(EN) A review on the Czech Dance Platform 2017

Thanks to the unwavering support of my mentor, Roberto Fratini, I was invited to be a part of the 23rd Chezch Dance Platform, taking place in Prague last 6 to 9 April:  A professional event where producers, programmers, festival organizers and choreographers from all over Europe meet to get in touch with the Czech Contemporary Dance Scene.

Within the activities of the Platform, SE.S.TA (Czech Centre for Choreographic Development) organized a Choreographical Forum, a series of round-table sessions I was invited to be a part of as a guest lecturer. Therefore, and first of all: thanks, Marie Kinsky, for the initiative and the opportunity!

The idea of SE.S.TAs’ Choreographical Forum was to open up a discussion amongst choreographers and other assisting agents of the field about the poetic, aesthetic and political actives of dance in its possible relationships to space. Using the performances seen during the Platform as a common base, we would develop discussions around this topic in three round tables along the whole weekend.

Thus, some of the themes that rose up during these sessions were related to:

  • Space and Hierarchy: how do we define the space/role of the audience? What does that entail? How does it affect the experience of the viewer?
  • Objects in Space: the object as body, the body as object. Possible dramaturgical strategies to use an object in a dance piece for (ranging from a metaphor to an agent for the appearance of residual movement of a certain quality) and its appearance can defines the performative space we work with. The role of the scenographer.
  • Found Spaces vs. Build Spaces. Choreographic thinking.

Of course, the sessions were open forums with no time for conclusions to arise. Nonetheless, the variety of profiles and backgrounds joining the Forum allowed for inspiring and triggering ideas to pop-up.

Jiri Vitek, (architect), for example, draw several parallel lines between his way of thinking creatively and the pieces he had seen, notes that were attentively heard by the many. It made me think about how it is no coincidence that one of the seminal books of Dance Theory is “Eupalinos or the Architect”, by Paul Valéry: the socratic debates envisioned by the french poet around the ‘awakening’ of a form in nature and its relation to the concept of Technique as a means to human poetic creation are a reminder of the proximity between many forms of dance and Architecture.

Other ideas that were brought to the fore were the theories of Erin Manning on Choreographic Thinking – based on the theories of Bergson, scientist contemporary to Einstein, who vowed for the definition of space and time as preexisting notions, costantly moving and entangled in the dimension of “duration” or the already-not-yet. Manning defends that taking this point of view during a creative process, as aprinciple, as a mode of research, can take the piece to an unexpected result, closer or related to that “little piece of magic” that can reveal, perhaps, the visualisation of that wich was, in fact, ‘allways already there’,…

Merce Cunningham and William Forsythe were mentioned as referent choreographers of the last decades who observed and constructed the space as a box filled with possibilities for formal abstraction, each approaching in their own way Kandinsky’s “point and line in space” in the 3D moving canvas a stage is or can be. Marie Gourdain, French scenographer residing in Prague, advocated for a more engaged role of the scenographer in this equation. She pointed out how valuable and positive it can be for a piece, for a creative outcome, to have the vision and input of the scenographer influencing the process on equal terms – in a triad, together with the choreographer and the concept or choreographic principle – moving away from the notion of stage design as a wrapping paper or mere decoration.

Regarding hierarchy, I remembered and recicled a few notions of a lecture given by scholar Timotheus Veurmeulen during Spring Utrecht Festival 2016. Vermeulen talked talking about Dance and Politics, and made a beautiful bow to address how ‘Dance takes place’, and how this place is always political. I took on Henry Lefèvbres’ definition of Conceived Space as the blueprint the system wants us to live in, and Perceived Space as the one we act upon; and brought it together with the reflections of Jaques Rancière about the “Emancipated Spectator”. I did so to raise awareness on the fact that trying to challenge or go against the expected, capitalist, maker-to-viewer/master-to-student way of transmitting a given image and/or the experience carrying it requires more than a mere physical change of placement of the audience in space. Even more than an invitation towards the audience to participate. I would claim that, to act upon the “Participation” of the audience can be used as a tool in a broader dramaturgical, programatic and political strategy, aiming to challenge the perspective or experience of the viewer as a choreographic principle. Have the audiece “Participate” as a strategy in itself instead, as a magic mantra that should instantly make the audience question what they see, feel or even are – not only on stage but in their lives – is, in my eyes, not only naive but actually counterproductive: like the thrill of a rollercoaster, it might give a brief, commodified, buy-and-sellable moment that only confirms the capitalist, hierarchical setting one was possibly trying to challenge in the first place. (To deepen into this perspective I would strongly reccommend watching the conference on Liturgies of Impatiente, by Roberto Fratini, following the link here).

But – my own opinions and thoughts to the side – what was relevant of the Choreographical Forum was its own structure: like an elecricity ball so commonly seen in science museums, we were sitting at a round table with a commonly loaded cadre of thought, and were able to draw lines to outwards: Bursting flashes of approximative knowledge, reflections, intuitions and so on. The echo arrives later. In this writing, maybe. In the next piece, in the next debate.