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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Innovative Dance Film Festival Comes to Moscow

For MTThe festival, featuring a wide range of films about dance, opens Nov. 21 in Moscow.
ST. PETERSBURG -- Kinodance, an international festival of groundbreaking films about dance and choreography, is coming to Moscow, St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg later this month.

The festival includes short and feature-length films on dance from Russia and 15 other countries, and aims to bridge the gap between professional filmmakers and the dance scene.

Dance videos from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Arkhang-elsk will be showcased at the festival, competing for a grant to create a new dance film and the chance to be shown at next month's Monaco Dance Forum.

The festival, which starts Nov. 10 in St. Petersburg and moves to Moscow for the week of Nov. 21-27, is organized with the support of an array of Russian and U.S. arts foundations, including Moscow's DOM Cultural Center and Museum of Cinema, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, St. Petersburg's ProArte Institute, the Dance Films Association, the Yekaterinburg Contemporary Art Center and the National Endowment for the Arts.

One of the festival's organizers, Vadim Kasparov, director of St. Petersburg's Kannon Dance School, said, "St. Petersburg is famous for classical ballet, but it is important that the world knows that modern art is alive here too."

Films from Britain, the United States, France, Japan, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Germany, Australia, Slovenia, Hungary, Italy and Belgium will be on show at the festival.

One of the festival programs puts together music videos and fast-paced short films created by digital technology, including a film called "Imagine," by Zbigniew Rybchinsky and Yoko Ono.

There are also films exploring the historical aspects of dance, such as the award-winning documentary "Four Emperors and One Nightingale" by Alexander van der Meer, which tells how the lost ballet "Le Chant du Rossignol," based on a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, was produced by Sergei Diaghilev for his Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. The original ballet, set to music by Igor Stravinsky, with costumes and decor by Henri Matisse and choreography by George Balanchine, made 14-year-old Alicia Markova into a star, and was reconstructed by two "ballet archaeologists" and performed again at the Holland Dance Festival in 1999.

The festival combines screenings with master classes on making dance videos and performances. Adding to the experimental nature of the festival is the debate between contemporary dance artists, filmmakers and choreographers about what constitutes dance video.

"There is a lot of argument in the world as to what dance video is as a genre," Kasparov said. "We take a more general approach, as we believe that just showing dance movements would be too literal. The camera itself should dance as well as the subject that it follows. And I am sure animation can fit here too."

Dance video does not necessarily mean documentaries or traditional ballet films, he said. Documenting choreography is good for educational purposes, when it is essential to reproduce the moves precisely. But to plunge the audience into the atmosphere of the show, a different approach is required.

"If you sit watching a ballet, you are naturally guided by the choreographer, and your instincts tell you where to look," Kasparov said. "When the same show is adapted for the camera, the director has to emphasize certain scenes, movements or body parts with a close-up or a prolonged shot."

Dance on camera is enjoying a worldwide boom, Kasparov said.

"Three years ago there were 10 festivals of dance video worldwide, but now the figure has jumped to 24 regular international events," he said. "Russia is late as usual, but not hopelessly late."

In 1997, when Kasparov and his wife Natalya, a dancer and choreographer, started their school, they ran around offering classes to local colleges and universities but without much success. Their first students were much more concerned about their physical appearance than the philosophy of jazz or modern dance, and attended the school to get fit or as training for a job in a strip club.

The school organized the first master class later that year taught by acclaimed choreographer Phil LaDuca, who is still seen as the studio's guiding father. LaDuca came to the school to teach Broadway-style jazz dance.

"I was knocking on the doors of all arts-related universities but kept getting the same reply: 'It is not part of our course,'" Kasparov said. "Musical theater in Russia was nonexistent then, but I swear I already knew there would be a boom. Now I see I was right."

The first jazz dance class attracted just 27 students, but at the Open Look Festival in St. Petersburg earlier this year, there were over 250 dancers. The school's former students have even begun opening their own studios around town, Kasparov said.

The dancers these days want to get into musical theater, rather than become nightclub dancers. Last week the school hosted a casting session for the Russian version of "Cats," which is expected to premiere in Moscow in March.

Enthusiasm for modern dance has even reached Salekhard in northwestern Siberia, from where five young dancers came to the Phil LaDuca master class in 2002.

"We live in the far north, so it takes quite a while for cultural trends to reach us, but we know musical theater is booming in Moscow," said Venyamin Taragupta, head of a modern dance school for children in Salekhard.

"Our town is so small we don't even have a theater, but I'm sure a musical will be staged there because we very much want it to happen."

For more about the Kinodance festival, go to: www.kinodance.com/russia