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How Solos from Gdańsk, Burdag, and Warszawa Came To Be

Posted August 20th, 2012

Wislawa Szymborska, a Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet, passed away in February of this year. I remember being introduced to her work in high school, after choosing at random a book of her poems from the town library. I read her, and forgot about her. But recently, thanks to the Poetry Foundation’s iPhone app, I began reading poets by chance: the app features a random poem finder; shake it, the screen whirls, and voila! You’ve been supplied your daily word fodder. Wislawa came up a few months ago.

I hadn’t thought about Poland again until last week when I spoke with Greg Holt, program associate at Dance/UP and former LAB fellow. With his help, this year’s Philly Fringe features Solos from Gdańsk, Burdag, and Warszawa, solo work from three Polish dancers: Magda Jędra, Marysia Stokłosa, and Iza Chlewińska (a version of Tralfamadoria, which you can preview below, will appear in the Fringe). The Fringe show is an addendum though; the main focus of the three’s trip to Philadelphia beginning the second week of September is cross-cultural and cross-artistic discussion. Accordingly, the exchange began with a conversation.

After the jump: Find out how Greg oiled the cross-cultural cogs and made it happen, and listen to a Wislawa poem in Polish.

“Joanna Leśnierowska from Arts Stations Foundation in Poznań, Poland approached us this year,” Greg said when we spoke. The two met when Joanna attended Dance/USA’s annual dance showcase. “She thought it would be great to do a cultural and artistic exchange,” he said.  Arts Stations Foundation agreed to curate the exchange, while Dance/UP, the Philadelphia branch of Dance/USA, signed on to act as hosts for the Polish artists.

Completing the shuffle are three Philadelphia-based movement artists—Beau Hancock, Nora Gibson, and Alie Vidich—who followed individual agendas when they traveled to Poland at the start of July. Beau, co-founder of Stone Depot Dance Lab with Fringe artist Ellie Goudie-Averill, spent time in Burdag before attending a festival in Warsaw and then the Malta Festival in Poznań. Nora, who recently presented work at the Dance Place in Washington, D.C., traveled to Warsaw and Poznań. Alie, who expressed interest in learning from a contemporary artist, went to Poznań to study with Jurij Konjar, and then on to the Gdańsk Dance Festival in Gdańsk. The three have since returned to the U.S.

When it comes time for Magda, Marisya, and Iza to land stateside, the three will be ushered into numerous conversations with the Philadelphia community. “We wanted them to come during the festival because that’s when the biggest explosion of art in Philadelphia takes place,” Greg said. Dance/UP will include the Polish choreographers in their Hi Tea series, where artists and members of the public are invited to share tea and casual conversation. The series will also be attended by two visiting Hungarian choreographers, Katalin Lengyel and Ferenc Fehér, an exchange made possible by Trust for Mutual Understanding. The five European artists will also take part in a more formal artistic exchange, as the Philly PARD will welcome them as teachers during the month of September.

Although none of the visiting artists are completing a residency, and are therefore not expected to develop a performance as a conclusion to their visit, Magda, Marisya, and Iza expressed interest in performing. Solos from Gdańsk, Burdag, and Warszawa is a chance to hear each artist’s individual voice, as they report from the respective towns in Poland where their work is based.

Though the visiting artists will be in Philadelphia for only a few weeks, one hopes that our city’s artists will generate artistic inquiry, and leave the visiting artists will precious souvenirs. In exchange, Magda, Marisya, Iza, Katalin, and Frenec will hopefully do the same for Philadelphia artists, sharing their body of work in a way that is “so aloofly precise and so fragilely proud.” Here’s to unpacking that verse from Wislawa’s poem “Birthday” (and translating the poem in its original Polish, with German subtitles, below).

Solos from Gdańsk, Burdag, and Warszawa runs September 14, 15, and 16 at 8:00 pm, at the Mascher Space Co-op, 155 Cecil B Moore Avenue. $15.

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