|Silk Scarf in Red Square|
This radical notion, that meditating on our hearts enables us to engage with the world from a compassionate perspective, was joyfully present during the Free Poetry and Free Dance: Embodied Sense in Motion conference this weekend, hosted by Moscow State University. Scholars and artists from throughout Russia, England, Italy, France, Switzerland, and the United States defined, questioned, and refined the notion of freedom in poetry and dance through scholarship, workshops, and performances. Duncan, who also insisted, “The day when Russia and America understand each other will mark the dawn of a new epoch for humanity” (Isadora Speaks, ed. Rosemont), would have been elated.
|"Time Pieces" from Moscow concert|
Monday morning, before I boarded an Atlanta-bound plane from Moscow, my friend Petr said to me, “Meg, you always have adventures in Moscow.” How true! So, for this post, I’m departing from my usual style to share a bit about my experiences this week (in other words, this post is long!).
Sunday, a week ago, I flew out of Austin with the instructions to pick up my bags, pass through customs, and wait—they weren’t sure who, but hopefully someone would be there to meet me. How excited I was to come out of the security area on Monday morning and see Irina Zenkevich, a dancer with Inessa Kulagina’s Alekseeva’s Gymnastics group, with whom I performed at Chersonesos in Crimea in 2007. She shuttled me through a corridor to a new train connecting Sheremetyevo International Airport to the Moscow city center. And the train! Sleek, modern, chic, as Irina said, with special room for baggage and station announcements in both Russian and English. This was a very different experience from when I visited Moscow in 2008 and had to cram my suitcase into an already over-full bus for a traffic-jammed ride to the nearest metro station. This was also a quite different reception from the one Duncan received when she emigrated to Russia in 1921 to establish a state-supported school, and no one met her at the train station, not fully believing that she was serious about moving to Moscow.
|Irina at Chersonesos, 2007|
|Rehearsal at Prometheus Studio|
|Lecture for psychology students,|
Moscow State University
Both sessions were exciting reunions with friends—Natalia Fedunina, a Heptachor dancer and psychologist, came to translate for Victoria’s seminar, and Aida is not only a psychology professor at Moscow State University, but also the director of Heptachor and one of the conference organizers. The aspect of my relationship with these Russian dancers that I love the most is how our mutual interests overlap in many contexts. To me, this is evidence of dance into life—we share not only movement practices with similar histories, but also a desire to heal, transform, and inspire others through all aspects of our work, as artists, teachers, and scholars.
Thursday, theoretically a day off, I finalized my choreographic choices and rehearsed on my own, and I also caught up with some old friends. Moscow, like Austin, is a city with piquing interest in various mind/body/spirit practices, and I enjoyed a great vegetarian lunch with my friend Alex at Jagannath, a cafeteria-style Indian buffet (Austinites, picture Mr. Natural with Indian food).
|Cheryl and Fiorenza|
The Friday evening performances were varied and engaging, and opened with musical offerings by university students. Vincent Barras shared his soundpoetry work, structured compositions exploring a range of dynamic vocal sounds, and Max Rotschild and Julia Idlis performed a collage-like dialogue between poetry and jazz themes improvised on electric guitar. After the performance, I caught up with my friends Natasha and Sveta over coffee, brainstorming projects for the future over cappuccinos with heart-shaped dollops of foam.
|Tagliamaccco piece, from concert|
Four groups shared work, including Inessa Kulagina’s Alekseeva’s Gymnastics group and Heptachor (two groups I performed with in Crimea in 2007). Both groups are influenced by Duncan; the Alekseeva group dances work passed down from Ella Ivanova Rabenek (Ellen Tells), a former student in the Elizabeth Duncan school in Germany who taught dance for MXAT (Stanislavsky’s Moscow Art Theatre School), and Heptachor continues the work of Stefanida Rudneva, the early-twentieth-century founder of the original Heptachor group, consisting of seven women from St. Petersburg who were inspired by Duncan’s first performances there. The full house enthusiastically received the dances, erupting into rhythmic clapping after Heptachor’s enactment of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. The local television arts station gave the concert generous coverage—even coming into the dressing room to record interviews before the performance.
|Teaching at Prometheus Studio|
Sunday, I taught classes in both Isadora Duncan dance and Noyes Rhythm and I participated in Steve Batts’ contact improv workshop and a Butoh class led by St. Petersburg artists from Odd Dance Theatre, Natalia Ahestovskaya and Grigory Glazunov. Sunday evening, the conference wound down with a warm dinner at Sisters Grimm, complete with toasts and well wishes for the travelers. After the dinner, I wandered around the city with my friends Alex and Sveta, ducking into the Bulgakov museum and having coffee in a café before heading to Natasha’s for the night. Sveta, Natasha, and I stayed up way too late, drinking tea, reminiscing, and singing while Sveta played guitar. After just a few hours of sleep, Natasha and I headed off to the train station, waving goodbye and promising to keep in better touch.
|Universal Gesture, in Red Square|
Next week—a much shorter and more local post…