Yaroslavl, Russia Day Five: Day Two of the Forgiveness Project Laboratory Workshop

On our first day, the student-artists delved into personal stories of forgiveness. Frances and I have been talking with other participants on the subject, teasing apart variations on meanings of the word, on conditions that allow one to forgive, on the connection between the personal, the global, and even the economic aspects of forgiveness. All this helped to inform the artistic conversation/process. Students wonderfully engaged in writing and moving and constructing from their personal stories, opening hearts right away to one another and to the subject.

Feminist Punk-Rock Band "Pussy Riot"

Feminist Punk-Rock Band “Pussy Riot”

There were big things happening on the front pages and t.v. screens and everyone’s minds: the recent arrest (without bail) of the Russian feminist punk-rock band, Pussy Riot, who had performed a politically/socially charged and subversive show in a Moscow church. Unlike in the US and internationally, there was not much consensus as to whether or not what Pussy Riot had done was righteous, wrong, ­­forgivable, or worth jail time. It was a heated subject that touched upon tradition, religion and faith, individual freedom, their values…It brought up more questions than answers and was a deep, powerful exploration into the complexities of both forgiveness and speaking about sensitive subjects that may trigger those around you.

Indeed, the most powerful moment in the workshop had to do with the tension among performers as to what the role of politics was in the artistic process. Using the theme of forgiveness, I encouraged everyone to speak openly across their differences and their discomforts, practicing forgiveness as a conversational tool. Forgiving ourselves for any lack of skill with words and forgiving one another for holding views we may disagree with. This was as profound moment of insight and release for the group and, stepping back, I had the privilege of watching them arrive at new insight together landing on the consensus that all is in fact both political and personal – A perfect place to continue our work!

Many of the student-artists emphasized how grateful they were to have this opportunity to dive into this issue in such a personal and constructive method. Through this deep diving, there was considerable generation of both textual and movement material. We will have much to work with as the week unfolds. I am touched and delighted by the work we did today.

Poster for International Festival of Movement and Dance on the Volga Performances

Poster for International Festival of Movement and Dance on the Volga Performances

No rest there. Frances and I ran right into tech rehearsal and then directly to our performance, working right up to the last minute with translations of our text and figuring out how to present them, as well as thinking and talking through the many layered meanings of the words and their cultural context. It is painfully clear that this is a deep and painstaking piece of work – it’s simply not possible to do justice to this in a mere two days.

Nonetheless, we had a gracious and appreciative audience. Frances did a brilliant job in her first performance of the solo, “Daughters Untold.” And we devoured a late dinner before collapsing into bed, knowing another long day was before us. (ANNE)

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