Stepping out at the Czech Dance Platform

Czech Position

“It’s going to be great!” cheers Czech Dance Platform director Katerina Višinská. Prepare yourself for a packed weekend of contemporary dance when the annual festival bops around April 13–16. Now in its 18th year, the Platform puts together the best premieres of Czech contemporary dance in the country from the previous year. Started in 1994, the festival always had a goal to promote not only locally, but also internationally, the best of Czech dance.

“It started as very small national festival, it was just a chance to celebrate Czech contemporary dance,” Višinská told Czech Position. “In 2000, we really started to be international with guests from abroad and using the Platform as a chance to show the rest of Europe, and the world, what’s happening in the Czech Republic.”

The festival’s goal is to present not only to the public, but also dance professionals in the Czech Republic and abroad the most interesting dance projects in the hopes connections can be made, partnerships begun and cooperation improved. VerTeDance, a Czech dance and choreographer duo made up of Veronika Kotlíková and Tereza Ondrová, have been performing at Czech Dance Platform since 2002.

“This is the main festival for Czech contemporary dance and one of the few occasions to present our work to international promoters,” Kotlíková told Czech Position. “During the festival the work of Czech creators can be seen and evaluated by very experienced professionals from all over the world. It helps Czech dance to be global not only local.”

This year, 12 projects will be presented, out of the 30-40 submitted for consideration. Višinská said the jury, made up of professionals from the dance field, sees every performance nominated live.

“The feeling live is very different than watching a DVD, so hopefully the piece is being shown when the open call (for nominations) is happening,” she said, adding both the quality of the choreography and the performers are two of the elements judges watch out for.

Choreographic prominence

“What I see this year is that the festival is really about strong choreographic personalities,” Višinská said. “In the Czech Republic we have amazing dancers but very few choreographers — we don’t have the tradition. But this year it is about the choreographers.” She mentions young, up and coming choreographers like Martina Hajdyla Lacová as well as more experienced ones making a strong return to the Czech scene, like Adéla Laštovková-Stodolová and Bára Látalová.

“We often get feedback from our international guests that the Czech Republic has excellent dancers, but no strong choreographers to lead them,” she added.

VerTeDance will be performing two pieces this year; one choreographed by them, and a second choreographer by a Swedish choreographer.

“’What is the weight of your desire,’ which premiered in Ponec theatre in December 2011 was created by VerTeDance in cooperation with Zrní, an emerging Czech music group,” Ondrová told Czech Position. “Zrní plays live on stage during the whole performance. The piece describes the world of women from an inside view.” VerTeDance’s second piece, Found and Lost was choreographed by Swedish choreographer Charlotta Öfverholm.

“Charlotta brought her very special energy to this dance-theater piece performed by Veronika and me; it was our first piece together on stage after a long period,” Ondrová said. “It is a very strong 30 minute excursion.”

One element to remember about contemporary dance is that it isn’t only about the actual dancing.

“The lighting, music, set; contemporary dance is not just about dance but the whole view of the stage,” Višinská said. “Very rarely can the dancer only dance … you are supposed to be multi-talented, an actor, singer. On the stage you see all the subjects put together – it’s why light and other elements are so important.”

Lighting especially is such an integral component of contemporary dance that the Platform dedicates workshops and an award to the skill every year. In cooperation with the Light Design Institute, a workshop with French lighting and scene designer Vincent Longuemare will be held April 20-22, plus the Light Design Prize will be awarded; a jury chooses the most inspiring lighting work from the Platform’s projects each year.

If, like many people you just can’t “get” contemporary dance; the Platform is holding a special seminar titled “Atelier of Reading Dance: how to penetrate into the world of contemporary dance and savor its riches.” Aimed at dance critics, theologists, choreographers and dancers; the seminar is open to all and will include both Czech lecturers and foreign guests.

“There are still not so many people in the Czech Republic who can understand how to read dance,” Višinská said. “The Atelier of Reading Dance will help explain what’s happening and how to enjoy it.”

Dance-off

The festival starts off on a strong foot — Lenka Bartsková will be performing Lágrima, a site-specific piece in the neighborhood around the Ponec Theater. Following the performance, an exhibition of dance photography will be opened at Ponec. Ponec is the festival’s main venue, with Adéla Laštovková-Stodolová’s The Men performed by SKUTR there on April 13; VerTeDance performing What is the Weight of Your Desire on April 14 and on April 15 the group will perform Found and Lost. The closing performance on April 16 will be Monika Rebcová’s Africa-Consideration.

Margaretha Holds Forth by Bára Látalová will be shown April 14 at Alfred ve dvorak and the same day at Studio Alta you can see Jan Komárek’s Journeys and Deeds-trilogy. Studio Alta is the site of a double bill on April 15; ‘SoloS (part III)’ by Martina Hajdyla Lacová will be performed by ME-SA and French choreographer Fabrice Ramalingom’s ‘Brut’ will be performed by NANOHACH. At Teatro NoD, April 16 brings Spitfire Company performing ‘The Untouchables.’ With such a varied line-up it would seem difficult to choose, but Višinská says no.

“The program is selected by professionals and every year it’s the best of the year,” she said. “No matter what you choose, you won’t be disappointed.”

The compact nature of the festival as a round-up of the year in dance makes it an attractive way to catch up on any performances that may have passed you by — or as an ideal introduction to the world of Czech contemporary dance.

“It’s a celebration of Czech dance and every festival is great — it’s the best all together,” Višinská said.