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In autumn, Ukraine will see the heroes of Lithuanian literature, theatre, dance, music, art, film and other “stages”

The second stage of the Lithuania – Ukraine: Cultural Partnership 2016 project began last week in Ukraine. From September to November, Kiev, Lvov and Odessa will feature a marathon of different events whose goal is to bring contemporary Lithuanian culture and the people who create it closer to Ukraine, celebrate existing ties, form new ones, and initiate long-term cooperation that will inspire both sides.

A catalyst project

According to Aušrinė Žilinskienė, who is the director of the Lithuanian Culture Institute and is coordinating the project, it’s also very important that none of the events that this project consists of were formal or planned “from above”: “After the Ministry of Culture announced that Ukraine would be one of Lithuania’s priority cultural distribution directions for 2016, a number of Lithuanian artists’ initiatives were gathered and united into one common project. Our partners were interested in Ukraine on their own – in its audiences, its listeners and readers, its artist and colleagues, in the dialogues it offered and the opportunities for creating together. What’s very important is that this interest was bilateral. We hope that 2016 will be a catalyst for active and meaningful inter-cultural dialogue,” emphasized Žilinskienė.

The first stage of the project in the spring was dominated by visual arts: the events were started off with the Everyday Life Lithuanian photography exhibition. This was followed by two exhibitions and creative workshops in Kiev, Odessa and Dnieper – Photo, Video and Media Textile and The  Lithuanian Mini-Textile Gold Foundation – organised by Lithuanian textile creators. Men from Eglė Budvytytė’s Choreografija Bėgančiam Patinui ran through the streets of Kiev. Architect Elena Archipovaitė presented problems in contemporary architecture and urbanism at the international CANactions event. The art of fashion drew a significant crowd of professionals and fans at the N WIND SHOWCASE: BALTIC event. Lithuanian literature was presented at the Knižkovyj Arsenal international literary festival in Kiev. The creative illustration workshop format, which has been proven over many years at various international book fairs, was modified and gained new meaning in Ukraine: Lithuanian and Ukrainian literary illustrators joined theatre director Saulė Degutytė in a trip around seven cities throughout Ukraine to help children create fun stories that helped them heal. In April, the PADI DAPI FISH theatre represented the performing arts with its Dior in Moscow and Baltoji Lopšinė performances.

The element of the performing arts

In the autumn stage of the project, Lithuanian drama theatre, object theatre, contemporary dance for children, urban dance and contemporary opera all came together to participate in the special interdisciplinary Gogolfest art festival in Kiev – which was focused on Lithuania. The festival began on 15 September with Paskutinė Krepo Juosta (dir. Oskaras Koršunovas) – actor Juozas Budraitis’ intimate and courageous confrontation with old age (and the audience). The festival’s audience will see six more performances from Lithuania. These shows are all currently actively touring some of the world’s most famous festivals and are arriving in Ukraine from France, Sweden, Scotland and China.

On 16 September, Oskaras Koršunovas and the Vilnius City Theatre presented Dugne, based on the work of Maxim Gorky (dir. Oskaras Koršunovas) – a performance that addressed the audience eye-to-eye without a raised stage or the so-called “fourth wall.” According to actor Dainius Gavenonis, Gorky is relevant to both Lithuania and Ukraine because he discusses lies, truth and hope, trying to learn which is most important for a person’s soul.

On 17 and 18 September, the Stalo Theatre invited the festival’s youngest audiences to a deep and respectful discussion (not just any sort of fun activity) at its Avinėlio Kelionė and Tarmių Stalas performances, as did the Dansema dance theatre at its Spalvotai Žaidimai performance. On 24 September,  Vaiva Grainytė, Lina Lapelytė and Rugilė Barzdžiukaitė’s contemporary opera, Geros Dainos!, will fill former factory buildings (this year’s Gogolfest is located in the so-called ARTzavod territory) with the echoes of price scanners and a chorus of ten cashiers. The opera, which is convinced that today’s people are united by a circle of consumption and unfulfilled dreams, has already toured through a number of countries. The festival, and the focus on Lithuania, will draw to an end with the Feel-Link street dance performance (by the Low Air dance theatre and the Arts Printing House), which covers emotions, relationships, and things that can only be expressed through dance.

The Lithuanian stage artists at Gogolfest will not be limited to their performances. They will meet with their audiences and organise creative workshops or master classes as well.

Words, sounds, images and rediscovered memories

Events were planned in Lvov as well to parallel those in Kiev. On 14 September, the Lvov international literature festival was opened by guest of honour Tomas Venclova, a Lithuanian and global writer and thinker. A sizeable group of Lithuanian writers will present their work in Lvov: Alvydas Šlepikas, Gintaras Grajauskas, Markas Zingeris, Jaroslavas Melnikas, Antanas A. Jonynas, Danutė Kalinauskaitė, Dainius Gintalas and Giedrė Kazlauskaitė. Academics and historians Mindaugas Kvietkauskas, Algis Kašėta, Eugenijus Peikštenis, Darius Juodis and others will also participate in the events.

On 30 September, conductor Modestas Pitrėnas will conduct the National Philharmonic of Ukraine. Together with violin virtuoso Vilhelmas Čepinskis and Ukrainian violinist Sofija Grabovska, they will perform Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis’ symphonic poem Miške, Vidmantas Bartulis’ Concert for Two Violins and an Orchestra, Antonin Dvořák’s Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, and a new interpretation of Myroslav Skoryk’s well-known Melody for their Ukrainian audience. On 10-14 October, Lithuanian and ukrainian illustration workshop participants Ieva Babilaitė, Katerina Biletina, Saulė Degutytė, Paulius Juodišius and Dmitro Kuzmenko will complete their “odyssey” in Odessa. On 20 October, the XX Century in Posters – an international poster exhibition – will open at the Mistetskyi Arsenal in Kiev. Dr. Karolina Jakaitė created the collection of posters for this event. On 22-30 October, the 46th Molodist international film festival in Kiev will present a film program covering both Lithuanian film classics and current work (curated by the Lithuanian Film Centre). Ukraine’s cultural season will be closed on 1 November with the YIVO in Vilnius: The Beginning of the Legend exhibition on Lithuanian Jewish heritage at the Taras Shevchenko National Museum. The exhibition’s curators, Dr. Lara Lempertienė and Dr. Giedrė Jankevičiūtė, are organising the third – following Krakow and Vilnius – meeting on lost elements of our culture with their visitors by presenting Ukrainian elements from the YIVO Institute’s collection of documents.