There are some dancers I wish I'd seen live. Nijinsky at the height - or depth - of his tormented and inspiring collaboration with Diaghilev. Nureyev and Fonteyn towards the end of their joint career, physically stronger than ever, each move made electric by their chemistry. I wish I'd been around when Martha Graham, Pina Bausch, Twyla Tharp and the Rambert and Ailey companies were transforming the way dancers move and devisers stage, costume, score and choreograph work. In my 10 days at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival I've tried to see as much as possible in between my presenting commitments...The best performer I’ve seen this year is the dancer and choreographer Olga Kosterina, from Russia, performing her show Dilemma at the Hill Street Solo Theatre until 25th August. Intense, acute, blindfolded and fierce, Kosterina’s dark drama is a taut knot of contemporary dance, controlled intensity, balletic leaps, acrobatics, contortion (both physical and emotional) and sharp visual imagery. No frills, just dark and abandoned thrills — and all from one body and one mind. As I watched I felt the power of the work cutting into me like a laser... I think Kosterina is the single new major name in contemporary dance.Bidisha ShonarKoli Mamata, Huffington Post, United Kingdom
If the eyes are the gateway to the soul, then it is testament to Olga Kosterina’s ability to convey emotion that she performs much of this stunning solo work wearing a blindfold.
For her Fringe debut, the Russian-born performer set out to create what she calls “a solo journey along the path of life” – a piece that would capture a range of human experiences, from basic survival through to feeling victorious, with a sense of growth along the way. Dilemma is the result, and all of this and more shines through.
A trained ballerina, champion gymnast and circus artiste, Kosterina has a lot of strings to her bow. But in the name of subtlety and gravitas, all sense of showmanship has been pushed to one side, until shortly before the end when two gymnastic ribbons come out.
Prior to that, it’s all about the movement. Sharing the stage with two pieces of material – one white, one black – fanned out expectantly, she moves through the space. Standing with one leg high in the air, Kosterina is solid as a rock – each move as precise as the last.
Dressed in a flesh-covered ruched leotard, her eyes covered by a black band, she picks up the long, flowing black skirt and puts it on. As the pace quickens, and she starts to turn, it is as if a whirling dervish has entered the room.
Then, wrapped in a white scarf, she twirls two S-shaped plastic wands like a sophisticated majorette. All the while her eyes are hidden, until a moment of exuberance when the blindfold is ripped off and Kosterina’s entire demeanour changes. A soft smile springs from her lips and life has clearly taken a turn for the better.
Few dancers can hold an audience for an entire 60-minute solo, without some desire for new recruits kicking in – but Kosterina can. Dilemma is a display of thoughtful, emotionally intense and technically excellent dance, that had the woman sitting behind me whispering “wow” under her breath after the closing moments. Wow indeed.
Kelly Apter, The Scotsman, United Kingdom
Hill Street Theatre is flying solo this Fringe, offering a programme consisting entirely of shows with one performer. But while the monologue is familiar festival fodder, it’s rarer to see a dancer command the theatre alone for a full hour. Enter Russian-born choreographer, former gymnast and Fringe first-timer Olga Kosterina, rolling imperceptibly onstage, egg-like, blindfolded, bronzed by nude lighting. And as soon as she does, we know there will be nothing spartan or lacking in this extraordinary tour de force; a journey to heaven, a plunge into an elemental world.
Bandaged in flesh-toned gossamer, using swathes of fabric that range from a majestic black skirt to wisps of white chiffon, she dances mercurially in and out of states of turmoil, empowerment and grace. You can feel her sensory deprivation under that blindfold, an immersion in her own body as she tweaks a foot, turns a wide cartwheel into a runic shape.
We see flashes of things we think we recognise, before Kosterina whips them away again, too quick to tell; a classical turn, a Romany swirl? When she tosses her huge black skirt up over her shoulders into raven wings, the image, though fleeting, burns unforgettably. At last, in a simmering frenzy of Dervish whirls, she takes away her blindfold and the simple revelation of the eyes is transformed into something cathartic and powerful.
There is something so unearthly and wonderful about Kosterina when she is at her most raw. She is a rare treasure of a Fringe-find, someone whose talent feels as if it is bursting against the seams of her venue. Catch her now, before she is on a stage too large and far away to drink in all the details.
Lucy Ribchester, The List, United Kingdom
A tightly curled body rolls slowly on to stage, partially obscured by a sea of smoke. Slowly the foetal form unfurls a searching arm and extended leg to reveal the figure of Olga Kosterina; you have just witnessed the birth of an individual and the beginning of their dilemma. Using a combination of ballet and contemporary styles, physical theatre, and circus skills, Kosterina explores the dichotomy of good and evil, and the struggle that all individuals face choosing between them.
The intensity and focus of this performer is mind-boggling, every movement she makes is charged with emotion and intent. So much so, in fact, that she could have spent fifteen minutes opening a jar of jam and I can guarantee it would still have been fascinating to watch.
