Standup Dancers


Meaning in 420people's new piece 'Mirage' links the facade of standup comedy with the expression of contemporary dance.

Contemporary dance group 420people premieres Mirage, a look at the similarity between standup comedians – and dancers – and people everywhere.

At first glance you might think it a bit of a stretch to compare comedians and dancers. But 420people’s co-director / choreographer Václav Kuneš makes the similarities painfully clear.

Most obviously, standup comedians often take frustrating, real-life situations and ‘stand them on their head’ [idiom, to use something in a new way] to create black humor. And people recognize a bit of themselves in it, and laugh.

“Dancers are funny,” Mr Kuneš explains to Opus Osm. “They are in front of a mirror every day. If you’re smart, that gives you a certain strength to be able to look at yourself almost all the time. And if you are even a bit smarter, it allows you to laugh at your self.”

Mr Kuneš says that we all use the same tools to get by, to be able to laugh about ourselves, and to simply reconfirm to ourselves that we are alive.

But dancers play around with all of these ingredients and then sometimes go under their skin just for laugh. “Yes, it might hurt a bit,” choreographer Kuneš admits, “but that’s also what Mirage is about.”

MirageHe confesses that he spent “hours and hours” watching top standup artists on television (but he doesn’t specify whether his addiction to comedy led to the new dance piece, or the other way around). What he saw is the common denominator between dancers and comedians, “the desire to be perfect, the desire to entertain (in many different ways though), the drive to go out there and do the best,” he says.

He also recognized that this drive can often result in an “adrenalin high.” He explains: “A simple example of the ‘misuse’ of adrenalin is when [dancers] have a pain somewhere. The adrenalin of the actual performance will make it seem as if ‘it actually doesn’t hurt that much’ while you are on stage.” But more than often, he says, the dancer feels “very differently” about it the next morning.

“On the other hand,” he continues, “the right amount of adrenalin creates the kind of ‘magical moments’” — despite the shaky knees and sweaty palms — “when you can almost forget you are on stage.”

Costumes by Fashion Designers

Mirage makes use of some interesting collaborations. The cast was chosen because, as he says, “As you will see, some dancers are truly comfortable in making people laugh. Some people entertain with their jokes, some with their bodies, some with other tricks.”

He declined to be more specific about those tricks before the Oct 16 premiere.

The “almost movie-like music” by Canadian Owen Belton gives the dancers in Mirage a space and yet pushes and inspires them, the choreographer says. “His music has a story, which is there for you to find out,” Mr Kuneš teases.

The new dance piece is unusual also because the costumes are the work of Prague fashion designers from the Chatty design studio. Although the 420people dancers have performed in fashion designers’ costumes once before, “This time I strongly felt that I do need costumes made for dance,” Mr Kuneš says.

He promises that every night of Mirage will be different, “the same as standup comedy and you are different every day.” — oo

– Mary Matz, editor of Opus Osm

The premiere of 420people’s Mirage is at The New Stage (Nová Scena) Oct 16 at 8 pm. As usual, an open audience discussion follows the performance.

Photo Credits: Photos: Pavel Hejny

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