DANCING on Broken Glass, the first dance film in Slovakia’s recent history to pick up the threads of a tradition of folklore films that was quite prevalent in the country’s past, premiered at the Art Film Festival in Trenčianske Teplice in June. The premiere was followed by a tour of twelve cities including Bratislava, featuring after-show discussions with the film’s creators. The film –the brainchild of actor Marek Ťapák – was then screened at the International Film festival in Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, which took place between June 26 and July 7.
Marek Ťapák is the son of famous Slovak director Martin Ťapák, who shot a number of films seen as crucial to the history of Slovak cinema, including two sequels of the life-story of legendary Slovak highwayman Juraj Jánošík. Marek acted in his father’s films when he was younger, after which he danced in the SĽUK folklore ensemble for three years before turning his back on folklore to focus on other endeavours.
Ťapák stated in a recent press conference that five years ago he felt the urge to return to folklore dance, and first wrote the script for a theatre piece to be performed by him with a troupe of folklore dancers. When renowned documentary director Pavol Barabáš shot the visual background for the performance, capturing the beauty of Slovakia’s natural scenery, the idea of a movie came to Ťapák.
Music for both the stage piece and the film was written by the Banda world music band (often adapting original folklore tunes) and composer Anton Popovič. Pictures of Slovakia and spoken interjections written by Daniel Hevier are featured in both the movie and the dance piece. Dancing on Broken Glass shows the events, fantasies, emotions and philosophical deliberations of a man who draws most of his inspiration from his roots, history, traditions and nature.
Ťapák added that after the film was shot, the original dance piece was expanded to its current, lengthier and more complex form.
The poetic and emotive film combines exuberant dances with the breath-taking beauty of the Slovak countryside, accompanied by deeply affecting music and soft, poetic cinematography. However, the film lacks a strong story and a coherent plot. What makes for a quality theatrical folklore piece may not necessarily translate well into a feature film. But as it is the first film of its kind in many years, there is no real comparison and audiences who come without expectations and prejudices can enjoy picturesque views, impressive dance performances, and well played folk-inspired music.
The film belies that its creation was a dream come true for Ťapák, and that actors, dancers, and the film crew genuinely enjoyed making it and gave everything they had. Dancing on Broken Glass could serve as an effective promotional piece for Slovakia’s folklore traditions and natural scenery, making it appropriate that it is also to be shown with English subtitles.