the workshop of Francesco Scavetta (Norway/Italy). It is fantastic to give in and let go with the movement of released body.

Unexpectedly the Estonian “fine-mechanic” Karl Saks offers a theme that had already then occupied my mind for several years, and of which I, myself had lead workshops. We were investigating internal and external impulses.

In the storytelling workshop by Oleg Soulimenko there are many new techniques. I let a partner to lead me in an unknown direction and to ask questions while being blindfolded. The voice I hear change the direction and proximity all the time, the volume changes from scream to whisper. Or in another case – we lay on the floor with our eyes closed and start by creating a blur of sounds that gradually turns into one united storyline.

In Pärnu the workshop by director and choreographer Sasha Pepeljajev (Estonia/Russia) is dedicated to the theme that I have had discussed a lot – the semiotics of dance. It is an intellectual pleasure to create the signs of movement and choreography constructions, that others are asked to decipher.

Benno Voorham is able to offer countless structures of improvisation.

Under the lead Sally E. Dean (USA/UK) we experiment with various objects that alter the movement of the body (we tie our bodies with rubber; we lengthen our fingers with bird feathers…). I flashback to a memory of a work started, but unfinished. In the theatre residence of Ansis Rūtentals director Māra Ķimele had a beautiful idea about a stoun in the body of a human.

In Hammerfest we were joiking together with Sámi singer and joik practitioner Maritu Overli Hetu. She is such an interesting personality that even the shortest meeting with her creates an imprint on you.

In Estonia, we spent a whole day in the residence of a choreographer, yoga instructor and a chef of natural whole foods – Marika Blossfeldt. After yoga sessions, when every participant of the group has to prepare and to serve a meal made by themselves, it is a great challenge to my cooking skills. My competence of cooking eggs in three different ways has been now supplemented by a new peak of my cooking – corn cob stew.

A class by Fiona Millward (Great Britain). Photo from participant’s archive.

The days of the workshops are heavy loaded from dusk till dawn. For example, a day in Hammerfest: there is an hour and a half long class, provided by programme of Dance Festival Barents, then there are  two and a half hour lesson for the workshop, then – lunch, after that three hour long creative workshop, an hour of free time and after which – evening performance for the festival.

A collective full of trust and free atmosphere was formed unnoticeably, in it – nobody had to prove anything, which creates the opportunity for the free creative process. And, yes, my wolf had started to enjoy being in a pack. To enjoy the humour of Rene; the seriousness of Tina; the spontaneity of Olga; the tolerance of Ramona; the talented comic style of Toby; the talent of Solveig – to push people to commit till the work is done; the witty dialogues of Fiona and Oleg; the mystery of Goda and finally – every group’s participant’s ability to surrender to the dance with their whole being.

Over the hill. Photo from the archive of the participants.

After two years since the beginning of the project, something surprising happens –contrary to the specified project’s goals, there are performance shows beginning to emerge.

In Latvia and Austria performance, “You Might Think We Are Sisters” is created by Oleg Soulimenko, Olga and Ramona. The roots of this show can be found in Norway, Hammerfest. When Oleg Soulimenko came to the festival DanseFestival Barents and found out about the project “45+”, he lit up and was eager to create a performance with Olga and Ramona!

Performance show ”You Might Think We Are Sisters”. Publicity photo.

In the first workshop of the project, we discuss our thoughts about our strong and weak points and almost everyone agrees that our strong point is in the ability to speak openly. This performance is proof that these were not just words.

In Norway, “Tomorrow´s Witnesses” is created by Solveig Leinan-Hermo, and dance company Stellaris Dance Theatre. It tells a story about people, who are forced to leave their homes because of the war. The inhabitants Hammerfest as well as refugees that had just recently came there, participated in the performance. In one of the project’s “45+” workshops, Benno Vorham speaks of his experience when working with refugees, and this is the reason Solveig invites him to become the director and choreographer of the emerging show.

Stellaris Dance Theatre (Norway) performance Tomorrow´s Witnesses”. Publicity photo.

Together with Ramona and Olga we participate in a project organised by choreographer Ilze Zīriņa – “Klātbūtnes dueti” (“The Presence of Duets”) – it creates a movement towards annual contemporary dance festival “Laiks dejot” (Time to Dance). In it, there are duets (or trio) that meet up in city ​​environment in order to concentrate together only towards movement and dance.

The Presence of Duets” trio in the festival „Time to dance” (Laiks dejot). Photo: Guna Bīriņa

For the participants of these duets, it is offered to join in the light installation of Peter Terezakis (USA) and Allyson Green (USA) – a dance improvisation show “Heart Beats Lights”. There is a trip to Norway organised by Ilze Zīriņa and Inta Balode, there Latvian dancers are joined with dance company of Solveiga. This performance opens the dance festival of Hammerfest (DanseFestival Barents). The architecture of Hammerfest’s Artic Culture Centre able us to form a show in two stories of the building and it can be seen by spectators outside through the glass walls.

