Dance, cinema, screendance, activism – one of the unifying characteristics between these concepts is often the movement. We may say that these are arts and forms of movement, or at least forms in which movement has a fundamental role. In some direction, at some pace, towards or moving away, inwards to the core or beyond, with purpose and intention, or in the grip of chaos? Kosta Karakashyan’s film Waiting for Color unites these fields together and turns them into territories of contemplation, reflection, with potential for discussion and empathy.

Part 1, Screendance

The concept of the project Waiting for Color indeed sets a much wider profile range than that of the artistic practice which ‘synergizes’ dance and film. In order to decipher the messages and meanings in such a context, the starting point for the work should be the specifics of screendance.

“Waiting for Color”, концепция и изпълнение Коста Каракашян

​​In our online conversation – part of the Translation on Air series – Kosta shared that the choice of location, the choreography of the camera and the body, the editing process, are all decisions that go hand in hand with his approach to screendance work. He emphasized that to him the choreographic integrity and the creation of a language that recreates the movement through the eye of the camera, are key; he invites us to a world that impresses with the conceptual unity of lines, pace, sound and image.

This symbiosis is visible and clearly recognizable in Waiting for Color. It can be traced in terms of the properties of the hall, where and how the moving body is positioned within it, at what distance it is from the camera, at what angle, at what height. The audio-visual layers are complemented by the rich sound design and the dark monochrome color palette. It is interesting to mention another curiosity that Kosta shared with us – the sound environment is superimposed onto the choreography – a complete fusion of the components is achieved, reflecting in strong and concrete ideas.

From a research point of view, there is another element that attracts attention. The role of the ground or floor unobtrusively yet permanently settles in our perception of this particular screendance project. Kosta’s silhouette moves and flickers against the barred windows, between heavy concrete columns, but his figure also spends a lot of time on the horizontal floor of the wide empty space. Various authors over the years have sought and examined the connection between the dance artist and earth’s gravity – in screendance the ground can be outside or inside, on the stage, in the woods, on the sand… In Waiting for Color there is a feeling of coldness, but the constant connection between the body and gravity remains. According to Clotilde Amprimoz, many dance techniques use the “dance floor” to start or end movement, to fall, to push off, to roll; to reach heights and lengths; to anchor poses; to achieve unity between physical human strength and the force of gravity. Thanks to it, the moving person and their movements acquire weight, density, thrust, direction, or vice versa – stagnation, immobility, stability. It is precisely gravity that is responsible for the passage of the body  through horizontals, verticals, and diagonals.

These details are found in Kosta Karakashyan’s work. Choreography and text go through several states and phases: paranoia, trauma, and hope. The sharp convulsions of the body, the fallback, the trembling in a supine position with thumbs to the ground – these movements literally embody the notions of pain and fear associated with the images of the narrative. The dancer’s hands and feet interact with the floor and we can even hear this sound – an important nuance of the overall sonic environment – hopelessly searching, in the inevitable trap, in anxiety and anticipation of something that is not coming. Thus, the ground becomes part of the general suggestion and message of the project – the ground as repulsive, absorbing, shaking, moving…

Last but not least, it is important to note one more reference that Waiting for Color makes toward the field of screendance. As a magical mixture of moving body and choreography, created within a special space and intended for the spectator’s eyes, the artistic work brings us back to the important topic of screendance as a hybrid practice in an intense search for itself. In this line of thought, Claudia Kappenberg writes: “Contemporary Screendance artists and theorists have taken on two distinct positions to address the situation: some work to identify and name the constituent parts that make up screendance and try to delineate the practice. Others argue that Screendance is a field of diverse practices that cannot be defined. For the latter group, the term Screendance is positively promiscuous, embracing all kinds of concerns, practices and media. Both positions carry risks and benefits with regards to the development of Screendance as an autonomous art form and as a cultural force.” (in Art in Motion, p. 22)

Part 2, Beyond screendance

It is this cultural force that Kosta Karakashyan’s Waiting for Color swirls around us, telling shocking stories about the torture of homosexuals in Chechnya. Questions, doubts and torments hit us hard.

Is this type of writing (the current piece) possible and important, an attempt to decipher symbols, to analyze the movement of the camera, the colours, and the soundscape? Yes, so as to assess and appreciate the potential of screendance as a means of expression, a field, a practice, a language. Yes, in order to present new interpretations that provoke or confirm or reject.

