Contemporary dance as a refusal of traditional schemes and academism

Megi Ndokaj

Megi Ndokaj

Artist – Ballerina

Although not a frequent topic, modern or contemporary dance in Albania has become increasingly more present to the public. We, the young dancers who will perform tomorrow on our stages, are very fond of it and this is the reason why we try to find wide audiences. As it is already known, modern dance has late tradition in our country, immediately after the ‘90’s, whereas in the choreographic world, it starts some 100 years ago with the ballet company of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, as well as Isadora Duncan with “Free dance” as a free form, by surpass the classic dance frozen cliché and the cold academism. The refusal of traditional forms and schemes created long time ago, especially the pointé’s refusal, were perhaps the urge and inspiration of innovative artists to see the art of dance “differently”. The foundation of the modern dance is made of the expressiveness of the movement through the plastic ease and inhibition, dynamics, activation of gesture and mimics, of a high rhythm, physical and mental one, providing a most complete a psychophysical liberation. The ritual, magic, primitive, suggestive element and that of psychic affection are important for this ballet type.
FullSizeRender(3)The first forms of modern dance in our country appeared immediately after big political changes that occurred with the fall of dictatorship and removal of censorship. This was also the time when the first choreographic performances of a different dance typology appeared, especially in some television performances and shows suc as “12 vallëzime pa një të shtunë” (1993) (12 dances without a Saturday); “Rreth fatit për 12 javë” (1994) (Around luck for 12 weeks); “12 in Hollywood” (1995) with the choreography of Kozeta Bakiu, who presents herself as the first choreographer breaking the old format and applying the new choreographic forms. “Our art survives, although modestly”, asserted the choreographer in 1993. “Although it does not fully unfold its level alongside the European art, still it does not feel inferior towards it”.
Starting with these and later performances, one could observe the dancers’ energy and ease, the movements sensuality and technical diversity, a range of expressive tools, not used before because of censorship, against old classical and romantic clichés or those coming from the processed national folk dances. Contemporary dance gave breath, air and dynamics to the dancer’s body. The impression made by the performance of “Tribute to Russian Ballet” by French choreographer of Albanian origins Angelin Preljocaj, in the Summer of 1995 in Tirana, urged the need to make bold artistic application by the Albanian choreographers in the language of modern choreography, where life dynamics was able to come in plastic forms with a high and concrete understanding, which are very attractive dancing ways for the youth.
By absorbing the positive experiences of the modern dance of the XX century in Europe and US, which was identified especially with Duncan’s research, in the light of a difficult conceptual, technical and aesthetic process, our choreographic art applied, in its modern approaches, new dancing techniques, high expressiveness artistic tools, live rhythm and energetic movement, a collage of tools from other art types such as theatre, word, performance, film, television, conversation and happening, forms and free aesthetics.
Although the artistic power of this kind of dance has not been evaluated at the required level and there are sometimes still refusing and underestimating attitudes by the central institutions, still it should be noted that recently, there was a wide development and acceptance of such kind of dance. The choreographer Gjergj Prevazi, with “Albanian Dance Theatre Company”, has brought some interesting performances to the Albanian public, among which: “Tranzicion” (2001), “Kontrast” (2003), cooperation with Christiane Loch and Silvano Mozzini, “Extreme makeover II – culture clash” (2013), “Kontraversal ” (2015). “Contemporary dance is the need to convey an idea or concept in a new and modern language, which does not have a unique address; it is conveyed to the audience without narration, but with emotion” – says Gj. Prevazi.
In their efforts to bring new codes to the art of choreography, it must be pointed out the work of renowned choreographs and lecturers such as Roberta Mone, who, in collaboration with the American choreographer Valerie Green, created the performance with the title “Me dëgjo, më shiko” (2004) and with Valentina Pierandrei, the performance “Kontakt” (2006); Artan Ibershimi with “Ping-pong spekter 1&2”, “Pjesë të memories” and “Identitet”; Riselda Sejdija with “Risi moulin” (2014), “Fenomen” (2014); Arian Sukniqi with “Rituali i jetes “ (2011), “Zorba” (2010), Julind Dervishi with “Share” (2015), “Fanaticum” (2016), Eltjon Merja with “Pushteti i karriges” (2016), “Upside Down” (2017). Their choreographic performances are characterized by original choreographic forms of modern dance, which has brought on stage new dance typologies, and therefore an open area of artistic competition, followed by artistic-oriented alternatives and clear aesthetics, with research to deal with current topics, phenomena of today’s Albanian society, experimenting with the artistic language.
