There’s always a sparkle of excitement in the piercing, warm, kind eyes of former internationally-known Latvian prima ballerina Lita Beiris, Director of the International Baltic Ballet Festival in Riga, as the annual festival, that she has nurtured and single-handedly created and molded into the Baltic States’ leading dance festival, springs to life.
For 22 consecutive years, Beiris has scouted the world for the world’s leading international dancers and companies. This year’s festival, which runs until May 11, will highlight dancers famed for their technique and versatility for ballet aficionados.
Beiris originates from a long line of distinguished ballet dancers who have been nurtured and trained in the Baltic States. Somewhat uncomfortably, the world class development of ballet here must be seen as being intrinsically linked with the days of the Soviet Union. Though the harsh veil of Soviet occupation has long been lifted from Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania, there is no denying that one of the few positive legacies of this period was the intensive development of the beautiful art of ballet.
One of the festival’s special guests dance companies saw a sold out performance of the Giordano Dance Chicago, a riveting soul-filled performance held at the Riga Congress Centre.
Considered America’s original jazz dance company, the mission of the company, as evident in its exhilarating, electrifying performance, has been the preservation and promotion of the art of jazz dance, and as Riga witnessed, the creation and presentation of new and innovative jazz dance choreography, which redefined and expanded the very definition of jazz dance.
The International Baltic Ballet Festival will further host Benedetta Cappana on April 23 at the Theatre House of the Latvian Academy of Culture, and the much awaited performance of The Beijing Dance Theatre on April 24 at the Latvian National Opera, where we will see the ensemble presenting an avant-garde program.
‘’The Beijing Dance Theatre performance is the highlight of this year’s festival’’ Beiris said. ‘’The cooperation with the company, which was founded in 2008, fits into the Silk Road cooperation platform among China, Central and Eastern Europe, which fosters recognition of national cultures’’.
According to him, the company’s choreographer Wang Yuanyuan has gained recognition and much appreciation on an international level on all continents of the world.
The Beijing Dance Theatre’s program will include three one-act performances, entitled “Farewell Shadows”, “Poison”, and “Nightingale and the Rose” (after the works of Oscar Wilde), are intended to reach a spectrum of different audiences, from young dance enthusiasts, to more senior festival attendees, as well as both neo-classic and avant-garde dance lovers.
The company will also stage a similar performance at the Latgale Embassy GORS in Rezekne on April 23.
Beiris further noted a special surprise appearance which awaits Riga at this year’s festival. The performance by the noted Italian choreographer Benedetta Capanna, whose performance of the work titled “Saknes” (Roots) – will be for Capanna to some extent a return to her roots, as she offers the work as a tribute to her grandmother, the former Latvian ballet diva Mirdza Kalniņa.
‘’Kalnina was from 1934, for a period of over 30 years, Prima Ballerina of the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, after beginning her career at the Latvian National Opera and Ballet in Riga, where she was also Prima Ballerina from 1927 to 1933,’’ Beiris said.
Her work “Saknes” (Roots) is a moving piece which delves into the influences and the interconnectedness of people that form us, and is dedicated to her legendary Latvian grandmother, Capanna notes.
‘’Between shadows and lights, we meet our past and our contemporaneity,” she said. “It’s like travelling in parallel worlds, living them, and dancing between them. The images emerge from nothing. Like fragments of a puzzle, I would love to find their place, but instead, they place me in a space and time ... of my memory ... I let these dances flow through me like a celebration. The insights and fragilities of our recent past, although separated by years, interlace. We live in our contradictions. We live in what we leave to others.’’
Festival program www.ballet-festival.lv