Opening Program Program I  Program II  Program III Program IV Program V Program VI Program VII   Program VIII  Program IX Program X Program XI Russian Dance Film Competition Closing Program

Program IX: Phantasmagoria from Eastern Europe

Dance Film/ Video/ New Technology collaborations in Eastern Europe are now considered to be a new realm of exploration for contemporary dancers and filmmakers. However, Eastern European dance and film have repeatedly encountered each other throughout the history of cinema. For example, world famous film-ballets and ballet-animations were created. One of the great examples of such dance film “encounters” is Alexander Belinsky’s “Anyuta” based on Anton Chekhov’s story “Anna na shee” (“Anna on the neck”) with Ekaterina Maximova and Vladimir Vassiliev. This ballet was created specifically for the camera. In his book “The Old Tango,” Belinsky ruminates on the notion of “televisionnost”, i.e. different ways to expand the choreography beyond the stage such as changing action locations, having the same dancer play different characters, etc., he writes, “’Televisionnost’ is something that is not possible in the Ballet theatre; it is supposed to be figured out in the script, it gives dynamism to the spectacle and compensates for real time on screen. “Anyuta” was the first film-ballet that demonstrates ‘televisionnost' consciously rather than intuitively." Belinsky introduces the term montage choreography, and points out that Vladimir Vassiliev, the choreographer of “Anyuta,” constructed all mass scenes in the editing room. The success of “Anyuta” was so remarkable that the choreography found its re-incarnation on the stages of the Bolshoi and Naples Theatres.

The reason that film-ballets have been the major form of dance and film collaboration is that during the years of the Soviet era, ballet was almost the only "allowed" form of artistic expression in terms of body movement while most of the film production happened under the umbrella of the large film studios and on 35mm. As a result, experimental film tradition has never fully developed and therefore, unlike in the US, for example, the space for short dance film experiments has never been created.

Meanwhile, the word “choreography’ has not been alien to filmmakers since the day film technology allowed filmmakers to pick up the camera in their hands and virtuously ‘pas’ with it creating intricate choreography to express a certain idea or evoke a certain feeling. One of the stunning examples of this kind of choreographic exploration is I am Cuba, a film by Mikhail Kalatozov. In this film, cinematographer and cameraman Sergey Urussevskii repeatedly choreographs complex multi-layered scenes. In the opening shot of the film Urussevskii journeys with the camera from the roof top of the hotel where a jazz band performs, through the staircases portraying the views of the city to the pool area where wealthy Americans are brunching and finally diving into the pool itself. There are quite a few similar shots in the film and each of them requires precise and meticulous coordination, i.e. choreography, of the actors and the camera around them.

Within the last fifteen years, with the fall of communist regimes, the re-birth of modern dance in Eastern Europe, exposure to a diverse range of contemporary dance traditions from around the world and the de-centralization of film production new alleys have opened for every dancer and film / video maker to experiment with and explore the hybrid genre of dance film. At the same time, the Eastern European audiences have yet to discover the potential of the dance film genre. There are only a few dance films made in each Eastern European county every year, and most producing companies and TV stations in Eastern Europe have quite a limited understanding of dance film. They treat it as either a documentation of a performance, a reportage about a dance festival or other dance event, a TV special about a ballerina hosted by a renown critic or, in the best case scenario, a film adaptation of a ballet. For many producers, dance film still stays a mystery.

But there are exceptions in each country. For example, in Slovenia, the dance company En-Knap managed to obtain support from the Slovenian Ministry of Culture, and every couple of years produces a short film on 35mm. At the same time, in Poland, a town of Lodz, a home for the Polish National Film School and one of the contemporary choreography centers, hosts the Festival of Kino Tanca. The directors of the festival brought film and dance school together and as a result, the first dance films were produced. And finally, our own festival KINODANCE in St. Petersburg.

With the fall of the “iron curtain,” many Eastern European choreographers and filmmakers work and sometimes even move abroad. Although they live outside Eastern Europe, their work often possess certain sensibilities in the spirit of Eastern European Literature, Theatre and Cinema – phantasmagoric narratives and characters, dark humor and sarcasm, surreal hyperbolized sets and design along with lyricism, romantic sadness, and eternal quest for perfection and redemption of the soul through deep suffering.

Narava Beso 20 min, 35mm on video, 1995, Slovenia
Director: Patrick Otten, Iztok Kovac; Choreographer: Iztok Kovac

"The point of reference in Iztok Kovac's work is often his home town Trbovlje. Trbovlje is a mining town and and also the Slovene symbol of gray, polluted and forsaken landscape of socialist heavy industry. Kovac's returns to his home-town should not be understood merely as nostalgia or personal sentimentality, but as a return to the source of his own physical constitution, which was formed when surrounded by the bodies of workers and miners, in the alternating rhythm of work and rest, in the environment constantly reminding one of the irreconcilable conflict between civilization and nature.

Thus his film Narava Beso reveals, on the one hand, his personal attitude towards the realistic ambience of his home-town and on the other, enriched with wider connotations and forming itself into a certain poetical structure, his understanding of the actual world."

