St. Petersburg-based choreographer creates COVID-19 media project

Kaya Jones performs in ‘Endless Spring 2020,’ as seen here.

Entitled ‘The Endless Spring 2020’, the project features 13 dancers from across the globe.

It is a creation by Alexandra Tokareva, a 33-year old choreographer and director from St. Petersburg, Russia and a member of the Russian Union of Theatre Workers.

“I have been long engaged in staging dances and dance performances”, says Alexandra. “Earlier this year, I often sat on juries of both Russian and international competitions. This involved traveling, contacts, meeting new troupes, an opportunity to create dances and to speak the language of choreography to the audience. The spring of 2020 and COVID-19 pandemic have totally destroyed all of that.”

The long self-isolation did not protect her against COVID-19 – in May 2020, Tokareva found herself away from her family for three weeks. “The person I love stayed in an isolation ward in the hospital. I was not taken to hospital as my lungs were not affected, but my asthma

reminded of itself — I was at home all alone, suffocating within the four walls of my apartment.”

It took a long time to get rid of the disease. It was then that Alexandra Tokareva thought up a special project. 

“Of course, I saw all those funny videos that ballet dancers made at their homes using the Zoom software. But for me, the period of overcoming fear with laughter was long behind. What was left was only the tragedy and it was not fraught with other meanings. A pure tragedy: not only that of a dancer but also of every person in the world who has experienced the horror of isolation, loneliness and obscurity. Death has come too close to each of us.”

Tokareva has created and recorded choreography in an empty hall which she was allowed to visit after the restrictions had been lifted. 

“There were so many dancers who wanted to take part in the project that I even had to screen out,” she admits. “The principal criterion was professional background. I allowed for small improvisations. For example, a ballerina from Idaho has chosen to dance the entire performance on pointe. A dancer from Panama has brought in some elements of yogic movement. When combined, these looked strikingly syncretic. This is exactly what we aimed to do: to show that people from different cultures experienced the pandemic in similar but still different ways. Besides, I avoided setting any limits on gender expression. For example, we had a male dancer from Australia who performed both as a man and as a female character, ballerina Natalia Orlova.”

According to Tokareva, her media project was co-authored by Zoya Glazacheva, a PR professional. Together they have developed the concept of the Endless Spring 2020: it is a website (ENDLESS-SPRING2020.COM) where all of the thirteen dancers are performing a dance simultaneously and the viewer can choose the one who will perform the lead part. “This spring has no end – just like the dance which is played endlessly”, explains Zoya Glazacheva, “as is also the case with the music track called ‘Eternity’ by Mark Erdman. As long as there is no medication to treat COVID-19, the self-isolation will continue and we will experience the fear of the unknown future. The  only thing that will reconcile us with it is the hope we receive from works of art.”

The perforance is co-authored by Zoya Glazacheva, with music composed by Mark Erdman.

Project participants:

1. Vasilisa Veselova, Russia, Saint-Peterbsburg

2. Herazo Checa, Ivan, Panama

3. Kaya Jones, Eagle, USA, Idaho

4. Natalia Aussiepova from Les Ballet Eloelle Dancer: Shaughn Pegoraro,

Australia, Melbourne

5. Sofia Kruusamagi, Estonia, Tallinn

6. Freje Randall - Fresno, Joffrey Ballet School, USA, New York

7. Maria Goltsman, Estonia, Tallinn

8. Ana Ivancevic, from Belgrade Serbia National Theatre

9. Bianca Dorobat, Italy

10. Loida Grau Dance School, Spain, Sant Boi de Llobregat

11. Eliisa Sokk, Estonia, Tallinn

12. Alessia Fillipi, Italy

13. Greta Bernotaite, Vilnius, Lithuania

Kaya, age 16, trains with Idaho Regional Ballet, a preprofessional company in Eagle. She said in an email to the newspaper on Sept. 10 that Tokareva reached out to her through Instagram to participate in the project.

“I am incredibly fortunate to not have known anyone that has died from COVID-19,” wrote Kaya. “But I do know people who have suffered in the hospital, I have felt the loneliness of quarantine, and I have experienced the well-known fear of the virus. I know people who have lost loved ones and I have watched people grieve.”

Kaya added that the simplicity of the project helped make things less awkward for participants.

One of the biggest blessings of dance is that it breaks through language barriers. In this international situation where speaking and language could have caused confusion, we were able to communicate almost seamlessly through our movement. It’s quite amazing that us dancers could share our personal experiences of COVID-19, with each other and with the international audience, solely based off the choreography.”

Kaya said she hopes her participation helps ease the feeling of loneliness in those who view the performance.

“As a representative of the United States in this piece, I tried to demonstrate not only my personal experience with COVID-19, but also the experiences of millions of other Americans. No matter how far apart we are in different countries, political views, or just as we are socially distanced, we are all going through the pandemic together. I hope that my performance shows that we do not need to suffer alone … Of course I am anxiously awaiting a time when I can safely perform for a live audience. For now, I am grateful that ‘Endless Spring’ gave me a way to connect with an audience and share my talents in honor of others.”

Corey Evan contributed to this article.

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