Performance “Därdemänd” is the brainchild of a dancer Nurbek Batulla, choreographer Marcel Nureyev, director Tufan Imamutdinov, and composer Elmir Nizamov — like-minded people who founded the creative association "Alif" in Kazan in 2017. At the time, their first project was a plastic performance of the same name: as a result, it not only proclaimed the ideological principles of the alliance, but also won Nurbek Batulla a Golden Mask for performing skills. Since then, Batulla and the "Alif" brand have officially presented Tatar contemporary art and dance, which addresses the national identity and the difficult fate of the native written language ground up in the dramas of the 20th century.
At the junction of dance, performance, physical theatre, poetry, and music, "Alif" explores the connection of Tatar people with their native language, and more broadly with history and myth. The 20th century, which marked the transition from Arabic script to Cyrillic script for the Tatars, almost completely deprived them of the opportunity to speak with their ancestors. Now they communicate with them through flesh and blood, through the body – a tool that allows them to find support. For example, in the production "Әlif" Nurbek Batulla dances the Tatar alphabet through on the sand: words and phrases are formed from letters and his plastics, ancient music and vocals filled with the bitterness of lost memory echo his movements. The "Sak-Sok", where Nurbek also acts as a director, and the language of contemporary dance is mixed with breakdancing in the flickering of a strobe light, has been called an initiation rite and a search for spiritual power. The choral oratorio "Әllүki" combines five poems by the Tatar poetry classic Gabdulla Tukai under the title of a Tatar lullaby: the tragic fate of the language is narrated here with gestures of the graduates of the theatre school for the deaf "Inclusion".
In each of its productions, the "Alif" association draws the lost word from the depths of memory and returns it to the "right now" moment using the body language and dance. The starting point for all their works is the verbal impulse. The cross-genre performance “Därdemänd” was based on the poetry of an industrialist Zakir Ramiev who lived at the turn of the 20th century — the Persian word "Därdemänd", meaning "saddened", was taken by the philanthropist as a pen-name. His focus was not the euphonious beauty of rhyme, but the density of thought and meanings that could become a new vision of art. Ramiev's philosophical arguments were supported neither then, nor later, but almost 100 years after his death they turned out to be in tune with the descendants, who, led by director Tufan Imamutdinov, decided to retrieve the poet's ideas and memory.
The plastic design of the performance is organised around the improvisation of Nurbek Batulla. He explores the different qualities of movement in allusion to the poetry of Därdemänd performed by the countertenor Rustam Yavaev. It all starts with groping steps and pauses, and ends with a frenzied dance: plastic is born here and now from the musical trialogue of the violin, viola, and double bass, and inside the body of Nurbek himself, who once again is passing the initiation rite in search of the spiritual power of his ancestors.
Nurbek Batulla is a choreographer, director, and dancer. He is a graduate of the Kazan Choreographic School and the Russian State Institute of Performing Arts (RGISI) in St. Petersburg. He received the Golden Mask-2018 National Theatre Award in the category "Male role / Modern dance" for his performance in "Әlif". Currently, he is the resident of the MOÑ Theatrical Venue.
Marcel Nureyev is a dancer and choreographer. He graduated from the Theatre Department of the Kazan University of Culture and Art. From 2005 to 2013 he was an artist of the dance theatre "The Road from the City", since 2010 he has been the head of the student dance theatre "Without Words". He is the choreographer and performer of the dance performance "DӨR", awarded in several nominations with Golden Mask-2023.
Tufan Imamutdinov is a director. He graduated from the Directing Department of the Russian Institute for Theatre Arts (GITIS), was invited by Galina Volchek to the Sovremennik Theatre, served as a resident director of the Moscow Theatre of Nations. In 2014, he was appointed Chief Director of the Kazan Young Spectator Theatre. Presently he is the Chief Director of the Tatar State Karim Tinchurin Drama and Comedy Theatre.
Elmir Nizamov is a pianist and composer. He is a graduate of the Composition Department and the postgraduate programme of the Kazan State Conservatory. He works with national music, opera, and pop music.