But at the same time no, that’s not enough. Because what is more important than the aesthetics of this film, is its address and appeal to the viewer and listener.

Let us be honest – the world is far from realizing the project for tolerance, that many LGBTQ+ activists are calling for. There is no need for us to be universally tolerant in fake and untrue ways, nor to be intolerant of the intolerant. We need to allow ourselves new points of view, to have our eyes and ears open for them. Let’s learn not to automatically reject others’ experiences only because they are foreign to us and outside the horizon in which we set ourselves to exist, because the cruelty and the hostility towards LGBTQ+ individuals, precisely because of who they are, is found even in the language of our daily lives – in jokes, in insults, in observations. With and without intention – it is embedded in speech and rooted in thought.

True, excessive political correctness is a threat to our freedom of speech and potentially another radical gesture with a touch of totalitarianism and a threat to control, but more awareness, empathy, and humanity must be nurtured to prevent what is happening in Chechnya or elsewhere in the world.

When and by recognizing a crime as such, the fight becomes palpable, essential, and necessary. Although distinct depending on country, community, and context, it is needed everywhere. It is a curious (though perhaps extreme) question whether the actual physical violence in Chechnya, for example, is linked to the verbal violence around us. Isn’t what’s happening there what we are witnessing here, but just on a higher level, sharper, more tangible, and more frightening? And then isn’t this here scary too – the pain and violence living freely in our mind-boxes?

The range of action in cases related to LGBTQ+ rights is wide. Many remain silent or avoid the problem. They refuse to see it or even deny it, or they take advantage of it. Others find platforms, opportunities for writing, for creativity, for information, for political change, and for starting a conversation.

I cannot understand someone who is endowed with mind and knowledge, yet rejects before reflecting. Nor do I understand the one who puts hatred before love if they have witnessed both within their lives. I do not justify the ignorant, who have access to dozens of opinions beyond their own.

It is simple and complex at the same time. Everyone has their own subjective prism of life, but also a responsibility to the society they live in. And let otherness be a matter of self-determination and self-identification. Let it be expressed in interests, curiosities, inner worlds, and not in shallow judgments about gender, sexual orientation, or race. The world should belong to all human beings, no matter how utopian this may sound. Let us all be other and all one breathing organism – humanity.

Many are still waiting for color. Nuances of hope flash here and there more and more often. I am hopeful. Kosta Karakashyan’s film is a step forward. Initiatives are taking place. Changes are a fact. Perhaps a global equality for LGBTQ+ individuals and their rights is forthcoming. And screendance can be a part of these processes.

Translated by Miryana Mezeklieva

Ana-Maria Sotirova has a degree in Film from the University of Reading and a Master’s degree in Film Studies from the University of Amsterdam. She is part of the team of the Moving Body Festival in Varna with main organisers – Svetlozara Hristova and Iskra Ivanova.

Miryana Mezeklieva (1987) graduated in Cultural Studies at Sofia University Kliment Ohridski. Since 2008 until today she has been working as a translator of feature films and series for dubbing mainly for the channels of Nova Broadcasting Group.

This material was created within the project Translation on Air – a section dedicated to dance for the screen or screen dance. Every month we invite professional and amateur audiences, tempted by this intriguing symbiosis between cinema and dance, to join our readings, conversations, and discussions with active choreographers in the field from the country and abroad.
The project “Translation on Air” is implemented with the financial support of the National Fund “Culture” under the program “Audiences” 2020.

Videography and bibliography:

Short film Waiting for Color

Online conversation with Kosta Karakashyan

Amprimoz, Clotilde. 2015. ‘Is Death in the Moving Image Choreographic, or How is the Act of Death Represented through Movement in Fictional Films?’ in Art in Motion: Current Research in Screendance / Art en movement: Recherches actuelles en ciné-danse, ed. by Franck Boulégue and Marisa C. Hayes. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Kappenberg, Claudia. 2015. ‘The Politics of Discourse in Hybrid Art Forms’ in Art in Motion: Current Research in Screendance / Art en movement: Recherches actuelles en ciné-danse, ed. by Franck Boulégue and Marisa C. Hayes. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.