Indefinable: Derevo’s ‘Once Upon a Time’

If it’s not theater, not pantomime, not musical comedy or dance, then what is it? The Athens Concert Hall answers with Derevo, a Russian dance theater troupe which will perform a show titled «Once Upon a Time» at the Dimitris Mitropoulos Hall this Friday and Saturday. The hybrid group, whose name means «tree» in Russian, hails from St Petersburg, but has been based in Dresden, Germany, since 1995, where it has grown to specialize in blending different theatrical media, as well as using elements from a number of theatrical traditions. The troupe was formed in 1988 in the studio of Anton Adassinsky, the group’s current director, and was soon touted as representing the new wave of Russian avant-garde, impressing critics with its references to Japanese Butoh dance, commedia dell’arte and Greek mythology, among others. Already in 2004, Derevo has performed in Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. After Athens it is due to appear in Poland and then at the jubilee program to mark the 10 years of the Golden Mask Festival in Moscow with three performances, before moving on to shows in Hungary, Ireland and the United Kingdom. The multifaceted character of the group fits well with that of its director, who followed his creative interests in classical guitar, photography, mime, acting, dance and circus performance before founding Derevo. Of Derevo’s performance of «Islands in the Stream» last summer at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, The Daily Telegraph’s critic Ismene Brown wrote: «If it was Derevo’s capacity for horrifying us with glimpses from the maw of human hell that first grabbed my attention some years ago, now it is the capacity for almost unspeakable beauty on stage – made from very little – that adds to the exceptional appeal of this monkish quartet of shaven-headed Russian mime artists.» In Athens however, the group’s focus returns to drama with a tragic love story about two lonely people, a man and a woman, who could well be the girl next door. She is a beautiful, but rather narrow-minded woman. He is kind, generous and unfortunate. «Once Upon a Time» received the Arena Award in the 1997 festival at Erlangen, Germany, as well as the Fringe First and the Herald Angel in Edinburgh in 1998. Derevo’s performers are Elena Yarovaya, Tatiana Khabarova, Oleg Zhukovsky and Alexej Merkhuchev. Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.2333.