Cxema is raw, hard and hypnotic. It started life as 1000 kids convulsing in time to techno's tough 4/4 beat in an abandoned warehouse on the outskirts of Kiev, dancing as the world around them collapsed. The 2014 revolution had brought Kiev nightlife to a complete standstill. As protests turned into riots, and government security forces opened fire on protestors, the country fell into crisis. The president was overthrown and a new government was proclaimed. Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, sectarian militias rose up across the country. But as Ukraine suffered, the country's youth voted with their feet and took to the dancefloor.
Slava Lepsheev had lost his job because of the financial crisis the war had triggered, and had had enough of not being able to go out at night, so he started Cxema - a techno rave happening whenever his financial situation would allow it. He took Cxema to whatever illegal and semi-legal venue he could set up a sound system in - skate parks, warehouses, vaults under bridges, on desolate islands on the city's outskirts. Cxema quickly became more than just a dance party, it became a way for the Ukrainian youth to unite. Kids from all over Ukraine will travel up to Kiev to rave through the weekends, with some even braving treacherous 23-hour bus rides all the way from Crimea.
The dancefloor at Cxema is not just a dancefloor. It's a place with its own vibrant soul, a place to feel totally free, a place to forget about the major consequences the country's political chaos has had for its youth as they're left with little support, few options and huge levels of unemployment. Cxema became a statement of protest, however oblique, at the turmoil the revolution had thrown the country's young men and women in, it was born out of a desire for normalcy, escapism and abandon in a country where the future was looking bleak. The young Ukrainians' burning desire to turn things around is palpable - and truly inspiring. It's certainly not easy to set up a rave, or establish a fashion brand, or do anything creative and make money off it in Ukraine - but many are embracing the adventure, working together to create something beautiful, like Cxema. The living proof that crisis can create opportunity if you really want it.
Text Kate Villevoye
Photography Lesha Berezovskiy