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  • Foto del escritorAna González Vañek

ZOYA SAGANENKO: DANCE ART IS AN INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE

I would like to claim once again the immense transforming power of dance. As a social practice that can resignificate individual and collective experiences, this powerful art, in all its forms and expressions, can heal our world. In the path of redemption through dance, I discovered the beautiful work of Zoya Saganenko, born in the east of Ukraine, who has been dancing all her life. She has come a long journey from a childhood dream to realization as an artist on the professional stage and teaching internationally, and also through traumas, war, and a necessary farewell to home forever: "I truly believe that dance art is healing, as I tested it on myself. Also, I am convinced that dance is an international language, spoken by those who have something to say. Therefore, I treat every new movement experience as a priceless gift on my creative path."



Courtesy of Zoya Saganenko


AGV: -When and where did you start dancing?


ZZ: I started dancing when I was 8 in my hometown of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Until I was 17 years old, I studied ballroom dancing and participated in competitions. The ballroom dance world is a real sport in which you are highly dependent on your partner and his goals. I came to modern choreography quite late, at around 18 years old, when I decided to explore new aspects of movement. Afterwards, I began my training at the modern dance theater, where we had in-depth studies of classical, modern, and contemporary dancing. I was obsessed:) For many years I took every master class possible in addition to my ongoing training program: hip-hop, jazz, commercial, and street dance styles. If it was up to me, I wouldn’t sleep at all; I would dance endlessly. At 22 I had a back injury. For half a year it was difficult for me to even walk slowly. Doctors categorically forbade me to even think about dancing in my life. During many months of treatment, I thought about what decision to make, whether I should give up on the path to my dream or take a risk. And finally, I realized that there was nothing to think about. In any case, I would try and do what I could with what I had. Gradually, I returned to training, learning to listen deeply to my body's signals and give it rest when necessary. I moved to the capital and there my creative journey in the professional dance field began.


AGV: How would you describe your artistic evolution?


ZZ: I was lucky enough to succeed as a professional dancer, including numerous shootings in official music videos and TV projects, as well as theatre stage performances, judging contests, and teaching internationally. Dancing on stage is inextricably linked with acting, so as a performer, I had the opportunity to play a variety of roles from a fatal temptress to a zombie. Gradually, the dance path led me to the desire to learn the secrets of acting more in depth. Over the past year, I have been fortunate enough to play a lead role in three short films. This was an amazing experience that influenced me both as a dancer and choreographer. Acting is also movement. This is a dance of emotions, a dance of voice and facial expressions, a dance of experiences. I think the essence of artistic evolution for me is a gradual transition from the physical desire to create the perfect picture to the desire to convey your idea through dance. The latter does not exclude the former but complements it. The narrative can be obvious, or, on the contrary, abstract, surreal. I enjoy telling stories of any type using all of the instruments available.


Courtesy of Zoya Saganenko

AGV: Where are you working now and which are your main objectives?


ZZ: I am currently creating and structuring a course on dance improvisation, which I plan to launch both online and offline this spring. Over years of practice, I have accumulated much information that I would like to share. I know for sure that this practice is useful for both professional dancers and simple dance lovers. Movement is a life energy generator. It's healing, it keeps the mind sharp and the body ready for discovery. Movement, in one form or another, is accessible to absolutely everyone, it’s just that people don’t always have the courage and tenacity to dive into its depths. I think the easiest way to do this is to connect yourself with contemporary dance improvisation. There is a lot of freedom and acceptance of you for who you are now. So, my main objective at present is to create a product that will give maximum motivation and benefit to all of the people who are interested in exploring the free movement world. As for my artistic self-realization, I have plans on this matter that it is not time to share yet. In this sense, I am a very superstitious person. I prefer not to talk about many things that have not yet happened but are at the stage of being worked out, so as not to dissipate the energy of intention by talking.


AGV: Regarding your journal dance, which we can find on your social media, which are your main intentions with it?


ZZ: The idea of keeping a dance journal did not come to me by chance. This was the pandemic period, before another round of strict restrictions. I have been practicing improvisation for a long time and gladly came alone to the dance hall whenever possible. At that moment, when all offline work and creative plans were frozen, hanging in the air once again, I felt an urgent need to create a new permanent point of contact with the outside world. I realized that with the help of such an improvisation journal, I could regularly practice the tools I had acquired long ago, explore myself and invent new ones, and inspire people interested in free movement principles.


