Ponec Theater showcases dance with a twist

Czech Position

October’s dance card at Ponec Theater is full – with the main event a reading by author Robert Fulghum. And yes, it’s dance related.

Narcissism, tango, an auction … it doesn’t sound very dance-y, but Ponec Theater’s fall season is looking to be a diverse mix of dance, theater and other movement performances.

A non-profit organization, Ponec is operated by the Tanec Praha civic association, which also puts on the Tanec Praha and Czech Dance Platform festivals. Opened in 2001, the 160-seat theater is geared towards contemporary dance and movement theater.

“Our goal isn’t to be mainstream but open,” Kateřina Horváthová, Ponec spokeswoman told Czech Position. “We want to bring something new that will seduce more people to come here and have fun.”

October’s dance card is full – with the biggest event being a reading by American author Robert Fulghum. And yes, it is dance related.

“Mr. Fulghum’s new book, ‘Hold Me Fast, Love Me Slow,’ is about tango dancing,” Horváthová said. “First he will read an excerpt from his book, then actor Lukáš Hejlík will read it in Czech. Mr. Fulghum and his girlfriend are mad about tango, so they will dance, and then we will have tango lessons for everyone.”

Last January, Ponec introduced “tančírna,” an evening in which they bring in professional dancers to teach the general public a specific dance. These “dancing hall” sessions have done Gypsy, tango, salsa and swing, and they’ll host another tango evening in conjunction with the Fulghum event.

“The choreography of contemporary dance isn’t always understandable,” Horváthová said. “We are a dance theatre focused on contemporary dance but we wanted to do something for people who like more classical dance.” She adds that the evenings are very popular and there is always a waiting list.

“With live music and a good atmosphere, people realize they can come to the theater not only for performances,” she added. In November they’ll host a disco evening and in December, Indonesian dance.

New work

Premieres make up a large part of the schedule. In October, Ponec will host the Czech premiere of a performance by Debris Company, a Slovak troupe. Called MONO, you’ll be able to explore narcissism through dance.

“It should be very interesting for philosophical people; it deals with the issue of narcissists using others as a mirror for themselves,” Horváthová said. “There are five heroes who only think about themselves and manipulating others, but inside each one is very lonely.” The piece received two Slovak Dosky award nominations, one for production and one for music. “It’s a deep psychological piece and also with intense movements; a complicated performance,” she said.

From the seductions of tango to the psycho-drama of narcissism, how exactly does Ponec decide on their programming? “Dance performances are chosen from different points of view,” said Jitka Štecová, Ponec’s manager. “First, we have a stable team of artists we cooperate with, we have lots of trust in them and it is guaranteed quality for us, like NANOHACH, VerTeDance and DOT504.”

VerTeDance will be premiering a new piece in conjunction with Slovak group Les SlovaKs Dance Collective operating out of Belgium. NANOHACH kicked off the season with an unusual bike performance, and DOT504 will perform three of their recent pieces three days in a row – Oct. 30–31 and Nov. 1.

Welcoming Czech performers home

T.V.A.R. is a program dedicated to offering Czech dancers working abroad a place to perform in Prague. This year, “Bob’s Your Uncle” will make its Czech premiere. Created by Jan Bárta, who works in the Netherlands, it’s loosely based on the carpentry trade and takes the form of a public auction. Czech choreographer and dancer Miroslav Kochánek, also based in the Netherlands will bring a production dealing with faith and revolution to Ponec’s stage in November.

“We get recommendations and people from our team attend dance festivals here and abroad, and we watch new Czech choreography,” Štecová said. “Our choices are quite subjective, based on the feeling of the piece.”

Another highly anticipated premiere is a new work by actress, choreographer and mime Anna Polívková, whom Horváthová describes as giving a performance that evocates the atmosphere of a dance club, with audience participation at the end.

The theater’s new season kicked off a bit later than normal. Tanec Praha association president Yvona Kreuzmannová said in a press statement that it was due to money – they had the choice of reducing the fees they pay to performers, technicians and producers, or shorten the season. Support for the arts in general has been hard to come by in recent years, and contemporary dance can lose something in translation.

“I think some people don’t understand it, but the topics of choreography are very interesting, current ideas and it opens discussions,” Horváthová said. “It’s more than just intellectual; interesting light design, visual effects and the performances must be compact, with strong artistic elements.”