At the present stage of social development, all over the world a lot of attention is given to addressing a socio-cultural problem of rehabilitating the most vulnerable social group, which, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), constitutes about ten percent of the planet’s population – children and adults with disabilities or physical impairment. Wellbeing of these people is an important criterion of a civilized society and an indicator of its moral standards. Whereas at an early stage of addressing this problem the focus was on providing medical and legal support to these people, nowadays their social rehabilitation and integration into society through art – the so-called art therapy – acquires special significance. Theatre, which most comprehensively represents different arts, including music, choreography and stage performance, has become of particular importance in this effort.
The world has long had such a thing as “integrative theatre”, which, along with healthy actors, actively employs children and adults with developmental specificities. The number of such theatres around the world is growing rapidly, as well as their recognition as a specific socio-cultural phenomenon of contemporary culture. A vivid example of this has been a series of international festivals for special theatres, in which artistic companies from many countries participate; recently they have been joined by the LIK Motion Theatre, representing Uzbekistan.
In May 2010, the LIK Motion Theatre presented its next performance called “Reflections” on stage of the Navoi State Academic Theatre. The performance was made possible through the support of Italian Embassy in Uzbekistan and the Uzbekistan-Italy Friendship Society; it was organized in the framework of the Year of Harmonically Developed Generation Programme and the International Children’s Day. Tashkent residents and visitors, among whom there were many young people and children, were not just spectators, but rather co-participants in this unforgettable performance.
The LIK Motion Theatre was founded by its present art director Lilia P. Sevastyanova in 1982 as a youth company of contemporary dance and choreography. About two dozen plastic performances have been produced since the theatre started. These include “One Evening”, “The White Blues”, “The Secret”, “The Railway Station”, “Petition”, “Birth”, and “Meeting”. Some of them were presented at festivals in Russia, France and UK. As choreographer, Sevastyanova also worked for drama theatres. It took her nearly twenty years of professional and spiritual search to mature for an art work with the disabled. From time to time, destiny put her through some signature events and encounters, as if guiding her towards this particular art form.
In 2000, as a volunteer, Sevastyanova started delivering classes for children at the Tashkent Centre for disabled children rehabilitation and integration (CDCRI, or KRIDI) and later on – at the “Umidvorlik” Centre. Since 2003, people with disabilities and professional actors of the LIK Motion Theatre began their joint creative activity. Currently, the theatre has about 40 members, and most of them are children and young people with physical impairment: the blind, the deaf-mute, in wheelchair, with cerebral paralysis, Down syndrome, mental retardation, and growth hormone deficiency.
Nowadays they represent a unique creative team – not only due to its membership, but also because of an innovative methodology employed by the theatre’s leader for training her actors and staging the shows. The system of deep inner improvisation developed in the theatre allows the disabled to make a remarkable progress in their physical and mental development, and the audience – to never notice the performers’ afflictions, as the dialogue between people on stage and in the hall takes place at the soul level, as if “through the body”.
When preparing a new piece, the company uses the language of plastic body movements to express their own vision of the theme. The choreographer draws her students’ attention to the most precise and accurate gestures and movements born through such improvisation. Together they work to improve them and then use to create a choreographic canvas. Thus, the actors participate in the show not only as performers, but also as its co-authors. It is hard to believe, but almost all the scenes are improvisation on stage, and that is why one can watch these shows many times, for every time it would be a new performance, new sensations and experiences for the participants and the audience. What never changes is thunderous applause, tears in the eyes, and the beautiful enlightenment that can only happen when one gets in touch with true and pure art. After all, people on the stage do not “play”, but live through the reality of Life as a show.
The mastery and professionalism of the company leader is manifested in the fact that during the show on stage it is almost impossible to distinguish between healthy actors from actors with disabilities. This has been noted by many viewers who were captivated by the skill, sincerity and a very special energy flow that literally fills all the performances of the company.
Theatre-based training following a method developed by Sevastyanova not only contributes to the development of artistic, plasticity and stage performance skills, but also is an excellent means of rehabilitation. This was repeatedly confirmed by physicians who recommend children to take classes in the theatre as an effective remedy that actually does help in a whole range of conditions, including complicated ones, such as cerebral infantile paralysis and progressive muscular dystrophy.
The LIK Motion Theatre is not just a group of children and young people united by a common idea, love for art and continuous creative search. It is a family, literally and figuratively, in which people live and support each other: parents and children, brothers and sisters, close friends and fellow students. Besides their rehearsals, together they visit museums, art exhibitions, theatres and concerts…
Among professional actors, apart from Sevastyanova who was educated at the Tashkent State Institute of Culture and also trained abroad, the theatre also engages qualified choreographers, namely Anton Avrutskiy, Olga Ostanina, and Victoria Gordienko. And Eugenia Zemtsova, Ilya Ostanin and Farid Shamsutdinov are students of the Tashkent State Academy for Traditional Dance and Choreography. Almost all of them “grew up” in the theatre and embraced its main principle – treasure every human being. The very existence of this integration theatre as well as its many years of productive activity have been made possible due to this spirit and selfless support extended to the children with disabilities by their healthy peers and young professional actors.
