Prague Chamber Ballet and 4! Quartets

The Prague Chamber Ballet performs '3 Czech Quartets' Oct 5 & 26 at Prague's Theatre of the Estates.

The Prague Chamber Ballet performs ’3 Czech Quartets’ Oct 5 & 26 at Prague’s Theatre of the Estates.

This year the Prague Chamber Ballet marks 50 years since its original founding. They open the season by dancing to three classical Czech quartets, played live on stage by a fourth Czech classic, the Zemlinsky Quartet.

Antonín Dvořák’s optimistic Slavonic Quartet started off the Oct 5 premiere of 3 Czech Quartets (3 Ceské Kvartety) at the Theatre of the Estates. Four male and four female dancers perform the cheerful, skillful choreography of its Slovak creator, Mário Radačovský.

The dancers are well-matched in their solo and ensemble movements, and the slithery, autumn-gold and bronze costumes work well to support the dancers as they articulate the accessible story.

Next on the program is a relatively modern composition, String Quartet in D Minor by Vladimír Sommer (1921-1997) for Hana Polanská Turečková’s piece, Black Mirror.

The scene opens with Jitka Tůmová encased in a billowy black skirt that functions with the dancer intriguingly like a giant bellows. Then, as she moves more and more frantically, the unyielding, 9-metre-long fabric continues to bind her to the floor.

Win 2 free tickets to ’3 Czech Quartets’! Enter your name in our drawing for 2 tickets to the Oct 26 performance, 7 pm, Theatre of the Estates. Email us at editor@opusosm.com, subject: “Quartets” by noon on Friday, October 17 (Prague time) or DM us on Twitter, @opusosm. Tip: Our Twitter Followers are already automatically entered in the drawing!

The skirt later billows out to a flattened pillow, and more dancers emerge from it. Described in the program notes as seeking a definition of the relationship between body language and visual portrayal, Black Mirror is staged in front of large absurdism artworks by set and costume designer Vladimir Houdek.

Bedrich Smetana’s From My Life completes the trio of Czech quartet music and dance. The Prague Chamber Ballet returns to its roots for the 1983 choreography of the Chamber’s co-founder Pavel Šmok. It’s another chance for the audience to savor the trademark joyful, folk-influenced partner dancing in Mr Šmok’s own life’s work.

Zemlinsky Quartet on the Ballet Stage
The fourth quartet in the program – the live music performance by the internationally-awarded Zemlinsky Quartet – adds especially rich tone and texture to the presentations. Unfortunately, the musicians were necessarily positioned one step below stage level on the right side of the stage, which sometimes blocks the view for the audience on the right-side floor level of the theatre.

Petr Holman

Petr Holman

Indeed, performing concert music for dance presents other challenges, as Zemlinsky violist explains to Opus Osm: “Not very often, but sometimes, you have to adjust the musical things to the ballet. Certain passages have to be played faster – or more often, slower – than you would in a concert performance. So you have to be aware that – here, and here – we can’t go as fast as we need to go.”

At our rehearsal interview he reveals that the musicians themselves are also an audience: “The ballet dancers do such great things, we want to watch them, so we get lost in our music!” he jokes.

But imagine the irony: the musicians never have the opportunity to actually watch the performance for which they have rehearsed many hours and are performing. Mr Holman admits, however, that they manage to capture glimpses of the action during pauses in playing or during well-memorized passages.

Regardless of where the viewers are watching from, each will see a slightly different performance, based on their individual interpretations, likes, and dislikes. Choreographer and Chamber artistic director Hana Polanská Turečková says that she in fact expects everyone at 3 Czech Quartets to find something different, and, “If people find something in it for them, then I’m happy.” – oo

The next performance of The Prague Chamber Ballet’s 3 Czech Quartets will be Oct 26 at The Theatre of the Estates. You can win 2 free tickets from Opus Osm to this performance (see box, above).

The Zemlinsky Quartet performs in concert Oct 13 at the Academy of Arts (HAMU) and Nov 10 at The Atrium.

— Mary Matz, Opus Osm editor

Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička

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