The Secrets of How to Successfully Combine Directing and Choreography in Global Art: An Interview With Viacheslav Kulaev

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Apr. 5 2024, Published 3:59 a.m. ET

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Viacheslav Kulaev, a show director for the opening ceremony of the Asian Football Cup 2023 in Qatar, shares how to combine the multifaceted roles of creative and show directing and choreographer in the entertainment industry. He is set to give his international experience and secrets of how to be successful in each of these areas while maintaining a high standard of creativity.

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— Viacheslav, we have already touched on the opening ceremony of the Asian Football Cup 2023 in Qatar. Can you tell us a little bit more about it? Its format? What was special about it?

— The opening ceremony of the Asian Cup 2023 is a long-awaited event dedicated to the start of a large-scale tournament, which started exactly one year after the recent FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar, at which I also appeared as show director and director of choreography, but that time for the Closing Ceremony before the final match.

Even though both Ceremonies were associated with some of the biggest events in the world of football, the shows themselves were very different. While the World Cup Closing Ceremony was a Super Bowl Halftime Show with international celebrities, the Opening Ceremony of AFC Asian Cup 2023 was a large-scale musical for the 80,000-strong stadium audience and the billion-strong TV audience, but still with the same large-scale ambitions.

Qatar, as the host country, wanted to make the show special, differing from the usual ceremonies of such level, which, of course, are always super-sized category "A" events. Still, they often follow the same scenario, which tells us a story about the host country, its history and culture, and a little bit about the event and the sport itself. With our show, the organizers wanted to create a performance with a deep, philosophical message, reflecting the culture of the whole region — it is a large number of countries with different cultures and histories. The solution was not an easy one to see, but it has been found.

The show was then produced, based on one of the outstanding literary works known to all generations of Asian peoples, "Kelile and Demne," and we composed a new "Lost Chapter" of this saga, which took the form of a five-act narrative. It embodied a poetic visual concept combining epic musical staging, hyper-technological scenography and some ultra-technological character costumes, which were simply gorgeous.

The show was very successful. It is worth mentioning the musical and lyrical parts, which highlighted humanistic and universal themes. I am sure that the ceremony echoed in the hearts of everyone who watched it from the stands or on television—and here we're talking about several billion viewers.

— What role did you fulfil in preparing and executing the opening ceremony of the Asian Football Cup 2023 in Qatar?

— I acted as the show director who delivered this massive show at the 80,000-seater Lusail Iconic Stadium along with a large international team of specialists under the guidance of the masterminds behind the show, Katara Studios, and its CEO Akhmed Al Baker.

It is common for me to take on multiple roles in my work.

First and foremost, I am a creative director, as I almost always stand at the origins of a project, create its concept and its essence, and write the script. Some of the most striking projects I can refer to are the Show of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the International Exhibition EXPO 2017, the Show of Opening Ceremonies of the World Boxing Championships 2021, the Show of Opening of Formula 1 races, and more. I always manage my own projects as a show director.

I am also a professional choreographer and started my career as one, so it happens that I also perform in projects as a director of Choreography.

This synergy helps me a lot in my work, as music and dance have a very important place in most of my projects. I do love to express ideas with choreography and plasticity, and the ability to explain what is needed to be done choreographically speaking, to use the dancers themselves as an expressive instrument, directly conveying my vision is an important advantage in the work of creative and show directors.

This has worked particularly well in the AFC Asian Cup 2023 Opening Ceremonies show, which was a musical and EXPO 2017, as well as in the FIFA World Cup 2022 Closing Ceremonies show, where I collaborated with international celebrities.

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— Viacheslav, what has inspired you the most in your work and creation, and what helps you successfully combine several of the most important roles?

— Music is something that inspires me the most. It practically always provides me with everything I need to create a concept or an idea and then be able to implement it on stage. Then there goes the artist, dancer, actor, or singer. His individuality and peculiarities can sometimes be a useful "push off" from it, making it easy and effective to get into what you would enjoy. And more often than not, if I like it — the viewer likes it too. My colleagues' works inspire me just as much. All of them are either directors, choreographers, or designers, creating films, paintings, and digital art.

Also, in the last few years, I've been actively using artificial intelligence and neural networks. It helps me visualize some ideas in the first stages, and this kind of "communication" with neural networks gives me some moves, nuances, and conceptual ideas.

What does working at such an international level bring you in terms of professional experience?

— Working on the international market with the world's leading specialists strongly enriches my creative experience and my thinking. Technologically speaking, it also drives my experience forward, although it is difficult to surprise anyone with anything nowadays, but you can always find something useful and unique in the principles of work, structure, approaches, cultivating yourself and moving forward. Obviously, working at the international level means new networks, new opportunities, and exciting new projects!


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