"Udagan kyrgyttar" ("Udaganki"). The performance of Stepanida Borisova at the Olonkho Theater
Anastasia Ermolova
Development of the Olonkho tradition: how the theater team translates the Yakutian heroic epic into body language.

The main character of the Yakutian culture has always been and still is a woman. "Udaganka" literally means "shaman, sorceress", and shamanism is a peculiar form of religion among the Turkic-Mongolian peoples. From this, the image of a shaman woman is formed, as an image of a sacred, mystical ancient image.

In general, the idea of matriarchy in olonkho is presented as something unshakable and categorical, it is "an ordinary system of values". There is even a belief that every woman is potentially shamanic, that is, has a priori greater spiritual power than a man.

Udagan kyrgyttar (shaman girls) are more than just women, they have an unearthly purpose. They alone are given to move between the Lower, Middle and Upper worlds. The woman here is not only the mother and keeper of her home and hearth, but also the keeper of the tranquility of the people, and in the case of Olonkho and the entire culture of the Sakha peoples, the keeper of the Three Worlds. For the European consciousness, this state of affairs is not quite usual, therefore, when getting acquainted with the Olonkho tradition and the heroes of the Yakutian epics, a spectator experiences both admiration and curiosity, and many other feelings that attract his attention.
The performance "Udagan kyrgyttar" ("Udaganki") at the Olonkho Theater is the directorial debut of Stepanida Borisova that had been immediately, in 2015, awarded the Russian national award "Golden Mask" in the nominations "Best performance in drama, small form" and "Best director's work". "Udaganki" is an ideal modern performance at the national theater. The traditional, even the most ancient history is told in it in the language of advanced modern theater: externally, the performance resembles a modern ballet of the European type, with which today's audience is very familiar, and from this they easily connect and read the content, as in a performance of the contemporary dance genre.

The main characters of the performance here were not only udagan girls, but also the phenomena of nature and "supra-natural spaces", but one of the main phenomena is the Body. A beautiful, even ideal, body created by nature, as if specially made for a person. The one that is able to feel love and passion, frost and warmth. A body that nurtures life in itself, and then gives it to the world, and will become a symbol of what so seduced the powerful udagan girls.
Usually a person dreams of acquiring some magical, inhuman qualities. But can it happen that creatures with special missions, capable of deciding the fate of the Three Worlds, will dream of being human and feel earthly joys? Human love and passion, motherhood as the fruit of this passion - all these are the joys of ordinary women, mortals, but not udagan girls. The heroines of "Udagan kyrgyttar", all-powerful girls who have access to the secrets of all Three Worlds, suddenly become hostages of a strange desire by human standards - to become mortals. For them, human feelings, common to human nature, become so attractive and mysteriously inaccessible that it is not easy for them to cope with this desire. The paradox of this plot is that it is not given to ordinary mortals to overcome such a test, and in order to cope with it, you need to be none other than udagan girl. We can say that they came closer to the simple feminine nature, because they were seized with such a strong desire to change, "to shed their skin."

An unusual experience for a theatrical impression awaits the viewer here. On the one hand, it is impossible not to be convinced of how wonderful it is to be a human being, that even such a force as Udagan kyrgyttar admires man as a natural creation. And on the other hand, in the performance, the artists work with their nature in such a way, that is, directly with bodies and plastics, that one can doubt their earthly origin. What does it feel like not just to "be yourself", but not to lose yourself, not to forget that you are a part of the world, an important part of a large, integral world that has its own place and purpose?

As the basis of the performance, the director chose Nikolai Alekseevich Abramov-Kynat’s version of olonkho, the famous storyteller - “olonkhosut”, who was one of the best performers and improvisers in the 30s and 40s of the last century. His artistic interpretation of the epic about shaman women turned out to be the most dynamic and intense, but at the same time easy for the perception of "our", modern spectator.
Stepanida Borisova goes to "Udagan kyrgyttar" all-in: she refuses to have dialogues and other recitative explanations of the plot. There is such a technique as "soundrama", which consists in the close interweaving of plastic art and musical poetry. The musical design of the performance was created by Innokenty Tytygynaev, who presented images of the Lower, Middle and Upper worlds through which the heroes travel, not only with instruments, but also with the sounds of nature, wind, and bird singing, .

The main element of the scenography here is artistic light. Lighting designer Andrey Kuznetsov works according to the method of design of a ballet and dance performance: when there are few decorations on the stage, that is, there is practically no subject, large saturation of space, then the lighting artist becomes one of the main authors of the performance. In "Udaganki" it was necessary to somehow show clearly what cannot be visual for a human being: the space of Three Worlds, the mood of the characters, the atmosphere of events. This performance is a journey to places that we know about, but no one has been there. The viewer cannot get the recognition effect, the audience is completely at the mercy of the artists' fantasies, and, according to the law of the theater, is ready to believe what they have created. In this sense, the Olonkho Theater is more than a drama theater, it is a national theater, which, among all its other missions, introduces a new audience to the Yakutian culture: youth of the republic and viewers of other cultures. This is a special responsibility, and no longer for one's own theater, but for the entire national tradition.
Stepanida Borisova, who has worked in the theater for many years as an actress and mastered all the secrets of stage and acting skills, now placed her students in her debut performance. The Olonkho Theater troupe are incredibly "equipped" artists, they have to not only master the techniques of the traditional Yakutian theater, such as “toyuk” (traditional type of singing) or the ability to wear a national costume, but also feel today's trends. Throughout the repertoire of recent years, it is clear that this theater is passionately interested in everything new and does not lag behind trying and comprehending all the languages and technologies of the world theater. That is, the Olonkho Theater does not stop at the ethnographic way to popularize Olonkho, but strives to expand its borders. This, in turn, works to increase the audience and the sincere interest of not only the local public, but also the guests of the republic, as well as the professional theater community.

The performance "Udagan kyrgyttar" ("Udaganki") turned out to befolding and skillful in unique Yakutian way, but soulful and even tragic in Russian way. Stepanida Ilyinichna Borisova is an experienced actress of the traditional genre, with a filigree command of the “toyuk” vocal technique, who sang in a rock band for some time. Despite the scrupulous and professional approach of the director, it is impossible not to pay attention to the fact that the director was a woman who knows all the features of the female soul, female thinking, so there is not a drop of falsehood in the images of the udaganki created by her in the play. The very "collusion" of the actresses and the director, which is so necessary in the theater, worked. Stepanida Borisova carefully, but very accurately combined the traditional story of the Udagan girls who did not go out of their own way, but still were tempted and looked away, and the modern trend of how important it is to be at peace with the outside world and yourself.