The New Generation Of Choreographers

Origins. In "Experimentalism in Romanian Choreographic Art between the 60's and the 90's", published in 1997, Liana Tugearu made the following remarks: "After a very short period of storing and decanting, a few young dancers broke away from the established companies and formed, in their turn, new choreographic nuclei, such as The Marginals, the 1992 creation of four dancers-choreographers – Florin Fieroiu, Cosmin Manolescu, Mihai Mihalcea and Irina Costea – or Terpsichora, run since 1993 by Mălina Andrei. Răzvan Mazilu is also part of this centrifugal wave, but he works mainly with actors. Out of these young people, those who later became teachers at the ChoreographyHigh School in Bucharest stimulated their students into organizing within the high school, in early 1996, a Workshop for the presentation of their own creations, alongside those of their teachers. Lastly, the youngest company, which appeared in 1996, is Studio DCM, founded by Cosmin Manolescu, who cut himself loose from The Marginals. What is conspicuous about this new wave is, on the one hand, the pressing need for the manifestation of their own personalities, a need which constitutes the very incentive for the breaking of some companies and the birth of new choreographic groups, and, on the other hand, a genuine synchronism between the creations belonging to the youngest generation of Romanian choreographers and the contemporary dance movement in France." If this is how matters stood five of six years ago, what could have happened since? Identity. Things have become structured, companies have grown into foundations, and today there is an obvious polarization of the new wave around two centers with complementary objectives. Project DCM, the foundation run by Cosmin Manolescu aimed, back in 1997, at a series of very generous, but also very general objectives: to call attention to, launch and promote contemporary Romanian choreographic art and its practitioners, both in the country and abroad. Put into practice, all these objectives materialized into a program which represented a middle way between, on the one hand, specific management and informational activities and, on the other hand, the development of artistic projects. Besides workshops and dance classes, participation to national and international festivals, comprehensive events like BucurESTiVEST 2001 managed to bring contemporary dance to the forefront of cultural life in Bucharest. Lately, younger colleagues have started to benefit from managerial activities: Eduard Gabia and Manuel Pelmuş, who have become, moreover, "associate-choreographers of the Project DCM Foundation. It is an attempt to support the very young generation of choreographers and turn them into professionals. They have just come out of high school, but they promise to become outstanding choreographers in the near future" (Cosmin Manolescu). The entire activity of the DCM is viewed by Vava Ştefănescu as "repeated signs announcing a settling of the perception of contemporary dance in the Romanian society. Yet another important point was scored by the contacts and the confirmation that came from abroad, which in a way legitimize the young choreographic movement." The other pole is represented by the MultiArtDanceCenter, founded in 1999 and run by Vava Ştefănescu herself. Its aim, clearly stated from the beginning, is "to integrate contemporary dance into Romanian culture with the same rights as the other arts." In time there have appeared necessary clarifications. The fact that the center has a stage and a performance hall has turned the MAD into a real creation laboratory, which managed to "establish a régime of creative freedom and a minimum of artistic and infra-structural comfort." (Vava Ştefănescu). With a horizontal structure, with independent departments such as organization, creation and strategy, the Center is currently unfolding its first season of contemporary dance performances. Thus, the MAD manages to coagulate the independent contemporary movement" (Cosmin Manolescu). Partnership. Genuinely complementary, the two structures have recently formed a partnership, "thus aspiring to a more powerful impact on the public and on those who should be supporting contemporary dance," Andreea Duţă emphasizes. And she goes on to declare that "it is a natural and necessary step towards promoting contemporary Romanian dance in the country as well as abroad and, also, a furtherance of the ideas that shaped" to the two foundations. The partnership has already started off by editing a news bulletin – – available for now only in electronic format and soon in print as well. The artistic and promotional programs envisaged for the first year of collaboration are extremely ambitious. Among these:­ – the marathon festival scheduled for April 28, the International Dance Day; – a promotional CD-ROM containing information on contemporary Romanian dance; a dance workshop with international attendance – Movements on the Edge; then, the first Romanian dance portal, designed in collaboration with OneUp; also a module of courses – Dance context – aimed at training managers specialized in dance and at organizing a national tour to promote contemporary dance in different towns around the country and a series of dance performances staged on a co-production basis. Style. Do all these point to the existence of a generation? And more than that, do these people think of themselves as making up a generation, for more reason than simply the fact that they graduated together – Florin Fieroiu, Mihai Mihalcea, Vava Ştefănescu, Cosmin Manolescu, Alma Munteanu, Olguţa Maier – from the ChoreographyHigh School in 1988? "Yes, definitely! A generation characterized by the verb 'to do', by a kind of positive opportunism, if I can call it that. Indeed, we have taken advantage of the small launch pads and openings created by the previous generation, to which we are greatly indebted as far as