Monday, July 11, 2011: She Lets Dancers Talk

It’s July in the Czech Republic, and that means it’s summer vacation! Opus Osm is on vacation this week, but we just had to put our shoes back on and go to work long enough to tell you about this interesting Czech director …

The Theatre Director Who Lets the Ballet Dancers Talk

Petra Tejnorová, the young emerging theatre director, keeps a tight schedule. This theatre season alone she put on four plays. Timing – the fusion of music, dance, and video projections that grew under her direction – played only three nights recently at The New Stage of the National Theatre. But despite the short life of the project, it caught a lot of attention and generated mostly positive press.

This multi-media performance combines modern classical music played by The Berg Orchestra, contemporary dance by the DekkaDancers, and video projections. Interestingly, the main protagonist of the performance is the New Stage itself, especially its labyrinth of corridors and rooms. The dancers inhabit the dressing rooms and hallways with their practice routines and memories, and it’s all projected onto eight video screens for the audience. All this while 100 onstage metronomes remind everyone that time is running along.

The project started in the heads of the Berg Orchestra, who came up first with the selection of modern classics by György Ligeti, Aaron Copland, and Louis Andriessen. Only later were dance, video, and spoken word added to the work. As a director, Mrs Tejnorová oversaw that all these elements came together and also contributed to the text for ballet dancers’ monologues. Opus Osm talked to her about the special demands of this project.

Music, dance, video and more combine in Timing

“The offer came from the dramaturg Lukáš Trpišovský, who had helped create the first concept of the project together with Petr Vrábel from the Berg Orchestra and Tomáš Rychetský from DekkaDancers. Realizing they then needed a director, Mr Trpišovský approached me.”

She didn’t hesitate at all to accept such an unusual blend of work: “I am open to new forms and I like the combination of various genres like dance and facial expressions,” Mrs Tejnorová explains. This can be seen in her critically-acclaimed drama work into which she tries to pack all these elements.

She professes a special approach to directing, called devised theatre: “It’s a theatre form based on collaboration in which the actor becomes a partner to the director. So actors are not just a director’s dummies, but are actively involved in the making of the performance.” This is exactly how she worked with the ballet dancers whom she engaged in the creation of the performance. They had to recall their first memories, the first image they could remember.

“The idea is to connect the space of the New Stage with the inner space of the dancers by using the labyrinth of the areas backstage as a route to their memory,” she says. These confessions provide inspiration for the black-and-white video projections, and are also the basis for the dancers’ later, live monologues. Thus, spoke the DekkaDancers.

Once the video projections start going into the dancers’ memories, the black-and-white visuals change to brilliant color.

Petra Tejnorová likes to involve the actors in the direction of a piece

The most challenging part about Timing has ironically been the time. Although it had been prepared for two months, the biggest challenge came when the different parts had to be rehearsed together and connected. “This only happened only three or four days before the premiere,” the theatre director says. The preparation of the videos demanded many sleepless nights. They had to be rehearsed in front of the camera because many of the actions are directly broadcast from backstage.

Although Mrs Tejnorová directed the whole performance, she doesn’t keep the credit just to herself. She cites several colleagues, such as Antonín Šilar, who helped with the stage design and videos, and technician Jonáš Strouhal, who interconnected operations of the eight screens on the stage. Pavel Hejný also contributed to the video work.

Timing is not part of the regular repertoire of the National Theatre, but the producers and performers are hoping that it may be repeated in the coming season. Keep an eye out for it on the Opus Osm Events Calendar so that you don’t miss it – after all, timing is everything. – 00

– Zuzana Sklenková

Photo Credits: Petra Tejnorová, director's photo; Timing performance, Miroslav Setnička

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