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To Saldus and back: Four days in the world of contemporary dance as theory and practice

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Elena Angelova

Even though it’s already a week since my trip to Saldus, Latvia, I still remember the exiting conversations around the house by the lake, people from all over the world who share the same interest as I do and, of course, the sauna. This experience was at the same time a pleasure and a chance for learning new tendencies in the field of contemporary dance. For me it remains as the brightest memory from this summer.

Here I will share some reflections from this year’s edition of the international festival “The new dance into the new venue”. The project integrates professionals in the field of theory and practice of contemporary dance and they come from all over the world - Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Estonia, USA, France and Bulgaria.
In the panel discussions the goal was to provoke a debate concerning the question of what is a good dance critique today? What is a good dance artist? What is a good dance audience? Despite of my uncertainty in the meaning of this concept at first, later I understood that in the process of discussion it keeps transforming, developing and by the end of the session there’s an enlarged and enriched notion with the help of the good practices from other countries.

Each morning of the three-day program started as a short dance class, leaded by the different dance practicians - guests of the festival. Luciana Achugar (USA) put us through dynamic meditation, with Moa Sahlin (Sweden)  we experienced a short authors training and Elina Gaitjukeviča (Latvia) introduced us to automatic movement, inspired by the automatic writing from the dada tendency. How many different approaches only in three days!

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This impression came also from the lectures later in the days. Through Annemari Autereand (France) for the first time I started thinking about dance as biology, by the means of the function of the organs and by realizing the fascia in the body. After she presented to us her book “Ballet Body Logic”, Max Ryynänen (Finland) theorized over the roles a critique has nowadays. Classic philosopher by education, he gave us a knowledgeable context of the event, giving examples from Lessing to Lyotard for the washed away borders between the roles of the dramaturge and the critique.
The next to last evening we viewed “Corpuss”, a performance, invited from Riga in the Saldus Art School and we had a chance to have a glimpse from the contemporary dance scene in Latvia. Of course, long after that we debated over and over again about what we saw, about the tendencies in our countries. This lead to me writing an article, “On two performances in Saldus”, published in the internet platform for dance critique

The organizer (or the dramaturge?) of the event, Inta Balode (Latvia) made a dynamic surrounding in a peaceful atmosphere (Inta Balode is also the creator of the above mentioned web portal). Swimming in the lake, panel discussions, dance classes in- and outdoors, lectures and sauna easily took place one after another and the time passed quicker and quicker.


So here the last night of the festival came, as we called it, “the performance night” - upon the new (and surprisingly fitted for contemporary dance) stage. Here Annemari Autere created a performance with the children from the school and the rest of the guests-artists from the festival. After that me and Elena Jacinta (Latvia) performed a short presentation of “Tongue” , called “Tongue: Translations” and the final there was Moa Sahlin, who presented her solo “Summer feet in Saldus”. One really fascinating evening, in which theory, practice and critique from the field of contemporary dance joined in a truly amazing experience.

All of this would never happen without the support of Derida Dance Center, Nordic-Baltic Mobility program, “Culture”, Kulturkontakt Nord, Trust for mutual understanding, Movement research, Valsts Culturcapitala fonds.

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