We met on the eve of International Tango Day, which is celebrated on December 11. Tell us, how did you come to tango and why did you choose it for your work?
— In fact, my fateful acquaintance with tango happened thanks to my trip to Argentina. When I was going to this country, I decided that I could learn Argentine tango in three weeks, so I took about six or seven individual lessons (I didn't know at the time that tango had to be learned all my life), and we went. At some point during the trip, I told everyone that I was going to a milonga, which is what tango parties are called. Five or six people from our group decided to accompany me. Everyone liked it so much that the next day the whole group of 15 people went with me to another milonga. It was enchanting, even those who did not take any lessons managed to dance there.
Tango fell on my heart, I returned to St. Petersburg and began to study it. And about a year later, I began to think of dance movie scripts that needed to be implemented. My first film, Tango in a Lunatic Asylum (I wouldn't even call it a film), was set to Schnittke's music Living with an Idiot. Two of my acquaintances, non-professional tango dancers, agreed to rehearse and try to film this script. A friend of mine, who worked at Lenfilm for many years, helped us, prompted us, and made the scenery. Another friend made this film. And, oddly enough, the audience liked the work. I got excited and started looking for a film studio that would be willing to make my films. I found more than one, but I didn't like their approach to work. I kept looking, and finally I met cinematographer Slava Kazantsev, who created his own film studio, Domino Effect. But the whole thrill was that he was also learning to dance tango, so he became interested in my projects and we started working together. To date, we've made eight films, three of which I've shot with other cameramen. Slava and his studio were inspired by the idea of dance films, because endless TV series and commercials are money, of course, but everyone wanted a breath of fresh air. And our projects gave us the opportunity to breathe.
Did you have a sense of foregone conclusion when you were going to do this?
"I often think about the fact that I don't make up these scenarios, they just come as a given. Sometimes it seems to me that I am some kind of transmission link, I just transmit certain ideas to the world. Gradually, communicating with filmmakers, I began to study cinema, slowly grow, and our films began to receive prizes at international festivals, that is, people were interested in them.
Nowadays, dance films are becoming more and more popular in the world, and there are more and more film festivals where such films are presented. For example, my film "The Wall" won several awards at the Global Short Film Awards in Cannes this year. The film was recognized as the best dance film of the year, and I was recognized as the best director. "Taste of the Night" won a large number of victories at international film festivals, including the Global Short Film Awards, and the victory at the Vampire Festival in Transylvania was no less interesting. The reward received there is also unusual – an aspen stake, gilded on one side, and "bloody" on the other.
- © Press service of Mila Komrakova
— Did you do any other dances or cinema before the Argentine tango?
"No, I don't. For many years, I have been staging various theatrical corporate events. I didn't care about cinema at that time. But tango inspired me to show people all its extraordinary beauty.
— Did you have any tango with any of the famous coaches?
— Of course, I'm still studying with Sebastian Arce. He is one of the most popular dancers in the history of Argentine tango, he is a legend, one of the creators of the Nuevo movement. I continue to study with him, his lessons are always some kind of discovery. But I also study with other teachers. For example, Maria Marinova, a multiple winner of the World Tango Championship, the absolute champion of Russia and vice-champion of Europe, has probably the most famous tangera in Russia and the winner of all kinds of awards, an amazing girl who has already starred in four films with me. I also study with one of the leading dancers of Argentine tango in Russia, prize-winner and six-time finalist of the World Tango Championship, multiple finalist of the European Championship Andrey Panferov, as well as with other great dancers - Lyosha Mironenko, Yegor Zavadsky, Denis Basyuk. For me, tango is a daily improvement and a great pleasure.
— What is the place of Argentine tango in Russia today, how popular and promising is it?
"I don't think it's popular enough. Probably, salsa and bachata are now very popular, because there is a younger audience, it is freer and more perky. Two or three lessons are enough to learn these dances, and you can go out and dance. Overall, this is a good thing, as it makes it easier for many people to get into dancing. Tango, on the other hand, requires a deeper and more serious immersion. Not everyone has the energy, time, opportunity, and so on. In general, tango is more popular all over the world than in Russia, although in our country we can now note an increase in interest in this dance. And, of course, the more tango we develop, the better, because tango brings mutual understanding between people, and we really lack this in the world – mutual love, care and attention.
- © Press service of Mila Komrakova
— Tell us, what is the peculiarity of storytelling in dance stories?
"I tell stories in the language of plasticity. For me, a gesture can be more expressive than a word. A gesture has a special power, it conveys a very large content. If you think about it, first people communicated through gestures, and only then did speech appear, so for me it's no less powerful than words. We don't shoot what people have danced many times, that is, we don't shoot tango in its purest form. We're always inventing something because we want the film to have something unusual, something that people haven't seen before. When I choose a story for a film, the main thing is to get exactly into the style of dance, to understand what gestures and movements we will use to express what we need to show the audience – despair, love, thoughtfulness, whatever. If we pick it up accurately by the movement, we will hit the target, if not, the viewer simply will not understand anything.
