While NOTAFE is an abbreviation of “Noore Tantsu Festival” (“Festival of Young Dance”), the grasp of this enterprise reaches far beyond the dance itself today.
I was sent by kultuur.info to visit all the public evening events that took place in the framework of the festival last week. Among them were two concerts, a screening of short films, and a visual radio show. In addition to that, two improvisational performances of physical theatre, which cannot only be called dance performances either. And the two dance events that were in the programme were of not very traditional kind either. Some may have even considered them shocking.
“What joins the people who gather here is an active relationship to body and mind,” the introduction to the festival says. I suppose it cannot be phrased in more detail.
The festival programme contained a number of daytime workshops, for which numerous people had gathered in Viljandi from both Estonia and many other countries. What was learnt there was presented at the last day of the festival. Everyone who had participated in the workshops, who I happened to talk to, considered them useful. So this undertaking was certainly worthwhile.
While the Dance Week that took place in April focused on promoting the contemporary dance of Estonia, NOTAFE has become a completely international festival, where everything is conducted in English. Therefore, a large number of the guests of evening events was made up of daytime workshop participants, not just regular town folks, but there were some random enthusiasts as well. Additionally, the organisers had invited the kind of locals, who usually do not attend events like these, to participate the following discussions and express their opinions. This was good. And interesting.
I would specifically mention Aitana Cordero’s production “Kolm viisi meisterlikuks suudluseks ehk kahekümne viie minuti suudlus su kaelal” (“Three Ways of a Masterful Kiss aka 25-Minute Kiss on Your Neck”) that was part of the Friday evening programme, which, in hindsight, turned out to be the culmination of NOTAFE, at least for me. Not because I could wipe the sweat off the brow of one of the characters in the course of it, but because it was a liberating piece for which to be personally thankful.
It is hard to believe that the festival once started as a Children’s Dance Festival, as it was stressed that Cordero’s show was only suitable for adults. The warning apparently stemmed from the fact that at some point all the characters stripped off their clothes and engaged in some racy kissing. If anything disturbed me, it was playing with food, which in itself is wrong and gives the wrong sort of signal.
The performance, which lasted nearly 90 minutes, took place in the old sports hall, the means of which (baskets etc.) were ingeniously used. At the same time, it was from time to time difficult to follow, as the activity took place at both ends of the hall simultaneously and was not easy to grasp from where the audience was sitting.
Cordero’s production would probably work better on smaller stages. The troupe was international, put together in the framework of NOTAFE, containing several Estonian representatives. Rehearsals only took place for a very short time, but the cooperation seemed to work.
While seeing is believing and no description will convey the exact picture, I suggest to watch short summaries of the same play’s previous performances by other groups, available online at https://vimeo.com/user404436/videos.
Cordero was also the one who made the NOTAFE participants jump together at the overview, which ended the festival. Her mission was obviously liberating the people and the energy within them. And she does it really skilfully and well.
NOTAFE took place for the 24th time already this year, but I have to admit I attended it for the first time. And if kultuur.info had not sent me there, I may have not made it this time either. I’m glad it happened. Next year, I will go on my own initiative. Hopefully the festival still takes place. It would be a shame if this year’s festival was the last.