out artistic formation is concerned," says Vava Ştefănescu, one of the catalysts, alongside Cosmin Manolescu. In his turn, he remarks that "contemporary dance was represented by a generation of mature choreographers – Miriam Răducanu, Raluca Ianegic, Adina Cezar, Sergiu Anghel, to mention only the high-sounding names. After them, however, there is at least a twenty-year gap, and the communist régime is responsible for it." From the stylistic point of view, things are not that clear-cut. One can perceive the contact with the European choreographic movement, the influences coming from different schools, mainly the French one, as well as the different sources of information, readings and preoccupations. Unity resides nevertheless in the fact that "it is a generation which knows how to search and never stops searching. We should also speak about a tendency towards dryness, roughness perhaps, towards the lack of artifice. Despite all this, our creations contain truth, the artist's truth. Besides, what is very important to us is the reaction of the audience, the involvement of the audience, the dialogue. Even direct dialogue at times. Mihai Mihalcea has one such dance in which he addresses the audience directly, verbally! Of course, there are some recognizable influences here, but we do not fear them, and we do not deny them either. Other features would be minimalism, intimism, the particular attention to image." (Vava Ştefănescu) Next generation. Also at a stylistic level one can notice the differences between them and those who are six years younger: Eduard Gabia, Mateia Săndulescu, Ioana Marchidan, Andreea Diţă, Manuel Pelmuş, etc. These people are thought of as a sequence, a natural continuation of the other generation, since they were and still are their students. "They are very dynamic kids, very sharp and incisive. They are doubtless very positively influenced by what is going on worldwide. Their performances are solidly anchored onto postmodernism, onto conceptualism. They are much more involved in the present, in the reality around them." (Cosmin Manolescu). The new wave is being stimulated and comes to do away with the feeling of solitude that used to be perceptible for quite a long time, adding thus to a not very numerous crowd. Potential alliances. It is too soon to speak about a national movement. There are indeed a few nuclei in the country, either in the form of independent enterprises – the Romanian Choreographic Foundation in Jassy, of institutions, such as the Oleg Danovski Ballet Theatre in Constanţa, or of private projects – Livia Tulbure from Cluj. Incipient stages, according to Cosmin Manolescu, but sufficiently developed, in Vava Ştefănescu's opinion, to attempt in the near future the creation of a Bucharest-Constanţa-Jassy axis. And this with a view to a network spanning the whole country! Until then, and in a way as a preparation for this step, various strategies are being drawn up for an expanding beyond the Capital (tours, workshops, artists from Bucharest working in different towns around the country, artists from other towns attending workshops organized by the DCM-MAD partnership). The idea is to create stronger exchanges between Bucharest and the other regions of the country. This could in time lead to the emergence / creation of some partners in the respective regions, the only way to make possible the "Sisyphean task" (Cosmin Manolescu) of promoting contemporary dance nationally. Vanishing points. For the moment the contemporary dance movement is crystallizing, slowly but surely, only in Bucharest. There are other young choreographers as well, like Mălina Andrei – who chose to do exclusively scene movement for theatre performances – or Răzvan Mazilu – who opted for dance-theatre. In this respect not everyone sees eye to eye. Cosmin Manolescu considers that "the true measure of an artist is given by his work with the dancers," while Vava Ştefănescu believes in "the contact with other artists, in artistic teams, maybe even multidisciplinary. I have fond memories of the experience I had with Andreea Mincic and Sorin Romanescu in a show that interlaced three components: the plastic one, the musical and the choreographic one. The trends manifest in contemporary culture, the impact of the Internet, the overlappings, the new art forms, all strengthen my conviction." Celebration air. Besides, the International Dance Day is the occasion for a whole series of events in Bucharest: the Extraordinary Dance Gala, at the Odeon Theatre, project coordinator Răzvan Mazilu, the dance regale at the National Opera House, including a tour by the Oleg Danovski Ballet Theatre from Constanţa and, of course, the above-mentioned marathon festival, Diversity is a – singular, it is true – sign of normality. Multiplied, it would constitute a healthy cultural market and it would function as a value barometer, as a tuning and positioning system for the independent artists. But as against what? Step parents. This is a tough one to answer: first of all because they themselves are aware that that they do not actually represent an underground-like movement, which might "give rise to styles, trends or work systems" (Vava Ştefănescu), and second of all, and most importantly, because "this art, appreciated and subsidized abroad, does not exist in Romania" (Cosmin Manolescu). The substantial chapter on paradoxes and aberrations promoted at the highest level, on the lack of support and understanding, on the absence of any coherent cultural policy whatsoever, either from the government or from the local authority, in the field of contemporary art, on the lack of interest and the inability on the part of the so-called higher bodies to put to use the independent structures, and finally on the skepticism increasingly suffocating the initial optimism, dedication and enthusiasm; the chapter on all this, although topical, will not be opened, however, on the eve of the celebration.

by Anca Rotescu