Saturday, April 07, 2007

Lithuanian Riverdance

In the National Drama Theatre today for the dance show 'Zmones' (People) choreographed by Anzelika Cholina. Ms Cholina is the main dance alternative to the Opera and Ballet Theatre, and some of her dancers are also from that theatre. She does wonderful shows, such as 'Tango in Fa' and 'Romeo and Juliet'. Usually she uses taped music, although this time it was clear that the Drama Theatre also has an orchestra pit, for emergencies, I suppose.

This show was based on rural Lithuanian life, with many folk dances modernised - sort of an evening in a village, with much dancing and drinking, finally everyone falling asleep drunk, and then waking up to a glorious sunrise. The costumes were vaguely traditional, though none of those heavy checked fabrics. The women's low cut dresses were adorned by stunningly colourful, sparkling fabric baubles. At the beginning some of the dancers wore heavy wooden clogs - I did wonder about the health and safety aspects of tipping women with these clogs, none too well fastened, upside down.

All 26 dancers were on stage for virtually all the 50 minutes; there was very little solo dancing, apart from one absolutely stunning young dancer (whose name I don't know since there were no 'characters' as such). Whoever he is, he has huge charisma and he is also a wonderful, wonderful dancer. I thought that the dancers were generally more athletic than those of the opera and ballet theatre (hush my mouth!). The dances were great; beautifully choreographed with some stunning scenes, especially the opening scene where they all ran onto the stage in a long twisting and turning around each other; the men running like a wind mill around the women; a kind of mexican wave thing in three rows, all waving at different moments.... It really was great on the visuals. The music was mainly Lithuanian folk music, modernised. At the end there was a slightly corny scene with the projection of a flight across a very rural Lithuania and all the dancers resting, watching their landscape in amazement.

Turns out that the show was sponsored by a local mobile phone company (ie I am paying for it!) which perhaps explains the unusual folksy theme. I'm afraid at the end, when all the dancers were in a line, the thought of 'Riverdance' entered my head, which I suspect Ms Cholina might find a little insulting since she is a rather highpowered artist. I do think, though, that this show would find huge resonance in places like Chicago and elsewhere with a large Lithuanian expat population, and indeed even in the home country of Riverdance, in Ireland, which also has a large Lithuanian population these days. It would also go down extremely well with tourists in the summer - is it worth putting on weekly performances?

The only thing is...the ticket prices; the most expensive tickets cost 50 litas (17 Euros), which was 1 litas per minute of the show ['tis a short show]; it's a bit heavy for Lithuanians, but again for tourists it might be ok. She says, having just spent considerably more than that to go and hear Barenboim conduct Mahler in Berlin.