Tuesday, May 31, 2011: Wings of a Dream

Choreographer Mirka Eliášová shows no fear of flying on the wings of a dream

Flying on the Wings of a Dream

On June 13, The Berg Orchestra will perform Finlandia, contemporary music from Finland. On the Wings of a Dream (Aile du Songe) by K Saariaho, and Symphony for Strings and Equilibrium by PH Nordgren will accompany five dancers choreographed by Mirka Eliášová.

For both orchestra director Peter Vrabel and Mrs Eliášová, the setting for the evening’s “site specific” performance is as important as the orchestra and the dancers. It’s the ‘Bubenská’ building, the mysteriously hulking, massive white-tiled building near the Vltavska metro and tram stops.

Here, starting in 1935, up to 1100 employees worked the electric generators to run the city’s trams and buses. Today, except for a handful of small businesses, it’s virtually abandoned.

The open, warm space of the nearly-empty building provides an intriguing stage

Mrs Eliášová describes her plan, speaking with Opus Osm: “The dancers will perform only on the lobby’s small staircase, not even on the landing.” They’ll also use the first level of the several balconies encircling the main floor of the wide, open lobby where the audience will be seated.

While the Berg Orchestra is off rehearsing the written music score, the dancers are here in the lobby several nights a week, getting the feel of movement on the cold, hard, narrow strips of steps. “We work with the dancers and the music to try to figure out the structure and the interesting moments,” the award-winning choreographer says. Mrs Eliášová knows the basic plot, but “everyone adds to the work, creating the piece on the spot,” she explains.

Only during the weekend before the performance will both the dancers and the orchestra rehearse together for the first time, as they did in earlier collaborations in 2008 and 2009. “Usually it’s a surprise when we put the two together,” the soft-spoken dance master says. “I believe that finally it will be finished in the right moment.”

Dancers learn to work with the steps. Literally. Here: Zdenka Brungot Svíteková, Barbora Javůrková, Jana Sykorová. Not shown: Jiří Lossl, Petr Opavský

In the uncarpeted, expansive lobby, only the curved pipes of a small railing edging the steps defy the building’s strong horizontal and vertical lines. At the same time, though, warm, soft light spills through the massive windows above the stairs, washing over each step and cuddling the space with a soft greyness like a comfortable old sweater.

Three human silhouettes appear against the windows. They slide like shadows down the stairs, one foot placed carefully in front of the other. Suddenly, they step into spotlights that dazzle your eyes with color.

That’s just a nano-bit of the choreography that Mrs Eliášová has created. She explains that On the Wings of a Dream seeks to unite birds, flight, and freedom with a connection to the earth. “It’s kind of like Finland,” she says. “It has vast, open space, but with very hard living conditions.” The comparison is true not only for the music but for the site itself – a spacious lobby, but one which could easily be in a prison.

“There is a kind of story in this music, an imprisoned beauty inside the music,”she says. “In some ways this contemporary music is really intimate, it’s compassionate.”

Working in partnership, the setting, musicians, and dancers will set the imprisoned beauty free on June 13th. — oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnicka

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