Thursday, March 15,2012: Dirty Dancing


Dancers from 420People perform in a dance-theatre piece set to Mácha's poem, Máj

Dirty Dancing
A cloud of dirt flies up, caught in the light, as Václav Kuneš swings his foot into the air. He isn’t dancing outside, though: He’s on stage at The New Stage (Nová Scéna), performing on a bed of dirt as part of 420People’s new contemporary dance production, Máj (May).

May is inspired by the romantic, narrative poem Máj, by the Czech poet Karel Hynek Mácha. The poem is about a pair of doomed lovers, Jarmila and Vilém. Jarmila waits to meet her lover on May 1, only to be told that Vilém is to be executed for killing his father, who had seduced Jarmila. As Vilém awaits his execution, he laments that he will never again get to witness the beauty of nature, and upon his death, all of nature mourns for him.

Although Máj was criticized when first published in 1836, it has since gained prominence and is one of the most beloved and well-known works of Czech literature. Even today, students and other lovers traditionally tryst on the first of May; and many couples kiss passionately in front of the nearest Mácha statue.

Mácha described his poem as an homage to the beauty of spring, and this connection to nature is evident in 420People’s production. A mixture of soil and peat covers the stage and surrounds a shallow pool of water; the choreography takes full advantage of these elements, with the dancers rolling in the dirt and splashing in the water.

You can watch choreographer Kuneš explain to Opus Osm in English what it’s like to dance in dirt, by clicking on the rehearsal video below.

420People’s dance-and-drama production makes use of several different types of media: Both live percussion and recorded music are used, and at certain points in the performance, a video is projected onto a large screen at the back of the stage. The whole performance is accompanied by the live dramatic Czech narration by actor/director David Prachař — with English sub-titles.

You don’t need to understand the narration, however, to appreciate the dancers’ movements, or to understand the wonder on Nataša Novotná’s face when she touches the pool of water for the first time.
– oo

– Anna Walsh

Máj premieres at the National Theater’s Nová Scéna on Monday, March 19, with a repeat performance Apr 25.

Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička

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