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Soviet Gesture
research-in-progress since 2015

Manual for the Practical Use of a Dance Archive:
Experiments in Choreology, or Where the Soviet Gesture Has Led Us
Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, 2020

The Manual for the Practical Use of a Dance Archive: Experiments in Choreology, or Where the Soviet Gesture Has Led Us is a hybrid publication that comprises both documentation of the laboratory's work and detailed instructions on how to conduct research through dancing. 

It is “an instruction, a game, an archive, a protocol, a score to perform contemporary dance.” It also operates as a bold proposal for a method to document a dance research process, the dominant component of which is the nonverbal practice of bodily experience of historical concepts and dilemmas.

Russian edition of this book was supported by the Garage Field Research program


Translation into English is supported by DIS-TANZ-SOLO

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multimedia participatory performance-lecture

The performance combines historical materials about little-known experiments in the art of the early Soviet period and contemporary multimedia technologies. Immersing the viewer in a dance aesthetic that was not developed in Soviet history, the performance creates a space for reflection on the Soviet heritage beyond existing dichotomies.

concept and choreography - Isadorino Gore dance cooperative (Sasha Portiannikova and Dasha Plokhova)
video - Alexey Najarov
music - Oleg Makarov
dramaturgy - Polina Phor
The online premiere took place in November 2020
with the support of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation,
the Union of Theater Workers of the Russian Federation and the ZIL Cultural Center


Since 2015 Isadorino Gore dance cooperative has been researching the heritage of the experimental dance practices, that were formed in the Russian Empire and were maintained after the Revolution up to the end of 1920s. Some of them were later implemented in Soviet gymnastics and cinema. 


We distinguish the difference between the restoration of the heritage and its re-thinking, recycling. Hence it was important for us in this project to reflect on connection between choreography and ideology in dance practice and aesthetics, on the phenomenon of expressive embodiment at the beginning of the 20th century, and on the fascination with Power and Will which was an international dance trend of the mentioned period. During the research new questions arose: how do we approach our heritage? Where do we see it and where we don’t? What can be considered as an archive of ungraspable dance practice? And how could we recycle this unreachable knowledge?


To cover the above mentioned areas we gradually have been developing our research in different directions:

  • our research based on books about Soviet dance pioneers ( Misler N., The Russian Art of Movement, Sirontkina I. Free movement and early modern dance in Russia) resulted in a work-in-progress performance – Meyerhold Theatre residency (2017-2018)

  • work with Сhoreological laboratory archive of RAKhN (The Russian Academy of Artistic Sciences (1922-1929)) – supported by Garage Museum field research grant (2019)

  • collaboration and constant exchange with Moscow based studios, that preserve traditions and develop the methods of the musical movement (historical studio Heptachor) and Alekseeva’s original method of female gymnastic (2017-19)

  • laboratory research “Experiments in Choreology”: group practice with the developed archive work method, based on the materials found in RAKhN archive – supported by Garage Museum field research grant (2019)


The mission of this project is to reflect on current global dance trends and practices, explore culturally determined embodiment and grasp the residual pattern of the Soviet embodiment, that we were taught to be ashamed of. Working on this project we faced resistance of our teachers' generation and unconscious autocolonial moods. We do not blame them, since they satisfied their cultural hunger after the fall of the Iron Curtain by studying contemporary dance from Western institutions and artistically “grew up” in a certain aesthetic hierarchy: art that looked “western" was encouraged by international institutions, so it was considered as “proper contemporary”. Meanwhile, the younger generation of artists has less fear of studying soviet heritage and demonstrates rather remarkable interest in our controversial history.

In the era of globalization and cultural unification that happens whether we want this or not,  we still stay diverse and it makes the world a better place. We believe that communication and knowledge exchange are crucial for the art community, and in order to have resources for such exchange we should stay diverse.

more on this topic in a chapter "An Ethical Rationale of the Project Soviet Gesture" of the book

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