As an integrated company, the theatre made the following productions: “I Dream that I Walk…” (2004), “The Rainbow Festival” (2005), “Improvisations on the Themes of Life” (2006), “The White Seagulls Over the Blue Lake”, “Azimuth” (2007), “Reflections” (2009), etc.
LIK presents all its productions on the best stages of the capital city – the Academic Russian Drama Theatre of Uzbekistan, the Navoi State Academic Theatre, the Uzbek National Academic Theatre, the Republican Young Audience Theatre and the Youth Theatre. Performances were also staged at the House of Photography and the Central Exhibition Hall of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan.
The LIK Motion Theatre wishes to thank these institutions, as well as those who contributed to the implementation of its numerous projects: the Ministry for Culture and Sports of Uzbekistan, the Embassies of Italy, France, USA, and Russia in Uzbekistan, the Swiss Development and Cooperation Office, “Orient Furniture” company, Support Fund of the National Association of NGOs (NANNOUz), the National Airline Company, the Board of the Foreign Countries Friendship Society, the city police department of Tashkent and many others.
In March 2009, at the Francophonie theatrical contest, the Theatre’s young actors presented a play in French language and won a special prize – French language courses at the Victor Hugo French Cultural Centre for all members of the theatre company.
The LIK Motion Theatre is known not only in Uzbekistan. Its international activity began in the late 1990s, when they realized several joint projects in Uzbekistan and France. At that time, together with their French colleagues, the LIK artists performed on the stages of Tashkent and Rennes (France), and also made outreach visits to the mercy homes of Fergana and Samarqand provinces.
Already as an integrated company, with its “Improvisations on the Themes of Life” the LIK Motion Theatre became laureate of international festivals for special theatres: “Proteatr” in Moscow (2007) and “Sunny Wave” in Kiev (2008).
In 2007 in France, in the framework of the “Residence of Uzbek Artists in Les Rosiers sur Loire” project, the company performed at several festivals and delivered training sessions; it also staged a show with the patients of “Sesame” psychiatric clinic in the city of Angers. In a complimentary letter addressed to L. P . Sevastyanova, the doctors of the clinic specifically noted the “high quality work of the theatre, which is so rare these days”.
In 2009, “Azimut” was successfully presented in Moscow during the IX International Festival “The Four Elements”, in “Ethnicity” contest. And in 2008 and 2009 LIK participated in the theatrical market exhibition during the Russian National Festival “The Golden Mask”.
Very impressive is the theatre’s extensive and diverse repertoire, its choreography and soundtrack. In “Azimuth”, for example, they use traditional Uzbek music and music written by Dmitriy Yanov-Yanovsky, one of the most renowned composers of Uzbekistan, whose name and art are known far beyond the national boundaries. The performance itself is inspired by the beauty of the country, its unique history, customs and traditions of Uzbek people.
The “Reflections” production presents images and scenes from Italy: the Renaissance, the national opera, cinematography and folklore. The action takes place to the music of Antonio Vivaldi, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi, Gioacchino Rossini, Giacomo Puccini and other great Italian composers.
The theatre has been very active in the art life of our country. In August 2007, at the event marking the 60th anniversary of India’s Independence, which was held in the Great Hall of the State Conservatory of Uzbekistan (SCU), dancers and students of the LIK Motion Theatre participated in the musical-choreographic composition “The Tree of Life”. This interesting project was initiated by Adiba Sharipova, Professor of the Piano Department of the SCU and one of the leading performers of Uzbekistan. The composition used traditional music of India and Uzbekistan, and music written by Uzbek composer M. Bafoev, Indian composers and performers Ravi Shankar and ustad Zakir Hussein, as well as classical composers – J.-S.Bach and F. Liszt. Sevastyanova, the director and choreographer of the show, has been able to present in a single act the two rich and distinctive cultures of India and Uzbekistan. Vivid and memorable were the company’s performances at the IV Tashkent International Contemporary Art Biennale, during a ceremony dedicated to the anniversary of the Children’s Rights Convention, and at the opening ceremony for the Uzbekistan’s Special Olympics international competition in gymnastics.
The LIK Motion Theatre is one of the unique and distinctive phenomena in theatrical life of Uzbekistan. This is the only theatre of its kind that produces shows of the highest artistic standards, involving people with developmental problems. This is the only drama school where these people are given the opportunity to express the richness of their soul, their pain and joy of victory over their afflictions; for them it is a possibility to tell the story of their life and the struggle to the audience. This has been possible due to the sensitive soul and commitment of the theatre’s leader, Lilia Sevastyanova. In 2008, for her contribution to this noble cause Sevastianova was awarded the “Ilkhom” prize in the nomination “Honour and Dignity in Art”.
All performances of the LIK Motion Theatre, as well as its actors, who sometimes are very vulnerable themselves, turn out to be the healers of our souls, making their audience kinder and purer. And this is the company’s most amazing worth and achievement.