About the cooperation project
Moving Borders explores how three female dance artists from Ukraine – and the migration of millions of women and children escaping from the Russian occupation of their country – are informing approaches to welcoming and engaging refugees through dance, and in the development of inclusive and cohesive practices across Europe.
This project aims to provide tools to dance and cultural organisations to handle the arrival of forcibly displaced artists and civilians, by facilitating exchanges within local social and cultural contexts, as well as exploring issues around the inclusion of newcomers and being responsive towards new challenges brought by the cross-border movement of people. From 2023 to 2025, Aerowaves together with Arte Sella, La Briqueterie CDCN and Tanec Praha will organise international workshops, meetings (live and online), dissemination events and activities, as well as commissioning a research article.
Ukrainian dance artists: Yana Reutova (based in Prague, Czechia), Anna Kushnirenko (based in Bassano del Grappa, Italy) and Rita Lira (based in Paris, France)
Researchers: Monica Gillette – dramaturg, Luisella Carnelli – impact researcher, Karina Buckley – dance writer
Partners: Yvona Kreuzmannova (Tanec Praha Festival, Czech Republic), Giacomo Bianchi and Rosa Zambelli ( Arte Sella, Italy) and Elisabetta Bisaro and Arina Dolgikh (La Briqueterie CDCN, France)
Monica Gillette’s Journal: 8-10 January, 2024 – La Briqueterie
The first meeting always brings excitement. It is the beginning of a new collaboration and much potential. But behind the anticipation of what our new collaboration could produce also comes the reason for our gathering – violence and forced displacement begun nearly two years ago when Russia invaded Ukraine. This means our first gathering also brings deep emotions and continuous energy to avoid feeling helpless by what we can not change, but rather to turn towards our expertise in dance to develop practices that nourish and reveal new pathways for strength, regeneration and wellbeing in an unfolding diaspora.
We begin the first day in pairs, identifying for ourselves and sharing with others what we each want to be responsible for in the project. This opens towards a broader discussion that aims to identify specific themes to focus on in the project. Unsurprisingly though, existing in the midst of a war reveals an overabundance of needs and pains and it is initially challenging to identify precise themes that could become topics for future gatherings. This feeling of overload also guides us back to a key focus of the project: artistic practice as a means for connection, sustainment and support.
The following day we begin with a joyful and playful practice from Yana Reutova, which brings endless laughter and creativity. A few keywords from the practice – shifting perspective, play, freedom to leave trauma, trust, transformation – reinforce the value of dance practice to move out of the state of survival mode.
From the dance practice we move into a live digital presentation from Norwegian choreographer Mia Habib, titled Negotiating the Emotional, the Political and the Rational – Europe as a Collaborative Space. Mia traces the evolution of her work, often taking place in conflict zones or developed from the desire to confront how we dehumanise the other, and offers key questions that have accompanied her: Which borders are soft? Which can be negotiated and which can not? How to move beyond flattened images of the other to be able to feel empathy? What does it take to open oneself and to break down identifying the other as an enemy? How can the oppressor and oppressed live within the same body? And how to accept that you may be representing the oppressor? Mia is also speaking from a place of being personally affected by the war in Israel and Gaza – a reminder of the multiple other war zones currently existing, and even eclipsing each other, depending on where you live.
We close the day by returning to the body, this time guided in a somatic practice by Rita Lira. She guides us into bodily consciousness, raising the volume on our capacity to be sensitive and tender to ourselves and others. Joy, feelings, clarity and gratitude are a few key words that emerge from the practice, again rooting us in a dimension beyond what feels impossible to solve. And we are lucky to open the next day again through our bodies, led by Anna Kushnirenko, who opens and awakens our senses and ability to move with care. Breath, warmth, pleasure and comfort are a few of the words that emerge from the practice.
Woven throughout the three day gathering are moments to address administration topics, logistics and co-design for the coming activities. Approaches to link in other Ukrainian dance artists, both those who still live in Ukraine as well as those who are spread through Europe, were discussed. The research team also shared their envisioned methodology, the partner institutions addressed a communication plan, as well as the individual needs of each local context. To close, a potential theme was formulated for the next encounter, which will take place at Tanec Praha in June: How to be a co-creator in a practice as a source for freedom?