The way this attention is used to create contrasts between sequences is one of the most effective elements of this piece. As a performer and choreographer Kosterina has the confidence and experience to understand the power of stillness in dance; to comprehend the significance and power the smallest movement can have when performed well. These moments are balanced perfectly with the more frantic and explosive segments to ensure she carries the audience with her and makes them a part of the journey.
There is no set to speak of and the tech is simple – using a subtle play of shadows and light to enhance the good/evil, black and white aesthetic. In fact, there is nothing in this production to hide behind. Every decision, from the nude coloured leotard to the few props (including some remarkably hypnotic, curved batons) is there to compliment the choreography and draw attention to the movements themselves.
One outstanding decision, though, was the music. Like the choreography itself, the music draws on many different influences, managing to weave them together seamlessly. The marriage of movement and music is sublime, and makes for a fantastically emotive experience.
I hesitate to pin the term ‘contemporary’ on such a hybrid performance, but it is the closest term we have to describe such choreography. As contemporary performances go, this is one of the best I have seen and Olga Kosterina should be complimented on her beautiful choreography, focussed performance and overall thought provoking work.
Madeleine Ash, BroadwayBaby, United Kingdom
Russian performer Olga Kosterina with “Exit” opened this year´s festival of "Mono Dielli"
She, with her physical, mental, spiritual and expressive intuition, flights of ideal, shined over the flooring of city cultural center. Her performance is defined as physical theatre spreading between meditative ritual, physical action, musical contest, game of geishas, evidence of humility and all these within a pentagram shaped musical nuisance.
The performance penetrated beyond gestures, rhythmical love, reminding contemplation, poetry mentality of aesthetic sense, all intertwined with the verse and philosophy of Herman Hesse.
Staging, scenic design, esthetical establishment, shape and interpretative formulation, suggestions and psychic whispering, facial gestures, verbal apparatus, depth of dioptre, version of diaphragm and lip vibrations in harmony with handle of the hand and triggering of fingers. The final verdict, the body and plastics to refine figures up to the formations of ballet which drew the mind of a female that was outside of herself, outside the society, outside the scene action, outside the physical and spiritual gate. Whereas her spirit suffered for being inside that gate, in between those musical wires conceived with white dress and long mileage.
It was a Japanese tendency, as long as the silence was its explosion and sorrow, dance and a symbolic pentagram are a messaging entrance for the gates of a spiritual world. Olga Kosterina brought spirit of modern dance. Amongst others, she is a choreographer and her artistic program is an impermeable one.
That opening was a favorable night!
Naser Shatrolli, theatre critic, Switzerland
Olga Kosterina is an exquisite dancer. From the moment she enters, rolling blindfolded onto the stage, she has the audience in the palm of her hand. She remains graceful and poised even as she contorts her body into some truly astonishing configurations.
A few hand props lie scattered around the stage, waiting for Kosterina to pick them up and bring them to life. In her capable hands a long black skirt becomes a matador cape, a storm cloud, a set of wings – with every twist of her body the image changes, inviting the audience to imagine something new.
The score is intense and dramatic, making considerable use of Max Richter’s Memoryhouse. No matter how many dance pieces use his music, it never loses its power to send shivers down the spine (or my spine, at least). It’s ideally suited to the skillfully choreographed struggle the dancer appears to be experiencing as she searches for her shape. The pizzicato strings that accompany an inverted, spider-like posture are particularly memorable.
It’s an excellent show. Kosterina bridges the gaps between dance, physical theatre, mime and gymnastics, and the result is a delight to watch.
Jen McGregor, Edinburghspotlight, United Kingdom
Olga Kosterina’s solo dance show has to be one of the most peaceful and visually stunning pieces on the fringe. The concept of ’a person lost in a maze of their own fears’ may be tricky to decipher, but don’t let that put you off.
The Russian dancer immediately sets the tone with a series of stunning poses showing off her strength, control, focus and the sheer beauty of the human body.
Her choreography varies. At one point Kosterina twirls like a whirling dervish, at another she displays all the grace of a ballet dancer, there’s also a bit of Madonna-style vogueing, and later she switches to matador-style cape work.
The second act is a calm contrast to the energetic performance it follows. With feet firmly planted centre stage, Kosterina evokes a small seed turning into a big tree. It’s an accomplished vignette, but you can’t help pining for the fun and humour of the first half, which is a real celebration of the body and the limits it can be pushed to.
Simple lighting, a couple of props and perfectly pitched music add to the low-key performance. But the main attraction here is a spectacular, yet admirably understated, dancer at the top of her game.
Lauren Paxman, The Stage, United Kingdom
Solo journey along the path of life by Russian-born Fringe novice choreographer.
As an erstwhile champion gymnast, ballerina, pantomime and circus artiste and now award-winning solo theatre-maker, Russian-born Fringe novice Olga Kosterina might know a thing or two about how to face a dilemma creatively. Of her show, Dilemma, she says, "All the action relates to the mental states through which humans pass, and the images used in the piece are straight from – and to – the heart".
