"Modris Tenisons: Movement and sign"

Modris Tenisons (1945–2020) was a theatre director of Latvian origin, the founder of the first professional pantomime troupe in the former Soviet Union (1966). He started his career and earned fame in Lithuania. Actors' bodies, dressed in leotards, expressed the ideas of ​​humanist values​. Such form of acting went beyond the then official understanding of art. The performances of Modris’ troupe did not correspond to either the concept of theatre or dance.

The burning of Romas Kalanta in the garden of the Musical Theatre in 1972 became an incentive to close the troupe. (At that time, the performance of Modris Tenisons’ troupe was taking place in the Musical Theatre). The director himself was forced to leave Lithuania and return to his native Riga.

It may seem deceptive that the event became the reason to end Modris Tenisons’ activities in Lithuania. In fact, he used to come to Lithuania and Kaunas, he watched the rehearsals of the performances of his former students – Stanislovas Rubinovas, Giedrius Kuprevičius, Asta Urbanavičiūtė, who founded the Youth Music Studio. Theatricals, dancers of musical studio kept in touch with Modris Tenisons who no longer created plays himself, but he was always ready to give advice. At the same time, Tenisons became interested in Baltic symbols and signs. After studying them in Latvia, he came to study the Lithuanian ones, including Lithuanian national sashes in museums. He also created an operation system of Baltic signs and often came to Kaunas to give lectures about Baltic signs. Around 2000, Modris Tenisons’ circle of his followers expanded from theatre artists to painters, ethnologists, museum workers, and historical researchers.  

A new era of mime art and performances started with Modris Tenisons’ and Simona Orinska’s artistic collaboration in 2008. They combined all of the Modris Tenisons’ ideas and activities from movement to sign. At the same time, thanks to the performances the humanistic idea was not only preserved, but also strengthened. Collaborating with a Lithuanian singer and performance artist Skaidra Jančaite artists showed a performance “The Birth of Nation” in Kyiv, 2014.

Modris Tenisons’ interest in pantomime and Baltic signs is not a different field of his activity, these are the directions that flow from each other. The simplicity of a pantomime movement and the depth of thought are transferred to the simplified form of the Baltic sign.

After Modris​​ Tenisons’ death, an archive of drawings, sketches, studies of Baltic signs, as well as the pantomime video recordings remained in Riga. Modris’ son Peteris Tenisons, who worked together with his father for a long time, became an intermediary and continuer of Modris ​​Tenisons’ activities. He is also the architect, designer and author of the idea of ​​this exhibition.

Exhibition coordinator Kristina Liepinaitė.

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