'On the scene, I don’t run away from myself and I don’t reach too far into abstraction. I use simple means and in such a way as to always be on equal terms with the spectator', says Ryszard Kalinowski, dancer, choreographer, the artistic director of the Lublin Dance Theatre, pedagogue and culture animator.
tancerz, choreograf, kierownik artystyczny Lubelskiego Teatru Tańca
We paid him a visit with cameras during the final rehearsal for the autobiographical show titled Ostatnie solo K. (editor’s translation: K’s Final Solo), in which the artist sums up his artistic work. Ryszard Kalinowski thinks back, recreates fragments of old choreography and confronts himself from the old days on the scene. The show premiered during the 21st International Dance Theatre Festival in Lublin.
Another inspiration for this personal work was Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape and the theatrical interpretations of a renowned monodrama about Krapp – an old writer listening to recordings of himself recorded annually on his birthday. 'I also created K’s Final Solo in a particular moment of my life', says Ryszard Kalinowski, and continues:
I’ve reached a certain age now, many of my peers either ended their careers or stand at the crossroads. These are also questions which I ask myself: how much longer can I manage, will I have enough strength? I decided to confront myself in the first solo work in my career. I reached for Beckett and the DC 5861494 choreography, which I created with Hanna Strzemicka. It seemed to me to still be fresh and inspiring.
Kalinowski performs his old choreography simultaneously with the original performance displayed in the background, as if he was studying his own capabilities. However, as Andrzej Z. Kowalczyk notes in Kurier Lubelski, he dances the same thing he danced in 2000, but not in the same way. The review reads:
It’s fascinating to observe this dialogue between the present Kalinowski and the old one. You couldn’t ask for a better affirmation of the belief that one dances not with his legs, but with his head; the head is where the dance begins. And the experience – as long as it doesn’t get into a rut, and in this case it certainly doesn’t occur – is added value.
Ryszard Kalinowski has always been tied to Lublin. In the 1990s, under Hanna Strzemicka’s supervision, he polished his dancing skills in the Lublin University’s of Technology Contemporary Dance Group. In 2001, a professional dance group grew out of this student initiative – Lublin Dance Theatre, which quickly became recognizable not only in Poland, but also abroad. Since 2006, Kalinowski has been its artistic director.
Kalinowski is the author of acclaimed choreographies, such as Towards the Good Silence, awarded at the Łódź Theatre Meetings and Bellissimo, a spectacle which won the 2nd prize at the international competition Das Beste Deutsche Tanzsolo in Leipzig. He also created the pieces Again, and once again, 48/4 and NN.Wacławowi Niżyńskiemu.
Critics have always emphasised Kalinowski’s physical capabilities, strength and his pursuit of minimalism. As a choreographer, he often drops scenography and uses sound and lights sparingly. He underlines that what he seeks in dance and on the scene is first and foremost physicality and organicism. As the dancer himself says:
I don’t run away from myself, I’m not on the lookout for any masks. I am trying to present myself to the spectators as I am. What I talk about is also always important to me. I don’t reach far into abstraction or to unusually rich histories. I try to say something using the simplest means so that I can always be on equal terms with the spectator. I’m not trying to take them away from it all, but to talk about it in a way that they can feel that we belong to the same world, unlike in, for example, ballet or fairy tales. Hanna Strzemiecka always told us not to tell fictional stories, not to impose on ourselves things that are alien.
Together with the Lublin Dance Theatre group, the artist performed on not only Polish, but also on international stages, among them venues in the United States, Switzerland, France, Russia, Spain, Germany, Tunisia, Netherlands, Belarus and Ukraine. In Lublin, he presented many of the most interesting dancers, for example the famed Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, Batsheva Dance Company and the Netherlands Theatre. For almost 20 years, Kalinowski co-organized the International Dance Theatre Festival – one of Poland’s most important cultural events. He acknowledges that it is a career dream come true. Kalinowski says:
One year ago, we began to dream about presenting great groups and we succeeded! The most important thing for us is quality, and the viewers validate it with their presence. The East is of great significance to us, we notice how dance develops in Ukraine or Belarus. Their works are different and really mean something, they tell us something important. We want to support such initiatives, somehow they are close to our hearts! I’ve been working at this festival for over twenty years. I see how it evolves and how much it’s needed and worthwhile. I have this feeling that I’m at the right moment and in the right place now. In this sense, it’s an accomplishment, one which is still ongoing.
The choreographer also worked on stage dramas with theatre directors. He sums it up:
I’m happy that nowadays movement is becoming more and more important in theatre. Dance has a lot to offer, it combines different fields of art well. Since a few years back, one can notice greater interest in movement. We have the feeling that our work doesn’t go down the drain. However, there is still much to do.
Ryszard Kalinowski is also the co-organiser of the Contemporary Dance Forum and the Open Dance and Condition Workshops in Lublin’s Cultural Centre. He graduated from Maria-Curie Skłodowska’s University in Lublin (pedagogy education at the Faculty of Pedagogy and Psychology).
He was the coordinator of the Tour d’Europe des choregraphes partner project for young choreographers as a part of the Leonardo da Vinci programme. He was awarded Lublin’s President Award for his work for culture and Lublin’s President Theatre Award for artistic and cultural activity in Lublin.
polish contemporary dance
contemporary polish choreographers
Most important works and awards:
- K.’s Final Solo (Ostatnie solo), chor. R. Kalinowski, 2017.
- Stories we have never told (Historie, których nigdy nie opowiedzieliśmy), chor. Simone Sandroni, presented at the Polish Dance Platform 2014 as one of the best dance productions in Poland.
- Knut Hamsun’s Hunger (Głód Knuta Hamsuna), realised by R. Kalinowski and Ł. Witt-Michałowski, 2010.
- NN.Wacławowi Niżyńskiemu, chor. R. Kalinowski, 2008.
- Endo, chor. R. Kalinowski, 2009.
- Bellissimo, chor. R. Kalinowski, 2003, first award at the Dance Theatre Festival Opposition in Sopot, second prize at the 7th International Contemporary Dance Competition Best German Dance Solo in Leipzig (2005).
- Towards the Good Silence (dedicated to Bruno Schulz) (Ku dobrej ciszy [Brunonowi Schulzowi]), chor. R. Kalinowski, third prize at the 10th International Presentation of Contemporary Dance Forms in Kalisz, 2002, honorary mention at Łódź Theatre Meetings in 2004.
- Acrobats, flowers and the moon (Akrobaci, kwiaty i księżyc pomiędzy), chor. Hanna Strzemiecka, Lublin’s University’s of Technology Contemporary Dance Group, honorary mention for R. Kalinowski at Łódź Theatre Meetings in 2002
Sources: Lublin Dance Theatre, Kurier Lubelski, taniecpolska.pl, own sources
Written in Polish by Anna Legierska, Nov 2017, translated by Patryk Grabowski, Apr 2018