Who Is the Most Powerful?

Opus Osm

Probably everyone in the world can recognize the dance vocabulary of the classic Mom-Daughter argument.

The Prague Chamber Ballet settles the question.

Who Is the Most Powerful in the World? The answer is supposed to be love, actually. But with the Prague Chamber Ballet’s (Pražský Komorní Balet) current production of this children’s tale, a strong case could be made for “art” as well.

Consider: The music is by Bohuslav Martinů, written just before he left Prague for Paris in 1923.

It’s conducted by Jiří Bělohlavek, recorded with the Prague Symphony Orchestra (FOK) several years ago.

The intriguing set design, costumes, and masks are by Vladimír Houdek and Monika Žáková, two 20-something artists whose works have already garnered prestigious awards.

The dance is vibrantly performed by a small cast of the Chamber Ballet, to choreography by award-winning dancer-choreographer-director Hana Polanská Turečková.

You’ll find lots of materials on Martinů at the Central branch of the Municipal Library of Prague, including a CD of the Bělohlavek-FOK recording of Who’s the Most Powerful.

For audiences approaching their pre-teen years, and for those who left them behind decades ago, these beautifully-executed scenes resonate with viewers of all ages: It’s the classic Mom-Daughter, Husband-Wife power struggle in choosing an appropriate husband for the girl, told in ballet, mime, and acrobatics.

The Story
Miss Mouse is about to marry, and her parents have picked out the perfect candidate for her. Little do they know, or appreciate, however, that she has already fallen in love with the Mouse Prince.

Opus Osm

In this production, the walls have ears ... and eyes ...

But they decide their daughter deserves someone strong and powerful. They select for her in turn The Cloud, The Wind, The Sun, and The Wall. The Wind, for example, is simply two arms jutting out from a stage wing, each holding a large hair-dryer set on “high,” like a surreal Magritte painting. Miss Mouse does a kind of Michael Jackson Moon Walk, striving forward, with her hair and dress blowing backwards, but she gets nowhere.

The dancers also make great use of The Wall, a blank, white backdrop slitted like vertical window blinds. The King and Queen stick their necks out (literally); arms and legs punch out through the slits; it’s an impenetrable barrier, or a minor inconvenience the dancers can easily jump through.

Fresh Approach
“I didn’t want a typical designer or costume designer who already knows what works on stage,” choreographer/director Hana Polanská Turečková tells Opus Osm. “Or who already has a certain set of procedures from school or from experience. The artists I chose (Houdek and Žáková) don’t have any experience with theatre, and their view was therefore, for me, very inspiring and liberating.”

Opus Osm

The ballet includes elements of classic and world dance, acrobats, and gymnastics. (Nikol Šneiderová, Tomáš Červinka)

The artists’ work with paper, collage, and geometry create visuals reminiscent of Martinů-era paintings, backdrops which expose children to a simple, yet more sophisticated, style of art. But they also work in harmony with the costumes and the dance. “My choreography strives to reach maximum communication, with accuracy and simplicity,” Ms Turečková says, “through a richly structured movement vocabulary.”

And for the audience, she says, “The main aim of creating this performance is to arouse in the child viewer an interest in dance, music, and visual arts. Children are very receptive, and it’s up to us what cultural ideas they decide to choose. Certainly, we should not underestimate them.”

“We liked the performance very much,” students from the FZŠ Otokara Chlupa elementary school reported to their teacher following the Feb 21 premiere performance. “We got a nice feeling and experience of performance.”

Their teacher, Mrs Jitka, adds, “It was an amazing performance. I think it supports further development of children’s imagination and fantasy. And I think that adults could also enjoy the performance.”

The next performance of Who Is the Most Powerful in the World? (Kdo Je na Světě Nejmocnější?) is set for Mar 19 at 9 and 11 am at Divadlo Ponec. — oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička

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