In general, I am a very constant person and if I promise myself to do something regularly, then it is very difficult to stop. But seriously, over time I realized that such improvisational dance notes are useful for me in different ways. Through dance, I observe how my body and consciousness react to various events in the long term. This is a multifaceted exploration of oneself in dance, an endless search and the possibility of knowledge. Dance journal pushed me to systematize my knowledge and offer deeper and more productive training while working with students.


Finally, making my notes visible to the world, I often come into contact with creative people from different countries, and this inspires me a lot.


So my main intention is to continue keeping the journal, to look for new facets of dance improvisation, and to share my knowledge with those who are open to it.


Courtesy of Zoya Saganenko

AGV: What do you think about dance language in our daily individual and collective life?


ZZ: Dance language is a very broad concept. I think this is a full-fledged means of communication, on an equal basis with verbal languages, as well as any other bodily practices. In the dance world, we all start by learning some technical basics and vocabulary that someone has already created. Just as a child learns to walk and talk, young dancers learn to spin, jump, and perform combinations. Later, when we begin to create choreography ourselves, we are influenced by the lexical baggage we studied earlier. Over time, by learning the principles of composition, and studying the capabilities of the human body, we can come to some new forms and speak through them, dancing solo, offering choreography to a group of people, or in many other ways. But the result is the same: we find a way to tell stories about life in our own dance language. And there can be as many of these languages as there are people dancing in the world. As for people who are not professional dancers, revealing their dance language is no less important for them. I am simply convinced that dance in any form is one of the best ways to meditate and cleanse the mind of everything unnecessary. If you have something to say and you have technical skills, great, your dancing will turn into art. But if not, it still makes sense for you to speak to the world through movement. After all, a dance monologue is a wonderful way to understand yourself more deeply and express what is difficult to say in words.


Courtesy of Zoya Saganenko

AGV: It's been 2 years since Ukraine faces a war. What is your opinion about the art of dance in this terrible context?


ZZ: In fact, Ukraine faced war much earlier, back in 2014, when part of the territories were occupied. At that moment, war was not officially declared, but two years ago, a full-scale invasion began. Such events radically change the life of any person and turn their inner world upside down; this is obvious. This deeply affected the culture of the country as a whole. It is such a time when people die en masse in the struggle for the survival of the nation. Of course, the question of the appropriateness of a variety of things arises in society in these circumstances. At the first moment, when society is in shock from what happened, it seems that now is not the time to talk about dance art in general. What can we talk about when the main task is to survive, save loved ones, and stop an invader?


But after recovering from the first state of shock, the understanding comes that we can only survive united, working as a team. At this moment, the art of dance begins to develop despite any difficulties. People open dance schools, organize master classes, and stage performances despite regular mass bombings and daily tragedies. Everyone does what they can where they are now, what they have the emotional strength and physical ability to do. This is important because culture serves as an emotional support for people. In terrible times, it is crucial to believe and see there is beautiful, pure, and bright energy in the world. It is necessary to come into contact with this energy, to be charged from it.


So dance culture is developing in Ukraine no matter what now. This happens at its own rhythm, adjusted to current topics and limiting circumstances. But all these circumstances in the long run will only lead to growth because the artists have something to say after everything they have experienced, and also because they know exactly why they need to speak.


AGV: What do you understand by communicating through dance?


ZZ: Dance is a flow of energy. We exchange it when we dance in a couple or group. Partners are forced to learn to hear each other very sensitively in order to perform together. The more you develop this skill, the more deeply you feel every vibration nearby. Dancing people become able to apply this not only on stage or in rehearsal, but also in everyday life. The body is a very expressive instrument, the slightest change in posture allows you to speak clearly without words if your body is trained in this skill. This is why dancers, as public figures, are responsible for the message they convey. We have the power to tell stories to large groups of audiences through theatrical performances, creative videos, or simply social media. So, we must use our voices to speak about important topics in society, to motivate and energize, and to instill faith.-


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