Thursday, March 22, 2012: Reflections on Nature

Opus Osm 420People

Romantic Czech poet Karel Hynek Mácha's reflections on nature form the basis for 420People's contemporary dance

Reflections on Nature, Inside & Out

Indoors, outdoors; loudness, silence; chaos, control: Contemporary dance group 420People brought all of these opposites together seamlessly Monday night for the premiere of its newest production, Máj.

As Opus Osm reported last Thursday, 420People’s Máj is based on the romantic, narrative poem by Czech poet Karel Hynek Mácha. Mácha had described the poem as a celebration of nature; fittingly, then, 420People brought nature into the theatre by putting a pool of water and a bed of dirt on stage with the dancers.

The choreography makes full use of the elements, with the dancers rolling and pulling each other around in the dirt and splashing in the pool.

At several joyous moments in the performance, you can tell by the looks on their faces just how much fun they are having, playing on stage.

But nature isn’t the only innovative element incorporated into the performance. Videos are projected onto a large screen at the back of the stage at several key moments of the performance. While most of the performance is accompanied by actor/director David Prachař’s dramatic reading of Mácha’s Máj (with English subtitles), a stunning blend of live and prerecorded music is also woven into the mix. Even visual art is pulled into the performance: At several climactic points in the story, the dancers smear mud on their bodies and press themselves against a trampoline-like canvas stretched taut near the back of the stage, creating a painting from their handprints, footprints, and body prints.

Although all of these elements could be overwhelming, Máj balances them all skillfully by juxtaposing the louder, more active moments of the performance with quiet, immobile ones. At several moments, the dancers stand completely still on stage as Prachař reads, letting the beauty of Mácha’s poetry speak for itself.

Máj is directed by David Prachař and choreographed by 420People’s artistic director, Václav Kuneš. You can watch an excerpt from a recent rehearsal by clicking on the video below.

There will be repeat performance of Máj at The National Theater’s Nová Scéna (New Stage) on Apr 25. — oo

– Anna Walsh

Photo Credits: Top: 420People; video, Miroslav Setnička

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