by Debra Spark, United States
Writer-in-Residence, January 2020
“Hello, how are you doing, my beautiful peoples?” 36-year-old Armenian dancer Tsolak MLKE-Galstyan made a habit of saying in his delightfully imperfect English to his fellow artists in Paris. They were all new friends, an international group who had quickly bonded at L’AiR Arts, a January 2020 multicultural residency about the post-World War One art world. Led by Russian émigré Mila Ovchinnikova, the group explored that devastating moment in history when Parisian creatives felt the world had changed forever and old artistic approaches to experience would no longer do.
By the end of the three weeks, none of the L’AiR artists wanted to say goodbye. “We’ll stay in touch,” everyone said. MLKE-Galstyan (pronounced Mul-kay Gal-uh-stee-ahn) had a better idea. “Next year, everyone, you come to Armenia,” he said. His late father had built a large summer house outside Yerevan. MLKE-Galstyan was already hoping to secure funding to turn the beautiful spot into an artistic centre. Maybe he could put everyone up there?
Imagining opportunities where none exist is MLKE-Galstyan’s habit. In 2003, he and his sister Shoghakat co-founded Armenia’s first contemporary dance company, Mihr Theatre (named after the pagan God of sun and light). Now, he wanted to arrange for the L’AiR artists to gather again, so they could continue the conversations about art and life that were “like air” for the dancer.
But the coronavirus epidemic put an end to that particular dream. Within weeks of returning to their respective countries, MLKE-Galstyan and his new friends weren’t studying the artists of 1920s Paris but mirroring them: trying to figure out new ways of working, given the crisis of the times. They’d gone from one of the most social, culturally rich experiences of their lives to one of the most isolating.
The solution? The group wasn’t going to even wait a year to capitalize on their friendships. Instead, online from their own homes around the world, they began to consider solitude collaboratively and from a global position.
Read the full article published by the Dance International
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Residency participants are invited to submit their reflections and share their updates on projects related to the residency experience on this community blog. The resources shared here are meant to further the engagement among all residents, stimulate active thinking, and create pathways for knowledge transfer and cross-cultural exchange.
Cover Image: Artists-in Residence, October 2018