What theatre and educational Nowruz gain and lose from online format

More than 700 participants from 33 regions, 135 hours of classes — the organizers of Nowruz forum summed up the results

What theatre and educational Nowruz gain and lose from online format
Photo: kamalteatr.ru

On June 18, the Galiaskar Kamal Tatar Academic Theatre hosted a round table where the organizers and participants summed up the results of the 6th international theater and educational forum Nowruz. The impressions from the ten-day online marathon of theatre practices, lectures and collective creativity were emotionally rich.

Congratulations on the opening on the day of closing

The forum organisers were the first to speak at the round table discussion. Chief Director of the Kamal Tatar Academic Theatre, Artistic Director of the forum Farid Bikchantayev. If he and the director of the festival, Ilfir Yakupov, who also moderated the meeting, were in the audience, then all the other participants — and there were more than 200 of them — went to ZOOM, the broadcast was displayed on the screen above the stage.

A year ago, Ilfir, Yury Alshits and I sat and developed an online training programme. So it happened that the new format turned out to be just necessary. Naturally, any undertaking is accompanied by doubts and fears, but I believe that the forum was successful — yes, in a different format, yes, in a closed space. If earlier the closing ceremony was held in the foyer of our theatre, with raising glasses and tears, today I would like to congratulate the participants not on the closing but on the opening of the festival! Because the new format has opened up new opportunities and spaces for us to enter," Farid Bikchantayev said.

Photo: Maksim Platonov
Farid Bikchantayev: “The new format has opened up new opportunities and spaces for us to enter”

Ghosts of Kamal Theatre

Ilfir Yakupov announced the figures, which in this case were more convincing than words. For example, Nowruz in 2020 gathered 700 participants from 33 regions of Russia and four CIS countries. For comparison, in the previous five years, the event was attended by about 300 people. Nineteen teachers from Tatarstan, Russia, Poland, Colombia, Brazil, and Germany gave 90 lectures and practical classes. In total, continuous training was conducted for 135 hours.

“We ourselves, our technical staff and all employees of the theatre have learned new technologies in just a couple of weeks before the forum. If we had not done this, the forum would not have taken place, we simply would not have been able to handle it. I am very grateful to our technicians, whom I jokingly call 'ghosts'. While invisible, they could go to any section to fix any problem.

This is the beginning of the online learning experience. We conducted a survey among participants, and more than 60 per cent of respondents said that this is their first experience of distance education. However, when choosing between offline and online formats, 69 per cent of participants preferred a face-to-face forum. Well, we are waiting for them in two years at the next educational forum," said Ilfir Yakupov.

Besides, the international scientific conference 'Challenge To Reason', where theatre experts from 50 countries discussed new directions of theatre training, was held within 3 days at the forum. The event was held under the auspices of the International Institute of Theatre/UNESCO, and its spiritual inspiration was Yury Alshits, who also led an online school-laboratory for theatre teachers and actors of drama theatre at the forum.

Photo: Maksim Platonov
Ilfir Yakupov: “I am very grateful to our technicians, whom I jokingly call 'ghosts'. While invisible, they could go to any section to fix any problem”

Online forum will bring us to online academy

Perhaps it was Alschitz, who got in touch from Germany, where his research centre for theatre education Akt-Zent is located, who was the most strict and impartial in summing up the results. But he also agreed with his colleagues that the first online forum is a historic event.

“The experiments that we started must continue. The most difficult thing on the forum, in my opinion, was for practitioners. But you don't have to repeat anything — it's just ridiculous. As human beings, we wanted to touch each other, sit at the same table. But the new format also allowed us to touch something special. I note that the lack of human contact is not sustained primarily by students. If a week, like this time — it is ok, then 10 days or a month is already more difficult. Here we need to look at how many people can stand, as with cosmonauts. At the same time, using the online format, you can not strive for mass participation, this should alert you. You don't need to chase the number of participants, this reduces the requirements for pedagogy, among other things. I am for individual approach," the professor told.

Alshits also invited Kazan colleagues to participate in the online academy, which is opening soon. He suggested creating an online community of teachers from those experts who participate in the educational forum Nowruz.

Photo: sobaka.ru
Yury Alshits: “You shouldn't chase the number of participants, this reduces the requirements for pedagogy, among other things. I am for individual approach”

“You can't do that in a dance hall”

Speaking about practices at the forum, colleagues agreed that Moscow teacher and choreographer Alexander Andriyashkin had the hardest time. He taught classes on movement techniques. However, the teacher himself noted that there are a lot of advantages in online format, we just need to learn how to see and use them:

“My classes Performance Practices gathered 80 participants in the Internet space. It would be impossible to do this in a dance hall. Another positive point is that there are people who have long wanted to get to my master classes but they did not have such a chance. Nowruz gave them such opportunity. On the other hand, those who were interested in dance and plastic techniques were able to plunge in and get acquainted with the theater art. It is nice that the theatre community not only believed but also gave the opportunity to transfer plastic disciplines to online format. Let live communication is no substitute, but it is necessary to use these advantages," the choreographer believes.

“A good teacher is also an actor”

KFU Professor Natalia Kalenskaya, who gave lectures in the section 'Management and PR technologies in the field of theatrical art', summed up the results of the forum perfectly:

“We live in a time of what I call 'permissiveness and indifference'. And it was all the more pleasant to see the interested eyes of my listeners. I am sure that a good teacher is also an actor, a Bohemian, we also work with emotions, like theatrical figures. It's like in Khanuma play, it was said: “A good shoemaker is also a poet. And bad things are not worth talking about.” Building a theatre brand is always above borders: ethnic, geographical, and ideological. Our task, as Socrates said, is not so much to fill the vessel as to light the torch. And I think we have lit this torch in the eyes of our listeners, and I hope that the fire will last until our next meeting.

The speeches of forum participants from different cities and countries only confirmed this statement. Unfortunately, not all experts had the opportunity to participate in the final round table discussion. The main reason is the difference in time zones, such as in Colombia and Brazil. However, even it did not interfere during the forum.

It is impossible to sum up the results of such a large-scale and significant event in one day. The forum will be discussed for years. But there are a few things we can say for sure. Online is good, but in combination with the face-to-face format, which is familiar to us, it is even better. There are a lot of advantages to remote meetings and training, but it is easy to lose quality in the pursuit of mass participation. This capital truth also works in the field of theatre pedagogy. And, perhaps most importantly, there is no substitute for live communication.

By Anna Tarletskaya