"The film takes place in seven different locations that have one thing in common: they are places of the past, of someone's youth and childhood, places from a different social climate and human history where hard physical work took place. In the film, suddenly this site, marked with activity, which had stopped due to certain historical necessity, is taken by a group of dancers. Yet, surprisingly, they do not move. Instead they are just listening to the far away sounds and rhythms. But if or when they decide to move again, they move carefully and thoughtfully, as following the complex energetic currents, encoded in this grounds". - En-Knap

Iztok Kovac is a solo dancer, choreographer and the founder of EN-KNAP, an international dance group. En-Knap was founded in Ljubljana, Slovenia in 1994. With nine dance projects choreographed by Iztok Kovac - “Spread Your Wings (you clumsy Elephant),” “Sting and String – first touch, Codes of Cobra, Far From Sleeping Dogs,” “Emanatio Protei, The Perfect step?” “Hu Die, Met Kocke” and “S.K.I.N.,” the company has introduced and established its own aesthetics inside the European dance scene and formed its own idiosyncratic identity. En-Knap have had over 300 reprises of nine performances, held on world-known international dance stages and festivals.

Dancing Figure (Táncalak) 72 min, 35mm on video, 1998-2002, Hungary
Director: Ferenc Grunwalsky; Choreographer: Andrea Ladányi

Text: Ottó Orbán Composer: György Kurtág

Photo by Ferenc Grunwalsky
"Dancing Figure is a series of dance, music, and memories, in which photos, dance, and film imaging is mixed with 20th century documentation. It focuses on the journey of the ”reviving body”: a series of visions and tribulations. Andrea Ladányi’s movements are a combination of beauty, sport, acrobatics, and dance, both classical and modern. Her dancing figure is a phenomenon, evoking an ancient Greek statue, and is contemporary and otherworldly at the same time. Just like planets in motion, ”none other but perceptual movement and music of many sounds to erect a milestone at the vast river of time.” (34th Hungarian Film Week, Budapest 2003 – Prize to the Director for Visual Expression; Special Prize for Best Performance to Andrea Ladányi).

"An extraordinary symbiosis of the modern dance of Andrea Ladányi, the music of György Kurtág, the graphic drawings of István Nádler, the poetry of Ottó Orbán and Grunwalsky's own talent as a director and cinematographer. Kurtág's music is increasingly internationally famous, yet his atmospheric music has until now not been heard on film soundtracks—the composer has forbidden it, not wanting his compositions to become mere “illustration”. However, Kurtág was so convinced of the merit of the project (based on a series of 1000s of preliminary still photographs taken by Grunwalsky) that he gave his consent. As the title suggests, the focus is primarily on Ladányi and her combination of classical and experimental dance techniques in a series of abstract tableaux that cast the alienation of modern life into bodily form, with dramatic lighting and Nádler's simple line drawings accentuating the physical space Ladányi occupies. Between these scenes, we see archive footage of atrocities of the 20th century: a man being shot, another being hanged." – Andrew James Horton (

Ferenc Grunwalsky studied Hungarian and German Literature and Linguistics at the ELTE University between 1962 and 1964. He then graduated as a director and photographer at the Academy of Performing Arts in 1968. In the sixties he collaborated with Miklós Jancsó and recently they began working together again. He signed the social manifesto in 1969 and was a determining figure of the Béla Balázs Studio for years. Since 1981 he has been the photographer of György Szomjas. He made his first feature film, 'Requiem for a Revolutionary' in 1975.

Andrea Ladányi began her career in dance as a classically trained ballet dancer, graduating from the Hungarian National Ballet school in 1981. She soon became a solo dancer for the Gyôr Ballet Company from 1981 to 1986, under the artistic direction of noted Hungarian choreographer Iván Markó. Ladányi then decided to expand her horizons, veering from her classical training into modern and jazz dance in Toronto, New York, and Los Angeles. From 1989 to 1991, she became a solo dancer for the Helsinki City Theatre in Finland, under internationally acclaimed choreographer Jorma Uotinen, going on to become the solo dancer of the Finnish National Opera for the 1991-1992 season. Over these years, Ladányi experienced important creative exchanges, both in her complicity with Uotinen, and in his creative circle.

She came back to Hungary in 1993, and two years later founded a company of her own, La Dance Company. In 2002 she was appointed Chair of the Movement Department at the Hungarian National Academy of Film and Theatre. Ladányi has received numerous Hungarian theatre, dance and film awards for her work, including the Harangozo prize, the Liszt prize and the Special Award for Female Performance at the 34th Film Week, a yearly festival in Budapest. In addition to her work as a dancer and choreographer, Ladányi has appeared in numerous film and television projects. These have included: a solo in Miklós Jancsó's feature film, The Lord's Lantern.


Opening Program Program I  Program II  Program III Program IV Program V Program VI Program VII   Program VIII  Program IX Program X Program XI Russian Dance Film Competition Closing Program

© Kinodance–Russia, 2004