Es mācēju danci vest (2018)

Ieva Epnere

Ieva Epnere works with photography, video and textile. Personal and intimate stories serve as the basis for her artistic reflections on identity, history, tradition and rituals. In the video installation Es mācēju danci vest, Latvian for ‘I know how to dance’, Epnere seeks out the original meaning of Latvian folk dances. Stripped of all twentieth century elements, she reveals the essence choreographic vocabulary. Performed for the most part in silence and only briefly in traditional dress, the attention is drawn entirely to the choreography and the interaction between the dancers. Details and nuances, otherwise drowned out by the music, are noticed.

Dance was once used as a ritual signification of the creation of the world, as a means of creating order in chaos. Having evolved from a sacred ritual to a secular performance, the basic elements of dance developed into an interactive game between the masculine and the feminine, comparable to mating dances. In the twentieth century, the ornamental character of folk dance was attributed national traits. Folk dance was made to fit the aesthetics of the (Russian) classical ballet, thus propagating the ideology of the authoritarian regime. During the Soviet regime (1940–1941 and 1945–1991), too, dance groups functioned under the auspices of ‘culture houses’ that still exist today. Latvian folk dance continues to develop together with line dance, ballroom dance and belly dance.

In this experiment Ieva Epnere investigates which elements are crucial to dance. To what extent can the old model of dance – consisting of space-time, words, music and the female dancer – be let go? At what point does a dance stop being dance? Does the mutual trust between dancers suffice? To what extent does music determine the dance or is the design of a dance sufficient? Are dance and melody inseparable? Can an ornament stand on its own? What content do we give these dances today?

Credits: Es mācēju danci vest (2018), single channel video, 18:00’’, colour, sound. Courtesy Ieva Epnere. In collaboration with Archives of Latvian Folklore, ILFA, UL (LU LFMI Latviešu folkloras krātuve). Dance: dancers from the University of Latvia dance folklore group DANDARI. Concept and directing: Ieva Epnere. Camera: Baiba Kļava. Camera assistant and editing engineer: Miks Ramāns. Sound: Ernests Ansons. Player of an ancient stringed instrument from the Baltic region, ‘kokle’: Dace Bleikša. Gaffer: Ģederts Siliņš. Colorist: Jānis Blanks. Colorist (counselor): Krišs Roziņš. Costume designer: Līga Krāsone. Costume designer’s assistant: Ilze Kaša. Text: Anita Vanaga. Translation: Ieva Lešinska and Geibere.