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INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF CONTEMPORARY DANCE BRINGS WATER METAPHOR TO MULTI-GENRE ACTS

A river runs through it

DANCE may be the most difficult art form to write about, challenging reviewers to make sense of body movements and the impact they have on audiences. But the organisers of a contemporary dance festival this month in Bratislava say they have a motif that all viewers will understand - water.
The theme was suggested by the fact that the core of the Bratislava In Movement 2002 festival will be staged at the Danubiana gallery, which sits on a peninsula jutting into the Danube river about 15 kilometres south of the capital.
"This place is strongly defined by running water, water that symbolises the passage of time and currents of thoughts," says Miroslava Kovářová, director of the Association of Bratislava in Movement (ABVP), an umbrella organisation for Slovak dance groups.


HÁJKOVÁ'S dance studio stages the play Checkmate.
photo: Courtesy of ABVP

DANCE may be the most difficult art form to write about, challenging reviewers to make sense of body movements and the impact they have on audiences. But the organisers of a contemporary dance festival this month in Bratislava say they have a motif that all viewers will understand - water.

The theme was suggested by the fact that the core of the Bratislava In Movement 2002 festival will be staged at the Danubiana gallery, which sits on a peninsula jutting into the Danube river about 15 kilometres south of the capital.

"This place is strongly defined by running water, water that symbolises the passage of time and currents of thoughts," says Miroslava Kovářová, director of the Association of Bratislava in Movement (ABVP), an umbrella organisation for Slovak dance groups.

Danubiana, near the town of Čuňovo, now houses 21 artists working on a mutual project which will be one of the highlights of the festival.

"The idea of the Danubiana project is to work with the environment the artists are in. It's about seeing one's surroundings through different eyes, understanding the impact our environment has on us once it's been altered by man," says Kovářová.

Three Romanian theatre actors, two Croatian light technicians, and seven Czech and eight Slovak contemporary dancers led by Dutch director Frits Vogels are preparing a multicultural, multi-genre performance they say is inspired by the watery surroundings.


MALE dance duet by French Preljocaj.
photo: Courtesy of ABVP

"This festival is the only opportunity we have to link dance with other artistic genres, such as music and fine art, on an international level, and also to approach the viewer from somewhere else than just from inside of a theatre," Kovářová says, referring to the Danubiana troupe's show, called H2O/Danubiana/H2O, which will be performed outside as well as inside the gallery and which opens the festival on May 10.

Over the next 10 days, at three other theatres around the city, Canadian, Hungarian, French, Austrian and Slovak dance artists will also present dozens of solo and group performances.

Kovářová says that the festival features a major draw - the 20-member French dance troupe Ballet Preljocaj, which will stage The Rites of Spring by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky at a cost of Sk1.2 million [$25,800].

Audiences can compare this contemporary ballet version with the classical version that is now being performed by the Slovak National Theatre (SND). The new Preljocaj version, which hits the SND stage on May 19 at 20:00, will be preceded by a male dance duet to the music of Bach.

Austrian choreographer Willi Dorner, who incorporates video into his performances, leads a group that will deliver two thematically linked shows on May 15. The Canadian Van Grimde Corps Secrets group, coming to the stage for three performances in a row on May 21, makes musicians part of its act, and on this occasion will cast a saxophonist alongside the dancers.

Of the four Slovak performers at the festival, the Banská Bystrica Dance Studio led by choreographer Zuzana Hájková is the best professional contemporary dance group in Slovakia, says Kovářová. Its six dancers, who are also taking part in the Danubiana project, will perform a dance called 'Checkmate' on May 16.

"It's a piece about life. About life, which doesn't end here on earth, but arrives from somewhere else and then fluidly rejoins another existence," says Hájková. "Checkmate tells the story of a woman who winds up on a chessboard. She's not afraid to break the rules of the game in her real life and achieve her dreams."

Slovakia has two associations which promote contemporary dance. While the Association of Contemporary Dance (AST) has been grouping local artists together since 1996, the ABVP, formed in 2000, has focused on connecting the local and foreign scenes. ABVP's other main role is to assure the survival of the festival, which Kovářová co-founded as head of the AST in 1996.

The festival, she says, has helped to bring Slovak contemporary dance to the notice of the international circuit.

Last month American representatives attended the Prague Dance Zone 2002 festival, a showcase of central European contemporary dance. Seeing the regional work, they will select the groups to come to perform at Dance-Theatre Workshop in New York in 2003.

"Getting an invitation to present your work abroad is like winning a prize," says Kovářová. "There are no competitions held in this field, because dance is a very subjective matter for those who create it as well as for those who perform it."


FESTIVAL PROGRAMME

H2O/Danubiana/H20 (inter-cultural project)
runs May 10-12 at 21:00 at Danubiana Gallery, Čuňovo (boat transport).
Reservations needed, tel: 02/5273-3819.


Aréna Theatre
Viedenská cesta 10. Tel: 02/6224-6875.

May 15 at 20:00
threeseconds & not at all (Austria)

May 16 at 20:00
Checkmate (Slovakia)

May 17 at 20:00
Blue Moon (Slovakia)
What Sort of Tenderness (Hungary)

May 21 at 20:00
Van Grimde Corps Secrets (Canada)


Stoka Theatre
Pribinova 1. Tel: 02/5292-4470.

May 18 at 20:00
Kryk (Slovakia)
Inner Laws (Slovakia)


Slovak National Theatre,
Hviezdoslavovo nám. 1. Tel: 02/5443-3083.

May 19 at 20:00 Ballet Preljocaj (France)

For more on the festival programme and ticket prices contact the theatres listed above.

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