megi1At a qualificative and comparative level with the classic dance, the contemporary dance shows do not have a plot line, i.e., the subject and action connecting some episodes and events is missing. On the contrary, attention is paid towards the state, situation, expressiveness of body movement, the high dancing technique, by conveying to the public different emotions and states of mind, mainly anxious, youthful urge, sensuality or converging situations, meditation-action-urge, according to the physical status of the human body. During dancing, it is not preferable to create a character with a certain historic, social, anthropological physiognomy, but rather self states according to the emotionality of the moment of the choreographic action. This is the reason why, even in Albania, the modern ballet dancers are directed towards their inner feelings, by combining the impulsive and intensive aspects with the quiet and extensive ones, within a psychophysical format visibly fraught with expressiveness. As already mentioned above, by being interdisciplinary modern dance is capable to cohabit with a number of arts, providing as such interesting performances and with a multitude of tools creating strong influence and impact on the public, a homogeneity of ideas, feelings, experiences and states of mind, that converge with world artistic and cultural trends.
The experiences absorbed by modern ballet across the world, starting especially with innovative conceptions of the classical choreographic language by such authors of academic format as Nover, Petipa, Fokin, Nizhinskij, Petit, Cuningam, Kilian and those of the modern expressionist dance, which brought new codes not encountered before, such as Duncan, Graham, Laban, Bezhar, Bausch, Forsythe etc., have certainly influenced significantly on the new tradition that is being created with difficulty in our country, making this dancing style to function simultaneously also as concrete performance on stage, but also as a creative lab in the preparation of new artists, talented ballerinas who must master new dancing techniques.
From the artistic product created on our stages after 1990, as well as from the numerous television performances, one can notice a combination, alternation and an absorption of numerous experinces in the use of movements, gesture, rhythm, dancing techniques, etc. The event of the new century was characterized with numerous efforts towards a consolidation of the contemporary Albanian choreographic art, found in many performances, in particular in: “Katedralja e Parisit” (2003), “Gjenerali i ushtrisë së vdekur”, choreograph Agron Aliaj; “La stravaganza” (2014), “Le Noces” (2015), choreograph Angelin Preljocaj; “Impact&Table” (2014), “Four Pieces” (2015), choreograph Daniel Cardoso; “Carmina Burana” (2015), choreograph Youri Vamos; “Monger” (2016), choreograph Barak Marshall; “Albani me sytë mavi” (dance theater), choreograph Carina Saporta etc. These performances have enriched the arsenal of expressive tools, by creating a natural transition process from historic classical ballet to the modern ballet. In many performances of the modern dance style one encounters, among others, also cinematographic images, voice illustration with a spectre of a multitude of sounds, life noises, astonishing phonic alternations, image and movement combinations, etc. which are a result of a rich and often surreal imagination.
Finally, I would like underline that the experiences of modern dance across the world have knocked strongly on the doors of the learning process at the University of Arts, Choreography Chair, where I am studying. Currently, different techniques of contemporary dance are applied with the students, such as: “Graham” and “Lemon”, or “contact improvisation”, “floor work” etc. Some performances of the dancetheater type have been part of a number of international festivals, such in Switzerland, Italy, Egypt, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, etc. I think that this dance style with have a greater performing space in the future, as it is very much liked and applauded by the large part of art lovers. How about us, the young dancers, what is our relationship to modern dance? There is a simple answer to this question: we are and will continue to be interpreter in all competitive choreographic styles, in order to have the arsenal of our artistic tools, because it is only through the stylistic combination and performing patterns that our artistic personality as young ballerinas can be shaped.