Jiří Pokorný Comes Back to Prague

Opus Osm

A striking variation on black face or mime make-up, the white masks make their own statement in Black Clouds Don't Cry.

… At least for the one-night performance of his new choreography

Prague native Jiří Pokorný, formerly a Laterna Magika dancer, and later with the prestigious Nederlands Dans Theater, is transitioning into a new career.

Like many dancers, he’s mostly hung up his dance shoes and has set his feet firmly on the path of the choreographer.

And the world premiere of his Black Clouds Don’t Cry brought the audience to its feet in a standing ovation at The New Stage in mid-May.

New job? So far, so good.

According to the program notes, this piece was inspired by “feelings and thoughts locked both consciously and unconsciously within the human soul” and the contrast of the “inanimate animation” of a classic still-life painting. But the work is more stunning than any such words can describe.

The artistic device of the performance is in the costuming: the eight dancers, clad in black body suits, wear white face masks covering the backs of their heads for much of the performance. Thus, the dancers actually face backstage, while they seem to be looking at the audience.

The result is intriguing, mystical, and beautiful. You can’t look away. After all, we all know from experience how a body moves, what it’s capable or incapable of; but here a startling new vocabulary is uncovered, yet coming from that same, well-known apparatus which we all carry around our entire lives. It reveals another side, as it were, of human animation.

Mr Pokorný began training as a dancer as a young child in Prague. Today he creates choreographies, teaches in workshops, and dances with the Kidd Pivot Frankfurt company, founded by Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite. But Black Clouds Don’t Cry premiered back in Prague, with dancers from Prague’s Dekka Dancers, a group of National Theatre Ballet dancers and guests.

Dekka Dancers’ Duet

The evening’s performance opened with Port 9, danced by its choreographers-and-Dekka Dancers Viktor Konvalinka and Tomáš Červinka (both also danced in Mr Pokorný’s piece later). Setting the black-and-white theme for the stage, Port 9 opens with a kind of Balinese shadow puppet introduction.

Opus Osm

Reminiscent of shadow puppets, the Dekka Dancers shadow-dance in Port 9.

The dance takes as its theme the concept of the defining memory which causes the dissent in one’s personality.

It’s often amusing (such as when Tomáš Červenka dances with a remote-controlled toy sports car), but holds a more serious theme underneath. Port 9 looks at typical high and low points of a life.

The repeated motif is a dancer waving his hand – to say “Hi!,” to greet a buddy, to call in a drowning shout, “Save me!”, to show loneliness.

And ultimately, to say good-bye.

Like Mr Pokorný, the Dekka Dancers appear in Prague only occasionally. But neither should be missed. — oo

– Mary Matz

Photo Credits: Top: Marek Volf; bottom, Miroslav Setnička

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