Eurovision 2016 Day 1: first rehearsals from San Marino and Russia

EuroVisionary is covering the Eurovision Song Contest 2016 rehearsals live from Stockholm to give you an idea of what to expect! It is time for San Marino and bookies’ favourite Russia to conclude this first day of rehearsals for the First Semi Final.

Armenia proved a difficult act to follow. Will San Marino or Russia manage to top it? For all the right reasons?

San Marino: Serhat – I Didn’t Know

What started as breathy, Barry White-style ballad was quickly altered into a 1970’s disco dance number for San Marino this year, though the (slightly higher-pitched) Barry White-style delivery has still been preserved by Serhat. The Turkish artist, who is also a TV presenter and producer, is joined on stage by five female backing singers. The presentation starts in fact with a shot of the backing singers dancing close together to the opening bars of the song on a raised platform behind Serhat. The stage is sub-lit but pink and blue spotlights give it a cheerful feel – there is an essence of a (toned down) Las Vegas show about the whole thing. Serhat remains very confident run after run. The female vocalists come off the raised platform to dance around him and the presentation comes to a close with Serhat throwing his hat in the air.

Russia: Sergey Lazarev – You Are The Only One

Russia is the bookies’ favourite this year and there are quite a few good reasons for it. The Russian entry, an uptempo pop number, comes from the experienced duo of Dimitris Kontopoulos and Philip Kirkorov (in collaboration with John Ballard and Ralph Charlie here). What is more, Sergey is one of the most popular Russian artists of his generation and he will be collaborating for the presentation of his song with Fokas Evangelinos, a true Eurovision veteran who has choreographed succesful entries such as winners My Number One (Greece 2005) and Believe (Russia 2008).

Everyone turns to face the monitor in the press centre when the time comes for Russia to get to the stage. And no one is disappointed with the beginning of the presentation. Sergey is lit from behind with his face being in darkness. There is a close up of him singing the line ‘You’re the only one’  and then we get a panoramic shot of the stage appearing to be star-lit. Soon a bright white panel appears seemingly out of nowhere. Sergey is standing in front of it, turns to one side and lowers his upper body as a long black wing seems to be growing from his shoulder, then turns to the other side and the same thing happens, then turns to face the camera with both black wings flickering behind him (people in the press centre are quick to point out similarities with the Icelandic entry this year and its presentation during the Icelandic national final). Male dancers dressed in black, just like Sergey himself, appear from behind the panel and carry out a dance routine before hiding behind it again. Sergey appears to be leaving traces of himsefl on the panel now in the form of abstract geometric multi-faceted formation. He soon starts to ascend. The panel has seemingly broken down into moving white boxes (both actual boxes and impressions of boxes) that protrude and recede from the plane of the panel. Sergey steps on the boxes to get higher and higher… and then the fall happens… No, not an intentional one, Sergey actually has a minor accident and the first run of the song stops abruptly. There is a small wait and the rehearsal starts again. Picking my description from where I left, the boxes turn into space matter that revolves around a seemingly floating Sergey because, yes, that’s where we are right now, space. The matter comes together to form rocks of ice (asteroids? we’re in space after all…) and the singer appears to jump from one to another. While this is going on, thick blue spotlights from behind the panel, add to the sense of depth of the stage. Sergey ends up on top of the main panel – additional (similar but taller) panels have appeared behind it and they are now all brightly yellow – Sergey has reached the sun – and, indeed, a star is displayed on the main panel before the yellow bright light goes and the presentation comes to end with a female figure being silhouetted on the panel and Sergey still on top of it.

If you feel you have to do it, there are many ideas that appear to have been recycled here: Evangelinos has for example used similar panels before in his choreography for both Ukraine in 2008 and Belarus in 2007. The concept of flying to the stars, though reflecting the songs’ lyrics (Together we’ll make it and reach for the stars) is not as instantly discernible as hoped perhaps. The whole presentation looks a bit disjointed and deliberate, too. Nevertheless, this is a very impressive presentation – I did not even mention the vocal performance because, judging by previous performances of Sergey, I expected it to be consistent and strong anyway. Russia’s staging is meant to satisfy the fans of its popular song and annoy those who are supporting one of the other entries

Thus, the first day of rehearsals for the Eurovision Song Contest 2016 is brought to a close. Armenia and Russia, Russia and Armenia stay in one’s mind…

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