"Molodyezh Estonii" April 21, 2006
The concert tour to Russia of Ivashkevich’s dancers
It is not the first time we are telling about a wonderful school – Duff Tap Studio, which was created and have been conducted for many years by the actor of the Russian Drama theatre Alexander Ivashkevich.
It seems that he did not name his studio by accident, to show off, to add lustre to it, or to give a kind of hint about its belonging to the western market, as our businessmen mostly do. No, with this name, he wants to show that a long and really dramatic story of this peculiar dance was the basis of this.
Ivashkevich himself has never spoken about it, but I think that he still wants to somehow underline that his studio has also taken part in this incredible history, which is shining with such bright stars as, for example, Fred Aster, Bill Robinson and others. They have developed this dance, made him a special type of art and became the pride of America and the whole world. Again, there is no wish to extol or to show off, putting himself in one row with the world famous tap dance stars. However, in the book that tells about the great masters of American tap, there is a small piece about Ivashkevich himself. He has studied tap in America and danced with famous performers from America, Finland and other countries. The same dance tradition is also kept in his studio, but with adding of something individual. He and his children have shocked the Moscow audience once, performing together with the stars of Russian tap. They were told that “they are not like anybody else”, they have their own, special style. Brenda Buffalino who was called “one of the most important persons in music and dance world of American tap”, also said that Alexander has something special of his own.
I have persistently tried to ask Alexander about his own opinion about his style. He shrugged with a smile, “I must be some hybrid…” But then added very seriously that music is the first and the foremost thing for him and his children. And the sound of the feet is like one of the orchestra’s instruments, without which there is no real number, real music.
On the festival-contest in Berlin, Ivashkevich’s young students were the best, stunning the audience by their expressive dance. And the head of the judges, the Head of the famous Friedrichstadt palace, invited them to attend a musical in his prestigious concert hall.
On the World Championship this winter Ivashkevich’s children got into the ten of the best in nomination “small groups”. But if take only European countries, they were the third, letting ahead only Swiss and Hungarians. For the first participation in the Championship it is a pretty good result. Especially, as Ivashkevich has said, on this championship danced such “docs” and “serious guys,” to compete with whom is very hard. Especially, taking into consideration, that the group don’t have any experience on competing in championships. Probably, there was neither time nor finances for such serious training and big tours. And Alexander is not a producer or trainer in common understanding of these words. He is an actor and tap, and everything connected to it, even if it is precious to him; it is only one of the parts of his life, one of displays of his nature. Even under these circumstances the dancers impressed the audience, the Jury and famous performers of this dance.
And nobody knew how hard it was for Ivashkevich himself and his group. Just before the departure to Germany, where the Championship was held, one of the performers got ill. They had to restructure the whole number in one night, making it for 5 performers and not 6. During the championship they already didn’t have any time for extra training and polishing their number. They danced already on the second day after coming to Germany. Of course, they were under heavy emotion pressure, but they successfully went through several tours and got into semi-final. Even on the final level they had to compete with 32 groups from different countries. So large was the number of participants. Of course, they were “not like others” also, standing out by “different face expressions”, the manner of dancing. Anton Merkulov, the same Anton, who danced in China, showing there studio’s level. Anton, who made a brilliant display in Berlin, the very Anton showed his solo there once again. Ivashkevich says, that knew, this number to be out of general picture of the championship, its atmosphere, style. It is a very special dance number, dance-reflection, dance-impression, and dance-music. Nobody has danced there like this. I even if Anton hasn’t received any prize for this dance, he was remembered by everybody. Alexander says he wanted just that. He wanted a new key to ring on the championship, new word. Maybe it will be a beginning of a new page in its history.
The participation in the championship in general gave a lot to students and also to Ivashkevich As if children have got new nudges and new impulses. Now they are eager to perform on the next championship. To perform and to win…The preparations to the new championship has already begun in the studio. Ivashkevich says that he has already created a number for two girls – Uljana Maljutina and Zhenja Gabets. This number is a bit different. Studio’s style, its special approach to the art of tap is kept in it, but there is also something that was seen on the World Championship. It must be this way. Trips, communication, participation in competitions, concerts always enrich with additional knowledge.
The tour to Kaliningrad was planned by Ivashkevich as something that could also enrich the students and broaden their mental outlook. This trip can be called ‘a tour’ only metaphorically, because there was no commercial benefit behind it. Alexander told his children before the departure, “We are going there to get tired. Tired from performances, work, excursions, from talking to people…”
They were really crawling up in the evenings back to the boarding school, where they were accommodated. They were tired utterly, but full of impressions. The trips around town and its environs were very interesting, gave a lot of new experiences and new feelings. They were dancing almost every day. Alexander says that they were carrying the special shoes with them all the time, ready to go on the stage any moment and to dance, dance and dance.
In German-Russian House they gave their solo concert. The concert was to be a bit longer than an hour, but the audience didn’t let them leave the stage for two hours. They have begun their enchanting dance a capella twice to the applause. And the people fell silent, listening to the rhythmical overfalls and modulations, this music of the feet.
In the Russian State University of Immanuel Cant the studio has participated in “holiday of water”. Sergei Bezberezhjev, a representative of MFA of Russia in Kaliningrad, who has seen the children in Tallinn already, was stunned by the professional development of Ivashkevich’s dancers and their expressiveness and originality. Katherine Belik, who was looking after Ivashkevich’s group in Kaliningrad, a man of Arts herself has tried to make for them as saturate program as possible after realizing the level of the group. They have performed in Svetlogorsk, where, by the way, also people from Kaliningrad went to watch again the young dancers and their conductor. The stage wasn’t meant for tap and the hall was so full of people, they thought the music won’t be understood. But the success was really great. The audience had been captured by them, as the students themselves said. They were happy from the attention and warmth, received from the spectators, and that is why they danced freely and inspired, improvised easily and gracefully. Ivashkevich was surprised and himself, watching his students. Because the dance number, rehearsed till the tiniest detail, was that time absolutely different, it brought other idea, other information. It must have been a moment of triumph for Ivashkevich as a teacher. He got what he wanted. People often asked the children where they learned the art of acting and thanked them. However, Russian audience is always thankful when sees a good work, feels mastery, inspiration, talent.
That is how our young and grown ups show themselves abroad.