In previous self-designed works, Kosterina has employed a pottery wheel and fire. Dilemma is more minimal, eschewing special effects or loads of props (although there are curved wands, elegantly handled) in order to plumb the body’s emotional depths. "It’s a story about survival, growth and victory", she reveals, "the desire for a new life and the happiness born from seemingly small, natural things".
There’s a dark side to Kosterina’s metaphorical evolutionary stage journey, however, referencing stress and struggle but ultimately with a promise of salvation. Her physical style is delicate yet strong, precise yet instinctual.
Donald Hutera, The List, United Kingdom
The talented Moscow girl marked the opening of the sixth edition of the Black Box International Theater and Contemporary Dance Festival with the marvelous and graceful performance “Dilemma”, a symbiosis of dance, ballet and pantomime. The magnificent Russian choreographer and ballet-dancer literally left breathless the audience with her phenomenal performance.
Dilemma is a performance of the movement. The dance relates to the mental states, through which we pass, about the loneliness and despair of the person lost in the maze of his own fears, about the survival, growth and victory, the desire for new life and the salvation that we can find if we gaze into the nature, about the happiness, born from seemingly small things, like the puff of the wind, the flight of birds, the growth of the grass and the fondling caress of the sun. In her dance Olga reproduces with amazing grace the eternal struggle between good and evil, the dominance of the black or white in our lives and our conscious choice of direction, in which each of us decides to go. Elegance, style, grace, but also firmness and strict beauty had interwoven on the scene of the Drama Theater work for an hour.
At the end of the show, the enthusiastic audience was on its feet, applauding the actress.
The contradictions of black and white smooth out… dance. Her every movement — the art, each step is a preparation for the flight. Our countrywoman Olga Kosterina has moved to Moscow, but the Russian premiere of her first monoperformance "Dilemma" gifted dancer, gymnast, mime — decided to make in Vladimir.
"Dear viewers, be prepared for the art!"
More — not a word. All say the movement and music. From the first seconds of this indissoluble symbiosis captures, and even long after the play does not come down. Every human life — the search for truth through the veil of the passions and temptations. They are like a black eyeband, interfere with accurately distinguish between good and evil. This problem, the problem of perpetual choice Olga devoted her solo performance. Her "dilemma" is resolved in favor of harmony in the world.
Olga: ”Just I love beauty. Beauty of the world and beauty of human. I try to seek it and conform to it“.
Flexible, inventive and expressive. Olga has had time to try on dozens of roles, and is still in search. Master of Sports in Rhythmic Gymnastics, was a dancer of ballet "Todes", then going to the creative independence, became involved in mime, has learned to perform tricks with fire. Creative samples and ambition in abundance, and everything seems to have always be two hundred percent. Images that Olga portrays through his body, replaced by unnoticed, but dramatically. Waves of the sea — the cradle of life after a few seconds turn into the sun, the motor of all life. Incidentally, these elements are most encouraged by the choreographer. Her creative summer lasts 6 months because she works all the summer at her rehearsal studio in the Crimea.
Olga: "If I’m in the Crimea, I am in the Crimea at all. And I have a phone not reachable, and please, I need nothing and nobody. The guests just come, those who know where. And there is work, there are performances, rehearsals, everything right — the sea, the sun, the dance, the movement".
Russian premiere of "Dilemma" — the result of a work in this year. The next time we will see Olga in Vladimir in the next year and only with a new performance, she promises.
Anna Mitiaeva, media-channel "Mir’TV", Russia
Dance has something primordial inside. Even Nietzsche wrote, "I would believe only in a God who dances." Love for any kind of art arises only if we manage to get to know his real face. If there is no suitable example, there is no love, there is no interest. On the first day of the Festival «Brilliant Audience» Olga Kosterina performed her solo show "Fantasy of one exhalation" musical accompaniment for which were works by Chopin, Debussy, and even modern "65 days of static». A closer look at a few sketches – so let’s call these stage acts of Master of choreography. There is not a finer, more impressive than the blossoming of a flower bud. In this divine act, dance reaching for the sun there are many simple living and life, complicated by human within his existence. Power received a flower from the ground allows it to live harmoniously in a certain space and feel the future of its life, without disturbing the world around, and walking with him in the leg, flying to the Sun-father, under the wings of which life arises, but when struck grants oblivion.
Performance continued with the counting seconds «Pendulum». Number, which was later repeated by master encore. Clearly came through this fleeting passage of time. We live in such a furious pace that for ourselves we have only a few minutes. Turning into a taxi, we drive up to the house the problems and back them to work, putting a sign "busy" when we see the unwanted passengers wishing to dump cargo from their shoulders to our body or in the cockpit.
We will not go into unnecessary details and paint the encrypted information of dance-pantomime, especially as each other spectator gets his own meaning of all its content. Everyone can see something that others do not see. A major role in the understanding always play the views, interests and experiences. There are not identical tastes, no hair in exactly similar views in the World. With the words of Remark, "loneliness exists always and never." But in the stream of thoughts, as in a flow of the river, everything is moving in one direction, to the final pond and a new cycle, when the same stream will carry us forward again.
Vasiliy Kosenko, media-channel "FeodosiaTV", Ukraine