Daimohk’s 10th anniversary concert will be held this evening in Grozny – our Programmes Co-ordinator Chris Hunter spoke with Ramzan Akhmadov the group’s leader yesterday, who was doing a dress rehearsal with the kids.
Members of PBUK have sent video messages, which will be played on a large screen at the event, together with a message from our Honorary President and messages from other supporters in Europe. Chris has written a message for the programme at this prestigious event. We have also learnt that a UK Parliamentary delegation plan to be there this evening.
I think that Chris’ words probably sum up just how far Daimohk have come in the past ten years, so I won’t say anymore…
It gives me great pleasure to write these words of congratulation to Daimohk on your 10th anniversary. This event not only marks an important milestone in Daimohk’s history, but also represents the huge success that the ensemble has achieved and the enormous interest and support that there is in your progress.
I first met Daimohk’s director Ramzan Akhmadov in July 1999 by a lake in Nazran, Ingushetia, together with my colleague Adlan Adaev and a few of the young dancers dressed in full national costume. War had recently broken out in Chechnya, and most of the ensemble were refugees. Against this background of misery it was clear that Ramzan possessed the energy, the vision and the talent to make these young dancers into something exceptional, and Peacebuilding UK has been proud to partner Daimohk on this journey to becoming a professional-standard dance ensemble with an international reputation.
The journey has not been without its difficulties. In the earlier years of Daimohk’s history, the desperate security situation in Grozny made dangerous even so simple a thing as a teenager’s journey from home to school, or to dance practice. This was one of the things that impressed me so much about Ramzan and his team – they saw the horror of the situation around them, but they focused on the positive and uplifting effect of their dance and culture, and used this to give the children and young people hope in the future and to build their self esteem and identity. This transformed the lives of everyone involved. Ramzan saw dance as a way to give a generation of children surrounded by violence and aggression a positive creative focus and emotional self-expression. Only six months later, Daimohk’s breathtaking and varied programme – from energising acrobatics and sword-throwing, to graceful formations and mesmerizing instrumental numbers – won the Chechen Republic’s Competition for Artistic Excellence.
This transformation was like a ripple that spread from Ramzan’s team and the young dancers all over Chechnya. But this creative ripple has reached far beyond the borders of Chechnya. The positive effects have been felt around Russia and Europe too. Despite the obstacles in Daimohk’s early years, the ensemble developed an excellent repertoire and reputation, which enabled the young people of Daimohk to become cultural ambassadors of Chechnya, travelling to many different countries, impressing and inspiring audiences. Tens of thousands of people have watched Daimohk’s concerts in over a dozen countries throughout Europe. The children of Daimohk have portrayed the strong spirit, grace and determination of the Chechen people to millions more people who watched their performances on European television.
The ensemble’s notable successes have included winning first prizes at the prestigious Llangollen International Eisteddfod in 2004, the Grand Prix at the equally prestigious Crystal Magnolia Festival in Sochi in 2005 and first prize again at the all-Russia talent competition ‘Delfiskie Igri’ in the city of Novosibirsk, Siberia in May 2008. In 2009, Daimohk was invited back to the Llangollen International Eisteddfod as star guests to perform on the festival’s final evening in the big hall to over 3000 people; this was shown live on Welsh television.
I have had the honour of helping to organise seven European tours for Daimohk over the last ten years. Today Daimohk has dedicated and committed followers all over Europe, who are always keen to know when the ensemble will return to perform again. Ramzan, Aiza and the young dancers have also taught their dances to school children in Britain and other countries, who have experienced the concentration and hard work required even to copy some of the simplest of these dance moves! This cultural exchange went further when dancers from the Chicken Shed Theatre Company in London taught the Daimohk dancers some of their own contemporary dance moves.
When Ramzan asked me and Peacebuilding UK to arrange for some of the older Daimohk dancers to study in Britain, we were able to secure places for them at a school in Devon where they completed their exams and have now gone on to study at British universities.
Throughout the ten years that Daimohk has existed, the situation in Chechnya has changed significantly, and the children who attend dance lessons today no longer face the obstacles that the original group faced in the late nineties due to the security situation. Daimohk’s role however remains as important as ever in providing hope, enjoyment, creativity and inspiration to generations of people in Chechnya, Russia and around the world. This year, we facilitated contact between Daimohk and a prestigious US international children’s festival, which has invited the ensemble to their annual event in the US this September. I very much hope that Daimohk will find the possibility to travel there, to share Chechnya’s rich culture and talented dance on another continent with American audiences.
I wish you Ramzan and your team and all the young dancers every success in continuing this vital work. All of your friends here in Europe very much look forward seeing you here again in the future. Congratulations and “Маршалла ду шуьга! МОГУШАЛЛА А, ИРС А, АЬТТО А ХУЬЛДА ШУН!”
Christopher Hunter, Programmes Coordinator, Peacebuilding UK