"In very short films, there is one story, one couple, which allows you to reveal the plot in that time. And in the longer ones, new people and additional lines appear. Do you want to add words?
— I wouldn't say that we often add anything. Other than the movie The Wall, it's mostly two or three characters and the interaction between them. But in general, you don't want to stand still, you want to change the characters, relationships, shooting style. For example, our film "The Path to Truth" is shot in a completely different way, in a slightly clip version. I like to shoot in different styles so that I can give people something new every time.
— Can the mass audience be interested in this format?
"It's much more interesting for the mass audience than for those who dance. The worst spectators are the dancers. It begins: "I don't like Ivanov, I love Petrov, I don't like this style, I love another, but she doesn't dance properly at all." The best spectators are those who don't dance. They perceive it as a whole work, a film, they have no desire to disassemble the dancers and the content of the dance, they are interested in the plot itself.
I believe that the short film format will become more and more popular with the mass audience. I pay close attention to how my cinema is perceived by the audience. Some people who thought dance movies were uninteresting before watching them come back and say that a new world has opened up to them. I hear these words very often. Now I have just arrived from Ufa, where I had a show. An audience came in that had never watched anything like this before, and all the viewers were delighted, and I still get messages saying, "You're a genius, a man with a capital letter, you've opened up a new world for us." For me, that means we're doing the right thing.
- © Press service of Mila Komrakova
— How do you work on such films? Do you come up with an idea, write the script yourself, then go to the choreographer, or do you work together right away?
"I don't go to the choreographer at all, but to the cameraman, and we determine how to shoot, whether it is possible to shoot the way it is intended. For example, we originally wanted to shoot the film "The Wall" on a regular wall on the street, but in the process of preparation we realized that this was impossible. I came up with the idea to shoot in a pavilion with an electronic wall, but then the question arose: what to do with the scenery? Build a real street? As a result, we settled on the concept that it would be a minimalist decoration that gives a start to the imagination. A gray wall is a gray reality, a bar is a location where you can forget, a bench is a place for reflection. We also decided to add two moving things to the film: a car and a motorcycle, which connect us to another universe.
— Do you have only professional dancers?
"I set the bar very high, so I need dancers who can dance in a way that makes everyone's heart stop. Only a serious professional can be such a person. Of course, we select dancers who are suitable for the roles, have a certain charisma and acting skills. This is not for everyone. Ballet dancers know how to act because they participate in performances in which they live some roles. Tango dancers just dance, they're not trained to be actors. But some of them start taking acting lessons to get a good performance in a movie.
Are you considering making a feature film? Maybe it's also about dancing?
— Of course, there are even scripts for TV series in the works. It all comes down to funding. For example, I now have a wonderful project called "The Puppeteer", I like it very much. This is a big project for 50 dancers, with a running time of 40 minutes. Unfortunately, I don't have the opportunity to remove it myself, and in order to make it possible, I am looking for investors and sponsors. Of course, I would shoot a lot of other things on a larger scale. Although I can't say that if the film is bigger, it's better, no, it's just a new challenge every time.
- © Press service of Mila Komrakova
— Do you have any favorite films about dancing?
"Once upon a time, amazing, luxurious films "Anyuta" and "Galatea" were made, with our greatest star, Vladimir Vasiliev's wife and partner Ekaterina Maximova. It's a pity that these films are practically not shown now, because they are really masterpieces of film dance.
At one time, there was a very interesting film "The Ball" by Ettore Scola, which is a must-see for everyone who is engaged in dancing. This is a dance film in which nothing is said, but the entire 20th century flashes before the audience. And then there was the famous director Carlos Saura, who made feature films in which dance was of great importance, for example, Carmen. I think these films sparked my love for dance films. I also like the film about Pina Bausch, a legendary person, she did a lot of things that others wouldn't even think of, and the project about her turned out to be very interesting.
What is the current situation of short films in Russia? What are its prospects, and why should the authors make it?
— Short films remain an unusual genre today, and its popularity is growing every year. But there's a problem with the fact that this kind of movie doesn't have a solid financial backing. When I go to various film festivals, I meet many talented people, hear interesting thoughts and solutions from them, but all this lacks funding in order to do it competently. Therefore, until serious investors come to the short film, it will not develop much, without investing money, it is impossible. Why is it promising to invest in such films? If we are talking about an interesting work, then such a film will definitely find a viewer and be monetized.
Short films are a part of our lives today, and such films are in demand on the Internet, because people often do not want to watch the same thing for hours, they want a variety of content when there is a lack of time. But still, there is still not enough interest in short films in our country, we would like to see more.