Posts tagged “russia

Once Wild

…is a play by Word Dance Theater this weekend, May 3 – May 5.  I was privileged to attend a rehearsal a few days ago.  This turned out to be fortuitous as I was immediately impressed by the inventive narrative of the revolutionary Russia in the early 1920s.  Outstanding choreography, live piano, Russian folk music and poetry create a long-lasting impression.

The central story is of an American-born originator of a new dance form – Isadora Duncan, told through her adopted daughter and student, Irma (shared by actress Kimberly Schraf and dancer Ingrid Zimmer).  Cynthia Word’s Isadora is in the photo below (courtesy of Word Dance Theater).WDT_OW_Passage1  So graceful, as if a live twin of Nike of Samothrace :-)

Isadora was not the first Westerner to travel to Soviet Russia hoping to find a better world.  One well-known example before her was John Reed, who produced an account of the Bolshevik revolution in Ten Days That Shook the World.  Within Russia, young intellectuals also hungrily rushed to embrace the revolution, only to become deeply disillusioned in the end.  Much of that talent met a tragic end.  Poet Sergei Esenin (played by Philip Fletcher), whose life became connected to Isadora’s for several short, or so it seems, years, was no exception.  Esenin together with Anatoli Marienhof and Vadim Shershenevich founded imaginist (derivative from “image”) circle, a new literary movement.  Their stories were told through images evoked by certain words and expressions.  Sometimes it meant combining words in an unusual way.  The group believed that, over time, words were tagged with extra meanings, so they set out to unearth the original.  Marienhof’s Novel without a Lie is a wonderful read and the most truthful portrait of Esenin.

IMG_3117To majority of Russians Esenin is still the ‘most Russian’ poet.  However, he will probably remain little understood outside his language culture because the work of an imaginist can hardly be translated close to the original.  Through my own struggle to find or even work on translations of some of my favourite poems (beyond imaginist circle too, but including Esenin’s contemporaries – Alexander Blok, Aleksander Mayakovsky), I realized that even if all the words are carefully interpreted and cultural references explained, the images and emotions produced in a mind of non-native Russian speaker would be different from the ones produced in a mind of a Russian.  Not wrong, just different.  The power of combining metaphors, allegories, even array of sounds that individual words produce together is weakened.  So then another interesting question arises: Can we ever fully appreciate something expressed in a foreign language in a foreign cultural environment?  This issue is similar to an economic one of inarticulate, tacit, knowledge, which is the knowledge of a particular time and place, learnt only by doing, and which cannot be taught to someone who has no experience of these circumstances.  And this is why the multi-disciplinary works of art like Once Wild deserve special attention.  When several forms of art come together to ‘embed’ the viewer in a volatile 1920s’ Soviet Russia and follow the lives of two extraordinary individuals, I think it greatly enhances our experience.

Philip Fletcher, who plays Sergei Esenin, never fails in any role, it seems.  Esenin-types, who awe us with talent and who we can adore and hate at the same time, are especially difficult to portray, but rewarding when done right.  Very moving and real person emerges as a result of Philip’s extraordinary effort, and that is Philip’s acting signature.

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Barents sea

Photograph taken by a member of expedition from Arctic-shelf lab, AARI, 2004-2009, Barents sea.


Barents sea

Photograph taken by a member of expedition from Arctic-shelf lab, AARI, 2004-2009, Barents sea.


Russian elections

Неужели? Или как всегда…

This photo is from the Wall Street Journal (December 27, 2011).  It appears that thousands of people gathered in central Moscow on December 24, 2011.  There would be nothing unusual about a large crowd, if not for the fact that it was a demonstration against the rigged election, which by itself is not an unusual occurrence in Russia.  But Russian ‘usual’ and ‘unusual’ do not always obey the conventional Western definition.

However, it would not be unusual that Putin’s position strengthens if he is elected in March because the victory would mean that he managed to convince a sizeable and outspoken opposition.  Then he really must be the right guy for Russia! :-)  Putin’s victory after this exercise in democracy would also silence the West.  I am in no way denying that there exists a real opposition to Putin’s government in Russia and that many people joined protests by free will.  Prokhorov, of course, is a hoax, unless he is Medvedev II.  Just my two kopeks in…

I recommend reading David Satter’s opinion piece on these recent protests.  One of his other, very much worth reading, works on Russia is Darkness at Dawn.

The Russian elections in 2008 were commented by a LiveJournal blogger, Podmoskovnik.  I highly recommend reading Podmoskovnik’s blog.  There you can find stats and discussion of non-Gaussian distribution (distribution that is not bell-shaped, but is expected to be) of votes in past and recent elections.  Podmoskovnik cleverly called this ‘Churov distribution’ (дистрибуция Чурова) after the Chairman of the Election Committee.  Here is an example of a graph from this blog (December 2011).

If I remember right, one commentary in 2008 said:  “Подмосковник, пакуй чемоданы.”  Но Подмосковник пишет и ныне, хотя, впрочем, и выборы идут своим чередом.  Как всегда в России…

Novaya gazeta (in Russian) reported how local administrations were preparing for elections.  This article from November 9, 2011 provides a document titled “Instruction.”

The ‘instruction’ presented a schedule and rules of conduct for a group of citizens from a suburban town of Kirovsk.  These lucky citizens were supposed to be taken on a tour of St. Petersburg, coincidentally, on the day of elections.  They were to be fed breakfast after visiting 5 ‘sightseeing spots‘ and fed dinner after visiting another 8.  The instruction prohibited them from participating in any exit polls (!!!!).  Naturally, it is St. Petersburg museums and art galleries, not polling places that have exit polls ;-).  (Certain loopholes in the Russian law permit the same person to vote at multiple locations in the same election.)  The citizens were also promised some financial compensation at the end of their busy day.  What more to say?

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