Light instalation – dance performance „Heart Beats Lights” by Peter Terezakis (USA) and Allyson Green (USA)

There forms an ironic as well as serious story “Rumpeldance” in one of the project’s workshops, it’s about the everyday life of dancers and choreographers and it is performed in the hall of Hammerfest’s dance festival. The participants of the performance – Tiina Ollesk, Renee Nõmmik, Guna Bīriņa, Olga, Vilnis, Aira Naginevičute-Adomaitiene, Goda Laurinavičiūtė un Solveiga are joined by vigorous British actor Gvin Von.

Tina and Rene invite Olga to Tallinn and there forms a show “I was here” in the dance company “Fine5 Dance Theatre”.

Estonian dance company „Fine5 Dance Theatre” performance „I was here”. Photo: Rene Nommik

In Riga, installation in dance “RE VERA” is created. The author of the idea and the choreographer is Olga. Dancers are Ramona and Vilnis.

Installation in dance RE VERA. Photo: Jūlija Žitluhina

And so, each new project inspires the next one. And the performance shows continue to be created. And now also the project itself has grown into a next one- BET – Body Experience Time.

Now there is a place for my wolf to return. And there is no need for that second title for my performances.

About the history of the project “45+”

Baiba Ozoliņa, project producer

It all began in the year 2016, when together with Olga Žitluhina we formulated an old idea of hers, about a project united with the older generation of foreign colleagues. The idea was to make a project in order to dance, to exchange experience and to continue life on the stage.

In the year 2016 we received a grant from the Nordic-Baltic Mobility Programme for Culture – for the short-term project implementation of the dancers networking “Lifelong Dance Practice: Project 45+” (for three meetings of the participants per one year), but by the year 2017 we received long-term support. Then the funding was received for nine activities – meetings of participants – for the scope of three years. There are three partners in this project – association “PARTY” (Latvia), “Fine 5 Dance Theatre” (Estonia) and “Stellaris DansTeater” (Norway). In the year 2020 it was not possible to meet face to face, therefore we were forced to make two of our meetings via Zoom and to extend the project implementation time. The last meeting for the project take place in Jurmala (Latvia) from May 30th to June 5th, 2021.

The project “45+” in these years has grown to become a stable network of artists. There have been 10 face-to-face residencies in various cities – Riga, Pärnu, Hammerfest, Kuldiga and Jurmala. Each meeting consists of 10–12 dancers from different national background, there are workshops organised, participants as well as guest artists lead that.

 The following dance professionals have participated in the project meetings – Benno Voorham, Sybrig Dokter (Sweden), Arnis Siliņš, Agris Daņiļevičs (Latvia), Aira Naginevičiūte – Adomaitiene (Lithuania), Irina Pahn (Estonia), but a stable basic unit have become – Tiina Ollesk (Estonia), Renee Nõmmik (Estonia), Oleg Ostanin (Estonia/Finland), Solveig Leinan-Hermo (Norway), Nikolay Shchetnev (Norway/Russia), Virpi Juntti (Finland), Toby Gunn (Sweden/England), Fiona Millward (England), Goda Laurinavičiūtė (Lithuania), Olga Žitluhina, Ramona Galkina un Vilnis Bīriņš (Latvia). Workshops have been led by – Karl Saks (Estonia), Külli Roosna (Estonia) and Kenneth Flak (Norway), Sasha Pepeljajev (Russia/Estonia), Marika Blossfeldt (Estonia), Branko Potočan (Slovenia), Francesco Scavetta (Italy/Norway), Sally E. Dean (USA/UK), Anna Grete Eriksen (Norway), Marit Haeta Overli (Norway) etc.

The value of this idea has been acknowledged European Union and a support for the continuation of the project – “BET – Body. Experience. Time through 45+ Dancers” – has been given trough project contest “Creative Europe”. This project works with the same partners as the previous one. In this case, for the scope of three years, meetings will be held, by bringing together 12 dance professionals that have already been acquainted and there a plan of making a dance performance together. There is also a plan to perform in six European countries, wider cooperation with dance artists from different countries, exchange of experience in cooperation with other age groups.

Next project`s meeting – residency take place at the end of June, 2021 in Tampere, Finland in collaboration with “Dance Theatre MD” and Anniina Kumpuniemi personally.

Based on this experience, “PARTY” and Olga Žitluhina would like to expand this idea in Latvia by taking care of and uniting the older generation of Latvian dance artists, organizing master classes. Because life is not just about dance, it is also about learning.

Thanks to Nordic Culture Point and Creative Europe for their support.

Title photo: project participants, photo by Olga Žitluhina.