Ukrainian artist to guest choreograph at Corcoran Fall Dance Concert

Media Credit: Courtesy of Anton Ovchinnikov

Anton Ovchinnikov works as a professional choreographer, producing pieces for international festivals and serving as artistic director for his company, Black O!Range Dance Theatre.

A choreographer and performer from Kiev, Ukraine with a robust body of international artistic work to his name is bringing his expertise to the District this semester to guest choreograph for the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design’s Fall Dance Concert from November 17 to 19.

Anton Ovchinnikov’s piece for the concert next month will feature six students and three pieces of music, a Ukrainian folk song and two pieces of “electronic jazz contemporary” music, he said. For the piece’s contemporary choreography, a collaboration between himself and his students, he said he drew inspiration from the idea of unspoken words between people who once knew each other, but now are strangers.

“This was my idea, to explain to them what it is about, and now they can reflect this topic through their own bodies in their own choreography,” Ovchinnikov said.

Ovchinnikov said he met Corcoran dance professor Maida Withers when they connected in a dance class in Moscow twenty years ago, and years later, in 2018, they collaborated on a piece titled 60 MOVES with FUTURE GAZE. This work explored their shared choreographic style of postmodernism, a movement with roots in modern dance that aims to push the boundaries of the conventional dance world through individuality, which influences much of Anton’s choreographic work.

Ovchinnikov and Withers created 60 MOVES with FUTURE GAZE for the 60th anniversary of the National Exhibition Center of Ukraine, a building the Soviet Union constructed in 1949. Ovchinnikov said he and Withers drew inspiration from the juxtaposition of the Ukrainian dancers and the Soviet architecture, styling the dancer’s movements so that they interacted directly with the building, weaving around the grand, neoclassical columns and down the wide staircase.

“All the dancers who participated in the performance were born after Ukraine became independent,” Ovchinnikov said. “So it was a kind of new generation that had never been living in the Soviet Union.”

Ovchinnikov visited GW in 2019 for the first time to teach choreography to Corcoran dance students at Withers’ invitation, as the two remained in touch. Having returned to the District again, Ovchinnikiov performed an original piece Friday at the opening of LEGACY: Fifty Years of Dance on the Edge, a celebration of Withers’ career at the gallery at the Corcoran.

Ovchinnikov said he admires the dance program at Corcoran for giving students the opportunity to pursue academic majors in addition to dance, affording them “a much wider vision of the world.” He taught choreography at the Kiev National University of Culture and Arts, where he also earned degrees in theater direction and choreography, for more than 10 years.

In addition to teaching, Ovchinnikov works as a professional choreographer, producing pieces for international festivals and serving as artistic director for his company, Black O!Range Dance Theatre. Ovchinnikov established the company in 2005 and works mainly with students and fellow alumni of the National University of Culture and Arts.

Ovchinnikov brings a vibrant range of experiences to his dancers from his career spent presenting his work at festivals across Europe and collaborating with fellow creatives like Withers. Before arriving in D.C. this fall, he said he spent two months traveling to dance festivals and artistic forums in countries like Lithuania, Hungary and Germany to perform original choreography and present Monochrome, the dance film he created this year.

Monochrome is a 15-minute feature filmed and edited by Ovchinnnikov as an expression of the “depression and despair” of his home country after Russian troops invaded in February. The film opens in black and white, revealing Ovchinnikov dancing alone in a shallow pond to electronic-style music of his own composition while color slowly sets in.

“After the war started, I had not been dancing for six weeks or two months or something like that because I didn’t feel like I could dance,” Ovchinnikov said. “And then right away, I decided to create this film and because I started dancing again, I really felt that it brought me back to living. So it was the idea that dance can bring back this feeling of the world to have colors.”

Ovchinnikov said he has been able to travel internationally as an artist during the conflict with permission from the Ukrainian Minister of Culture and Information Policy. He said the Ukrainian government has supported artists like himself who have presented their artistic expressions of the Ukrainian cause to raise support and awareness of the war abroad.

At home in Ukraine, the artistic community has faced devastating losses and many artists have left Ukraine, seeking safety and work, he said. However, those that remain have used their work “as a weapon” to create an artistic outlet for civilians and throw festivals for all mediums of art to raise funds for the Ukrainian army.

“Most of the works were created after the war started and reflect the situation and the feelings of the people, sometimes something that happened in the past destroyed cities and villages, so everything which can especially give motivation for people to continue to live in Ukraine and create and also to have this feeling of community again,” Ovchinnikov said.

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