Having gone through the global experience of isolation and ”standstill”, this year’s edition of Ciało/Umysł Festival directs itself towards space (internal and external) and breath, the only connection between body and life. The artists are going to redefine these under the patronage of Isadora Duncan – a pioneer of free dance in unison with the rhythm of nature.
The last performance of the previous edition closed a certain chapter of Ciało/Umysł Festival.
We were celebrating an opportunity of expression over 20 years of freedom, beauty and joy through dance, being a source of the festival formation in the 1995. Desires were manifested and simultaneously the consciousness of need for change, which I have expressed during the closing ceremony of the 18th edition of the festival. I have therefore returned to the starting point, to the moment or the source of the festival creation, to redefine it from the beginning. I came full circle to be „barefoot”, “naked” and „hungry” again. Became intrigued by what’s ahead of us.
I have chosen Isadora Duncan to become a spiritual patron of the 19th C/U Festival. That’s when the world came to a standstill. The movement slowed down. The dance froze. Was that really so? For me, this isn’t the time for a stop but rather an acceleration and fast motion. It’s the time that causes change and transformation which is followed by the new, unknown, faster, different… and it will not be the same again.
Our guide, the “mother of dance” of the 19th C/U will be the legendary American choreographer and dancer. It is with her that everything started. She left history behind and by doing so, she started to create it over again. I didn’t realise that selection of Isadora Duncan will become so timely and with precision reflects questions about freedom in the current state of the world.
Isadora Duncan did not only revolutionise the dance of the 20th century, but also became the feminist icon and, as a nomad and freelancer, developed a new model of functioning of dance in public space. She had an impact on the economic circulation in culture, as she followed a non-institutional model of operation, which is popular today but back then was still only beginning to take its shape, and collected both private and state funds for her artistic activities. She emphasised freedom in dance expression, danced barefoot, with feathered hair, and in the open air to synchronize the inner rhythm with the pulse of the Earth. As a follower of free love with numerous love affairs, not all of which ended happily, and as a single mother who lost her children in a dramatic accident, she managed to transform her life tragedies into dance that provided her with strength and energy to live. It is through the prism of her figure that we will explore the new phenomena of culture and dance.
We are now witnessing a decisive moment in the world’s history. The old ways are shattered in front of our eyes and a process of significant changes is being started. Changes of various types: economic, environmental, ethical, political, religious… Where will they lead us? We don’t know yet. We’re in the middle of a process, observing and forcing ourselves to get to like. That’s why the concept of a process has been somewhat inscribed into this year’s program of C/U. Normally, our festival review of spectacles and performances lasts over a dozen or so intensive days. This year, however, we’re going to experiment online and extend the duration of the festival.
We’re inviting viewers to be with us for a longer period so that they could participate in the development of its following stages. A lot of works presented at this year’s edition have been created in solitude, isolation, or a small group. The time of “imprisonment” favours sincere discussion with oneself and self-expression. As a result, there will be a cycle of conversations presenting Polish authors in their daily “ecosystems”. This is especially important as during lockdown the dancers who work with the space and bodies of other dancers, remained, just like the rest of the society, isolated in their homes. In these circumstances, the only material left to work with is their own body, breath, and online communication. Interviews also allow us to gain an insight into the “interior” of the artist, get to know his/her books, rituals, thoughts, inspirations, methods to survive.
This peculiar year, our festival’s main program will showcase primarily Polish artists. They are not directly inspired by Isadora Duncan’s artistic output as such but rather develop in their own manner the motives that she initiated in dance and that were close to her. Marta Ziółek in “Monstera” invites us, together with her performers, to a journey through experiences of a woman’s body and female energies; Ilona Trybuła will search for beauty in chaos; Paweł Sakowicz will look into the dark corners of romanticism, explore the subconsciousness and attraction to the mystery; Iwona Olszowska will unfold Isadora’s philosophy, by exploring transformation of tragedy into life and dance.
These will include a new work by a French choreographer and provocative reformer of the contemporary dance, Jérôme Bel, discovered for the Polish audience by C/U many years ago. He is going to present, for the first time in Poland, his performance tiled – how so – “Isadora Duncan”, during which the audience will have a rare opportunity to see, or even dance the original choreography of Duncan, performed by an experienced and mature dancer Elisabeth Schwartz.
The second foreign event will explore the particular manner of expression of internal life through breath – screaming. A Belgian artist of a young generation, Sarah Vanhee will present her lecture-performance ”Collected Screams”, a unique anthology of various screams expressing a full range of emotions including pain, anger, or relief.
The premiere program will be complemented by the already existing works by Aleksandra Bożek-Muszyńska, who will change the scream kept deep inside of us into Violetta Villas’ voice, and ”Dance, Pilgrim, Dance” by Kasia Wolińska, who will explore political motives in Isadora Duncan’s dance practice. We will also present works-in-progress by Iza Szostak, who will create for us an avatar of Isadora and Renata Piotrowska, presenting her latest research on the subject of femininity and self-determination.
A program will be also enriched by essays of practitioners and theoreticians of dance, edited by Hanna Raszewska-Kursa, in which their authors explore the phenomenon and artistic output of Duncan from various perspectives, raising various social and cultural subjects.
The festival will also host the Polish premiere of the publication by a Belgian artist David Weber-Krebs who, 5 years ago, concerned about the global climate change, turned off the light in the theatre during C/U. This time, with theatres being closed all over Europe, he asked artists and other people active in the field of culture about their visions of theatre in the future and what the day when the theatres re-open will look like. The book that was inspired by this question “And the Doors Opened Again” includes fantasies of over seventy practitioners and theoreticians of culture. Expanding the dance space, during the festival we will also make use of “Dance Trail” app with its dancer-gigants that the Swiss artist, Gilles Jobin, liberated from the VR space.
A crucial element of this year’s edition of C/U is formed by a particularly extensive representation of the Polish dance scene. As the organizers, we have decided to spend most of our resources to support the activities of local artists affected by professional downtime. This year we have reached the highest score with over 50 artists presenting their diversified work during the festival.
That’s why, apart from the above-mentioned works, on our festival’s online platform one can watch the following episodes of “21 Dance Lessons for the 21st Century”, inspired by a famous book by Yuval Harari. There, in short films, the dance artists present to the humankind a single gesture, movement or practice important for the world that is yet to come. The abundance of independent, individual thinking among the creators of the dance scene against the everyday problems that we know so little of, can constitute a crucial and inspiring lesson of humility. We wish to remind that dance is a recipe for a better world, as Isadora Duncan already knew well!
We selected a sentence SPACE IS THE AIR, a dream which accompanied many of us during the lockdown, as the main slogan of the 19th edition of C/U Festival. On one hand, it reflects the society which suffocates itself in limitations, self-resolutions, and imposed restraints. On the other, however, it shows the necessity to express oneself and gasping for that air to create and experience life to the fullest. That’s why we’re going to dance merrily, lie on the grass, listen to the silence, learn to be attentive, meditate, scream or even yell, so as to create the energy needed to transform all these into the freedom of self-expression. We are going to transform Isadora’s ideas and write the history of dance over again, starting from the infinity, just like her!
I am grateful that at this challenging moment, C/U Festival can continue and develop the Polish dance scene. I look forward to meeting the audience in real!