Project Activities (what was conducted, number of participants, participant demographics, media outreach, audience estimate, repertoire performed, etc.)
Apply for Visas in Advance
Formally it takes 5 business days to get a visa to Russia but due to many national holidays it might take up to 2 weeks to get one. So take this into account when planning your trip. The longest holidays in Russia are New Year/ Orthodox Christmas (January 1-January 7) when the governmental offices can be closed for 10 days in a row and the May Holidays (May 1, Workers’ Solidarity Day through May 9, Victory Day) when the governmental agencies might be closed up to 5 days in a row. Another obstacle that you might have is the letter of invitation that your Russian counterparts need to obtain, often through the Russian Ministry of Culture. It may also take much longer than expected. To be on the safer side, make sure you remind your Russian counterpart to start the visa application process as soon as you finalize your project details but no later than 6 weeks before your departure.
Short Term Planning is Normal
Long-term planning is not customary in Russia. It is not unusual to witness how large-scale projects are taking shape within a couple months, sometimes even weeks. Thus the closer the project is the more intense your workload will be.
Make Sure You Speak the Same Language
Russia is on the metric system, so your Russian partners might have difficulties understanding the specs or dimensions of your equipment if you provide them in inches, sq. footage, pounds etc. Russian electrical outlets have 220 volts, so you might need adapters for your electronics and electrical devises.
Be Ready for Mosquitoes
If you are going to spend a lot of time outdoors in late spring through early fall bring the strongest mosquito repellent possible.
Keep All Your Receipts and Airfare tickets
The Russian accounting system is more complicated and has more red tape. If your Russian counterparts cover your expenses make sure you keep all the receipts, including the airplane boarding passes, since your partners might request them after the program is over.
Battery Dance has visited Russia three times so far. The two most recent visits were organized by the Art-Residence International Culture Project headed by Konstantin Grouss, a contemporary choreographer and a curator. The main goal of the visit was the Company’s participation in an outdoor festival of street art in a small historic town of Vyksa 6 hour drive westward from Moscow.
In addition to performing at the festival, three BDC dancers, Mira Cook, Robin Cantrell and Sean Scantlebury, conducted a week-long workshops with Vyksan teenagers.
Below are the dancers’ observations of their work with the workshop participants in 2013:
Mira Cook: I taught a Dancing to Connect workshop in Vyksa for 16 girls in their mid- teens and one woman who was 27. I had 3 students who had been in my workshop last year and some of my other students from last year were in Robin and Sean's classes. It seemed like about 8-10 people from my group last year had returned. Overall my students this year displayed fantastic enthusiasm and energy, I felt lucky. I actually had to tell them to tone it down a little bit for the performance since their energy was almost becoming over the top.
During the snack break each day all the girls would crowd around me and my helper/translator Ksenia and just stare at us and look at my pad of paper as I was writing notes (even though they did not read English) and smile and ask Ksenia questions. I felt like they were emulating my every move and I thought it was sweet.
During our dinner breaks Robin, Sean and I would rehearse our performance piece and students would watch through the window and door as we practiced. Later one of my students showed me her interpretation of a move that she saw us do. She orbited her finger around her other finger then made an explosion motion with both hands and an explosion noise.
At the end of the workshop the girls blew up and framed a picture of the group that had been taken earlier in the week and gave it to me and cried and said "you are welcomed in Vyksa" and "come back" over and over.
The piece we had created throughout the week was a very bold statement of girl power. All the dancers showed total confidence and pride in their movements. I was really proud of them. Most of the students were around 15/16/17 (not the most confident age) and it felt like they had made a strong club of righteous ladies by the end of the week.
Robin Cantrell: My group consisted of about 15 girls ages 11 to 17. However one was much older, around 28 with a husband and a child. Although she did not speak any English, I was so impressed with her maturity and how she pulled the younger ones along. At the end of the program she explained (with an interpreter) that she had been a teacher trainee the year before and this year wanted to experience the project as a participant. She is a teacher and had incorporated a number of the exercises that had been used the year before in her class and found that her students had improved and greatly over the course of the year. She plans to use the exercises that she learned with me as well. I like this because it's exactly the sort of long term result that you hope for with the project.
I also found it to be a very good sign that about 75% of my students were returns from the previous year. Sean and Mira agreed that their behavior was much better and their confidence and creativity more apparent this year. Now that they knew what to expect, they jumped right in to the work.