Jan van den Berg (NL)

East-West Cooperation

During the roaring 80’s and 90’s of the past century our continent experienced turbulent times. The cold war came to an end and East and West Europe began to melt together. As always the creative intellect of artists anticipated the first to this process. It’s in an artists DNA to translate his intuition into creativity. Many projects were born in which east and west came together. Traditional arts, but above all alternative and experimental initiatives raised a commotion of emotions without an equal.

It was in 1989 when a delegation of the Limburg Festival visited Mir Caravan in Berlin in order to negotiate with Slava Polunin(Rus) and to invite him to take part in our international streettheatre festival. We saw his group Licedei working in a chapiteau and witnessed how these clowns could not say goodbye to their audience and how tears of happiness welled up in people’s eyes. This happened in the shadow of the Siegessaule, the area where one decade later hundreds of thousands enjoyed the Love Parade…

Mir Caravan was a multi-European initiative in which theatre-groups from East and West travelled from Sint Petersburg to Paris, presenting performances by 150 artists of ensembles like Teatro Nucleo,Italy, La Compagnie du Hasard, France, Footsbarn Travelling Theatre, Great Britain and Licedei. Also the famous Polish artists of Osmego Dnya took part. Slava Polunin and John Kilby, director of Footsbarn, were the inspirators of this “collective creation” which can be chacterized as a monument in East-West cultural cooperation.

The Limburg Festival struck off in the unknown world of the former Sovyet Union. Some years before the Peristroyka we made researches in Tbilisi and Arkhangelsk. After that we visited Moscow, Sint Petersburg, Nizniy Novgorod, Kyiv and Tashkent in order to meet creators and theatre-groups. Showcases were arranged by theatre-professionals and we started to programm USSR-acts. Also Jelenya Gora, Krakov and Poznan Malta Festival we cooperated with. We discovered differences but also similarities between our cultures and we explored the East-European soul. An inspiring episode, judging performances, discussing changes in society, answering unanswerable questions, trying to get used to the rhythm of eastern living and developing an exchange-process.

We convinced artists from the West to discover the East in order to participate in festivals and we invited artists from the East to use the Limburg Festival as a gateway to Western Europe and the rest of the “new” world. A very special cooperational friendship we developed with the Arkhangelsk Streettheatre Festival in this Northern seaport town. This unique streettheatre festival in Russia - conducted by the inspiring festival-warrior Victor Panov- we enriched by presenting acts and groups like the Second Hand Dance Company(USA), Leo Bassi(I), Lady Komedie(NL), Cie Cacahuete(F), Musica Brass(F) etc. Malta Festival Poznan we also made the acquaintance of in the beginning years . Michal Merczynsky’s programmation of streettheatre we supported. We contacted him with Western artists and in this way we took a little part in the birth of his outstanding worldwide network.

More recently we assisted Jurek Zon in implementation of Western artists in his Krakow Festival Ulica.

By a coincidence the Jelenya Gora Festival was founded in the same year (1982) as the Limburg Festival and the framework was equal: several towns and villages took part and streettheatre-companies travelled around in a beautiful region. An original setting which is still unique in Europe!

Discovering the Eastern theatre world was a delight for us and we were anxious to present the pearls of our research. In the beginning years our audiences needed to adapt to the “sovyet-style”of the acts we invited in Limburg. The superficial mentality of the Dutch, Belgians and Germans contrasted with the retiring character of the Russian, Ukrain and Polish productions. Poetic images and typical black humour on the other hand obtained a warm welcome. Another aspect was the challenge for them to participate in a streettheatre festival. Several groups worked for their first time in non-protected area’s, where artists –in contradistinction to theatre-situations- have to struggle for audience’s attention. But the Limburg-audiences welcomed “the Russians” with warm feelings and even affection arised.

From 1990 on our Limburg Festival programmed about 20 different productions from the former Sovyet Union. Russia was represented by Evgeny Sitokhin, Derevo, TAM, Licedei, Zirk Theatre, Michael Vertlin, Unison, Gruppa Tovarischey, Farces and the Arkhangelsk Theatre. From Poland KTO and Teatr Snow participated, Studio Ilkholm from Uzbekistan, Krasky Vostoka, Kyrgizia and Clowns Syndicat Art Obstrel and Zjart from Ukraine. Do Theater from former DDR we welcomed too. And last but not least we created a variety-production called “Kiev Nights”in cooperation with the Circus Academy of Kyiv.

The Limburg Festival took place during 10 days and each year we presented about 200 performances in 40 different towns and villages in the Southern part of the Netherlands, region Maastricht. During the festival all artists from East and West were brought together in one central festival-village. Before and after “show-time” they used this opportunity to meet, discuss, exchange experiences, presenting skills and parts of their performances etc. An inspiring and enriching situation which they will not easily forget…

Nowadays the cooperation between East and West is not an extravagance anymore. The current cultural fads and fancies of public opinion are less pronounced then 20 years ago. Social media benefit interpersonal contact and make borders disappear. But next to this virtual world mankind needs human interaction, warmth and perceptible contact. Streettheatre is one of the most forfilling kalalysators in this process!



Limburg(NL) April 2012

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Gateway to La Strada. 2015 CKiS. Wszelkie prawa zastrzeżone.