Opus Osm Minutka:Tribute to Ping Pong

420People

420People rehearse ‘A Tribute to Ping Pong’

The Norwegian choreographer Jo Strømgren and contemporary dance group 420People present the Czech interpretation of A Tribute to Ping Pong at the TanecValmez festival, Valašské Meziříčí, June 5-7.

Opus Osm ‘Minutka’ (‘Little Minute’):

Five Quick Questions for Choreographer Jo Strømgren
on 420People’s Playful Production

1 Where did this idea come from?
In 1997, Jo Strømgren and four friends created a quirky happening, A Dance Tribute to Football, he tells Opus Osm. “It grew into performances in roughly forty countries worldwide.”

2 How do you go from football to ping pong?
“It was like another joke from our side. Ping pong is not a macho, cool sport because the ball is so small. You can’t watch it on TV because you don’t see the ball. This piece is a strange little fruit in the contemporary dance scene,” he says.

3 Is there anything significantly different about the Czech version?

Jo Strømgren

Choreographer Jo Strømgren

“In the original version, we chose [an Asian-looking puppet] to speak English in an Asian accent, in the style of Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee. In America, this would be considered racial. So how Asian should the style be here? These matters are very delicate. They require a hunch and some experience.” In this production, the puppet speaks Czech with an Asian accent.

4 Where does your inspiration come from?
“From the very beginning, there has been one Czech artist who has been my hero forever, and that’s Jan Švankmajer and his wife Eva. They made animated movies, and it’s like this whole artistic life based on pure curiosity. I’ve never heard his name mentioned related to my work, but that’s my hero.”

5 Any advice to audiences?
“Sit back and relax. A lot of contemporary theater and dance is based on raising difficult questions and bringing people out of their comfort zone. This show has nothing to do with that. My philosophy has always been to make people feel comfortable in the beginning. Then things can get more and more strange as you take them on a trip.”

Check out the video below for a glimpse of the Jo Strømgren Kompani performing A Tribute to Ping Pong (2011).

— Auburn Scallon, Opus Osm writer

Photo Credits: Top: Jakub Sobotka; bottom: Auburn Scallon

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