Anelia Yaneva

The Contemporary Choreography Classes established in 2014 at the SWU, Blagoevgrad, were oriented towards dance forms that had not been taught academically until then: hip-hop and break, salsa, belly dance, tap dancing, rock and roll, taught along with the established classical, character dance, Bulgarian traditional and competitive dance, contact improvisation, jazz, Graham technique dance, contemporary dance, dance theatre. These choreographic graduation performances presented a wide range of subjects and dance techniques.

Samodiva (a fairy, the word means self-admiring or a deity in herself) by Tsveta Dimitrova-Purzhelova and A Samovila Whirling (samovila i.e., running wild or a whirl in herself) by Monika Beliova are contemporary Bulgarian folk renditions.

Samodiva is more expressive in terms of dance, with sharp and categorical oppositions between the bacchanal model and the spontaneous behaviour of the samodivas and the well-arranged folk regularity of the village: lads and lassies on the village green, courtship from afar, playing the wooden pipe, display of men’s strengths in chopping wood. Eventually, spontaneity gets the upper hand: the samodivas kill the benighted woodcutters, sparing only the life of their sister’s beloved. The lad returns his sweetheart her wreath, a magical attribute that gives him power over her that costs him dear: he goes blind for good so that he may never be able to see a more beautiful girl.

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A Samovila Whirling by Monika Beliova is staged in a more elegiac vein. Samovilas take off their wings at a drinking fountain. A lad finds the latter thus gaining power over the fairies. Still, they succeed in getting their wings back and fly off with the exception of one of them. Instead of her wings (gauzy veils are used) she receives a red flower (as a symbol of the lad’s love) and a red pinafore (reminiscent of Bulgarian traditional peasant costumes). Unable to adapt to the ways of life of the villagers she dreams of her free life. Aware of her anguish, the lad voluntarily gives her wings back, and when he finds her again ‘in a land far, far away’, she is again reluctant to join him, returning his flower and leaving him with no choice at all but to hold her red pinafore in his arms as a memory of his flown away love. In this rendition, the events are too many, while choreographically, the divide between the untethered flight of love and the earthbound love is more illustratively represented.

Society by Emil Katsarov alludes to Romeo and Juliet in a teen rendition: here two school gangs are at enmity with each other, proving themselves in dancing. The choreography is completely in the style of street dances. The merry dancer with a cassette deck is associated with Mercutio, while Lilly (member of one of the gangs) and Atanas (member of the other) are associated with Juliet and Romeo respectively. The conflict between Atanas and Kiril (a version of Tybalt) has been resolved using dance battle and hip-hop outplays. It is dance that unites the finales of both gangs. Emil Katsarov’s staging is a success given the difficulty to build a storyline by means of hip-hop.

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Notably, though, audiences more easily understood and reacted more adequately to those of the performances, where conflicts were presented in aggressive enough and clearly visible oppositions. Contemporary spectators apparently have difficulties to grasp metaphoricity and allusions.

In Love and Duty by Eleonora Lazarova the antagonism is suggested as early as the title. Its idea was borrowed from the performance of Hungarian shadow dance troupe Attraction, winners at Britain’s Got Talent, freely available online. Eleonora Lazarova is the author of the choreography. A man goes to war but the memory of him survives in his newborn daughter. The choreography is cantered around two duets: between the man bidding his farewell to his wife and the finale, when both of them repeat the same movements but divided between this world and the afterworld. The child appears in the end touchingly shedding further light on the main idea: life conquers death. Unlike the nice and graceful movements in the duets, military actions as opposed to love are rendered by mechanised, automatically repeated acts of aggression and hatred.

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Alexandra Petrova’s Jealous till the Last Breath is centred on a love triangle, The most interesting is the fight between the two rivals, a strikingly staged fight: the girl’s attempt to make peace between the men, explaining her behaviour, ends in a lethal blow. Her partner hits her with the aggression he fought his rival and kills her. It is all about the destructive and self-destructive force of jealousy. The choreography is in the style of modern dance.

Summertime by Matiela Apostolova failed to be appreciated perhaps due to its metaphoricity and lack of categorical antagonisms. Built around two triangles, but not love triangles, the characters are treated rather as signs or symbols. One of the triangles comprises a reading girl and two men, a destroyer and a conciliator. In the second triangle, two allegedly reading girls compete, through their seemingly ‘intellectual activity’, for the destroyer’s attention. In the end, both men, the destroyer and the conciliator, raise the ‘reading girls’, i.e. book, knowledge, as a flag. The choreography combines competitive dance, salsa and modern, but the characters lack distinctive choreographic characteristics.

Maria Angelova’s A Two-dimensional World, is structurally the most complex, unfolding in three parallel worlds: the real one, the everyday life of a married couple, where the husband comes home at night from work, eating automatically and expressionlessly and having no time for her (the chorography here is brought closer to everyday life (to Japanese percussion instruments); the world of the young wife’s visions reflecting her dreams of love and beauty. Her intimate world is represented by a minuet, jig, bows and movements in Renaissance style, combined with modern dance and fine supports (to Vivaldi’s music). With the Cosmic Love couple (to Zaz’s song) love is associated with a glowing light played in a duet.

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In real world, the young woman, hurt by her husband’s escalating rudeness and lack of understanding, eventually hits back figuratively and literally: he falls on the floor and dies. His body is carried away by the figures of the dancing visions and at this point the two worlds merge. When, though, the dancing Cosmic Couple present their flicker of love, the husband’s rudeness might have also proved to be a vision. In the end, the man comes home from work as he did in the beginning, but she has changed: she throws herself in his arms, unlike the previous intimidated and obedient wife, openly articulating her love and thus rekindling his own fading love.

This is coupled with verbal monologuea by the main female character and the man in the Cosmic Couple (a variant of contact improvisation), who comments as an external observer ‘We just peep through the keyhole, but there are people living inside’, but he is the bright side of her husband’s soul, charred by work. The spoken text and the multilayer choreographic and directorial structure of Maria Angelova approximate her production to the genre characteristics of dance theatre.

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The response both of the audiences and the commission to these choreographic graduation performances shows that the new dance techniques are making their way with difficulty and have to be further promoted; that street dance, salsa, competitive dance should build models of representing storylines and actions, and that, unfortunately, a more directly brought forth conflict and openly shown violence on stage are increasingly preferred in dance productions, either because they are more comprehensible or because they are reflections of the processes witnessed in films and often, at theatre.

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