New Arts Space Aims to Revive Culture Scene
Published: October 31, 2012 (Issue # 1733)
Dutch ventriloquist, singer and dancer Duda Paiva performs his solo show ‘Angel’ at Skorohod’s opening on the weekend.
St. Petersburg’s blossoming contemporary culture scene was bolstered over the weekend by the addition of a brand new performance arts space the like of which has not existed in the city before.
A dedicated group of creative enthusiasts, among them the organizers of the Lyogkiye Lyudi contemporary dance school and the ByeByeBallet art space on Ulitsa Belinskogo is behind the new project: A multi-purpose space — Skorohod — that will see performances of contemporary indie theater and dance productions, as well as music performances, lectures and festivals, both foreign and local.
In the finest traditions of contemporary European art spaces of similar intent, the location is that of a renovated factory, in this case the old Skorokhod children’s shoe factory, from which the new center takes its name, just behind Moskovskiye Vorota metro station.
Redesigned with a stylish interior dominated by tall ceilings, sleek black couches and a long white bar that will also serve organic vegetarian food, Skorohod’s 700 square meters were packed during the 30-hour opening marathon at the weekend, lending great promise to the project’s future success. The dimly lit warehouse-like space was filled with chic representatives of the city’s contemporary culture community, and despite the colorful cocktails and pulsating DJ beats, the events were markedly non-glamorous. Rather, they were tinged with the edge of the creative underground.
The St. Petersburg Times spoke to Tatyana Priyatkina, artistic director of Skorohod, about the ambitious project at its opening.
Q. Is the St. Petersburg public ready for Skorohod and contemporary theater?
A. We don’t know! We really hope that that is the case, but nobody knows for a fact. But we know that we are ready to take on contemporary theater , and there are many contemporary theaters that are waiting to meet the public, and the only thing missing is to attract the public so that they get involved.
Q. Who do you see as your principle audience?
A. You can guess what sort of people will be willing to come to such a place. They are the sort of people who don’t generally go to the theater, though they go to exhibitions; they go to Dom Kino, they spend their time playing frisbee at New Holland.
We believe that there are exciting, modern and comprehensible theater productions that can and should be shown to the contemporary audience, they just need to be met half-way: In this theater, with the audience that you see here.
Q. So you don’t consider yourselves to be in competition with the Mariinsky or Alexandriinsky theaters?
A. No, this is a completely different audience, a different type of show.
My favorite dance collective, a famous British dance troupe called DV8 that performs unusual contact theater, came to the Mariinsky Theater for a performance, but later said that they would never return to Russia. That is because the Mariinsky is too academic for them, too beautiful. How can you put a bum up on the stage if you’re at the Mariinsky? There are venues where this is not possible, but at our theater these limitations don’t exist.
Musicians perform at the opening. Skorohod plans to host new events every day.
Q. Do you have certain limitations to what you can show in St. Petersburg due to the specificity of the public? For instance, as a result of local politics, or the new law against the promotion of homosexuality, or the condemnation by representatives of the Orthodox Church?
A. You know, that’s why we have set an age limit of 21+ for our space: Not because we won’t be showing anything suitable for children, but because we want to protect ourselves from any expected or unexpected problems. Contemporary theater often includes swearing, or naked actors on stage, and much more besides, but it’s normal for us to bring up topics that concern us; we want people who come here to understand that this is possible.
Q. Why do you think that no similar place has appeared yet in St. Petersburg?
A. The main reason is that you need to find funding somewhere. But where? There aren’t many idiots like us who would put all their savings and take out a loan for something that will never make a profit.
We do this because we love it and this is what we want; we believe in theater, and it’s stupid that we don’t have any similar platforms, because they are necessary, and if the government doesn’t do it, then we will do it ourselves.
Q. You have a very concentrated program of events, how did that come together?
A. We don’t even know where we’ll find audiences [for all the events]! There has been this crazy rush among theaters and companies because everyone wants to participate. Every day I get about 20 messages saying ‘Please invite us,’ and I don’t even know half of them, even though I’ve been working in this sphere for years.
People will be able to come here on any day and there will always be something new. For instance, every weekend there will be a “trash Saturday” with the most avant-garde productions, and a “light Sunday” with easier fare. People will have the chance to choose among genres, for instance you might say that you aren’t quite ready for contemporary dance on Wednesdays but you might want to see a lecture on Monday, or vice versa. There will always be variety, but the events will always be contemporary.
Q. So you will be representing the St. Petersburg avant-garde?
A. That’s what we would really like. But not some obscure underground that does something that nobody understands. That’s not what it’s about. I believe that if we’re doing something new, it should be accepted and understood by our audience. Maybe even [we could include] new mainstream productions, if they’re cool.
We’re collaborating extensively with Dutch and French theaters, Israeli contemporary dance groups and also a Swiss group with a series of shows. There will also be groups from Moscow, Volgograd and Minsk.
We want to mix up what’s happening in St. Petersburg with the world, because we’ve fallen behind a little. We live as if we are in exile, or underwater, [preserved] in the Kunstkamera.
Skorohod, located at 107 Moskovsky Prospekt, is open daily from 12 p.m. to 11.30 p.m. Metro: Moskovskiye Vorota. Tel. 987 6690. www.skorohod.me