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Parieté 2022: more than just a show

The Parieté Gala takes place every year. It is a unique evening of vivid dance, singing and acting performances that unites people with different backgrounds, physical abilities, and careers on one stage. As one of the patrons of the show Prof. Monika Grütters points out, "Art cancels the divisive, it connects and overcomes boundaries. This is the message of Parieté!"

This year we have decided to have a talk with Evelina Godunova, the soloist dancer of the Staatsballett Berlin, and Dergin Tokmak aka STiXSTEPS who dances with his crutches. They performed together in this distinctive gala. You can see the glimpses of that memorable evening in the photos by Mariia Kulchytska.

Do you take part in the Parieté gala every year or was it your first experience? Could you tell us about how you got an invitation to be one of the guests and how you felt about it?

Evelina: I heard a lot about the Parieté Gala from my colleagues, but I did not have an opportunity to participate till this year's Gala. This unique event takes place in Berlin every year. Of course, because of pandemic restrictions there was a pause. This time Parieté was special for all the artists because we could finally share our art with the public.

Dergin: No, it was not my first experience. I already took part in the Parieté gala in 2017. My friend had recommended it to me saying that I would perfectly fit because it is kind of a variete theatre. I was honoured to come back this year as it is an event of such a high level and there is a great variety of artists that I am really happy to be a part of it.

Could you say a few words about the concept of this Gala?

Dergin: It is a mixture of everything, of different genres and of different artists, and the main idea is it is a variete theatre but an incluse one: for able-body and for not able-body, for ordinary people and for people with disabilities – dancers, comedy artists, singers.

Did you know each other before and how did you feel when you got to know you would be partners for this event?

Evelina: Dergin is a big star, but this event brought us together. We met in the studio one week before the gala and outright we started to create choreography by the famous choreographer Giorgio Madia. I was inspired by Dergin’s work ethics, he was a super professional hard worker and such a pleasant person to work with! He inspired me a lot.

Dergin: Giorgio Madia, the choreographer never brings the ideas out before the show, so it is always a big surprise. He called me and asked if I had something new to show at the Gala, so I sent him my videos. He also asked if I would have 6 days for rehearsals. It is not quite enough for such an event, especially when you have a new partner, so I was pretty nervous about that. I came to the theatre, and they were already there, Evelina and Giorgia. I can say that it was open-minded from the very beginning. She was happy to see me and had this big smile. You know people think of ballerinas that they never want to mix with other dancers, but she is totally opposite.

Could you tell us a little bit about your work together? Was it a hard process or full of fun?

Evelina: We worked in the studio for 3 hours every day, learning steps, creating a dialogue, getting to know each other. I was dancing on pointe shoes, he was dancing on sticks, so it was an interesting process of creating and discovering our duet. He is so easy to work with! Present, fun and open for adventures! Of course, creating a new duet is always a physically hard process, but our positive vibe in the studio, laughs and inspiration helped us and gave us even more energy to create our piece.

Dergin: Our first rehearsal was for 3 hours but it went like 1 minute. We knew that we were fine together and harmonized. I felt from the very start that we were on the same level and that she was comfortable with me. We were excited to do this crossover and really had a great time: not only as artists but also as human beings. We could see we had so many things in common, and Evelina told me a lot about ballerinas’ lives as I did not know anything about that. It was a nice exchange in every sense.

Did you have any funny moments?

Dergin: Oh yes, especially when they started using their ballet terms and I could not figure out what it was, but then we even made a joke that our duet is "STiX and points". Actually, we were laughing all the time because we were trying to make this love story with some comedy elements. Besides, I was forgetting some steps too, and she was reminding me about them, so that was the main reason for our laughs. In fact, it was so much fun.

What was your performance about?

Evelina: The story of our duet is about love, about a man who fights for a woman he falls in love with. He makes her believe in love, and, through the duet, step by step, she falls in love with him too. Giorgio Madia showed it in his choreography with light humour, and the music by Liberace speaks to our hearts of true love.

Dergin: Our performance is set to the song "Bewitched". At the beginning of this dance, I am lonely and I try to entertain myself with dancing, but then I hear another dancer coming to me. She is beautiful and dances amazingly in her style, so it makes me very interested in her. I try to impress her. First, I imitate her but she makes fun of me, and then I decide to show something of my own moves. She looks interested. Then we come slowly together and dance together. In the end, she kind of tells me, “You are not that bad”. We leave, and I show to the audience that I think I will get her tonight.

I think one of the most thrilling moments of this performance is how you do a handstand. How long did it take for you to learn this?

Dergin: I had a different life as a child. When other people started walking, I started trying to stand on my hands and arms because I was still a very energetic and happy kid. I liked music very much and every time I used to hear it, I tried to dance. When break dance came to Germany in the 80s, I thought it was a dance from another planet. In this style it did not matter who you were and where you came from. The key thing was to stand out and be different from other people. I saw a film about one dancer who was using his crutches, and he was one of my biggest inspirations.

At the beginning I was just spinning on my arms, spinning on my head or back, and was doing some waves. When I saw this film, it gave me the inspiration to create my own style which is now called "STiX step style". It is an acrobatic dance on crutches. At first, Germany was not so equipped, so we were just exercising at the bus station and doing some tricks there. As I was handicapped, my parents always used to say to me that I had to work harder than other people. I would say it took me almost 20 years to become a professional, but I am happy that I used my energy in a positive way and became who I am now.

Who was your favourite guest at the gala? Which performance did you enjoy the most and why?

Evelina: Pariete is a magical place. All the artists are outstanding, unique and beyond everything I have experienced before. I enjoyed every minute of our Gala.

Some people do not know how to approach people with disabilities and they feel a bit intimidated near them. They are even not sure whether they should offer help or not. Could you please advise what the best way is?

Dergin: First of all, they should ask nicely if a person needs their help. You know, the right tone makes the music. Some people do not even ask, they want to straightaway touch you which I do not personally like. I understand that it looks pretty dramatic when I carry my suitcase up the stairs, but anyway, first you ask and then if you see this person agrees to your help, you should ask how they want to be helped. You can even directly say that you have no experience but you would like to help. Just do not panic and do not be nervous because it makes me nervous and uncomfortable too.

What terms are politically correct nowadays?

Dergin: I am not sure which ones are politically correct. I feel like even "handicapped" is not really right, though I use it. In the UK, they differentiate between able-body and not able-body. I also call them "people with disabilities".

Could you give advice to all of us on how to deal with stress and not to lose our self-confidence?

Evelina: Every time when I feel stressed I remember how much I love what I do. The main purpose of art is to share a sincere story. My story with Dergin was a beautiful dialogue about a man and a woman who find their destiny in each other. Do we stress when we fall in love? No. We are finally free to live life, and that is the key.

Dergin: What is important is we should never lose belief in ourselves, we should always fight for our position and we should remember that some other people have a harder life. I think sometimes we are too fragile and cry easily. When I have a bad day, I just put on some music and dance. Well, really, dance is my secret. We all fall but we have to learn how to get up again and make a bigger move. Life is about this. You should tell your mind that you can overcome everything, that is why my motto is "No limits with crutches".

Please note

To compound the confusion, different countries use different terms to describe disability. For example, in the US, it is popular to say "persons with disabilities". They also commonly use the term "handicapped" which in the UK is a big no-no and has been for several years. In other countries, they use terms such as "differently abled".


Photos by Mariia Kulchytska

Text by Julia Pneva


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