What if, Prague

What if performance was made with mobility in mind. So it was possible to put most of the scenography in one big box, one simple costume on a hanger and therefore on Saturday we could travel with a car up over Austria and Czech republic to Prague without any difficulties. Despite warnings of possible helicopter rescue action from snow by worried parents the trip was easy and lazy drive into the heart of central-eastern Europe.

We got settled into a Duncan centre residential appartment. Duncan centre conservatory is currently the only state school in the Czech Republic systematically orientated towards education in a sphere of contemporary stage dance and dance theatre. Despite a long drive behind us we drove to the center of Prague, to the amazing Alfred ve dvoře venue – well, it’s a theatre built in a courtyard – virtually, where we met with Motus program director (umělecký ředitel) Ewan McLaren. He turned out to be a witty and communicative canadian (are all canadians communicative? well, as a program director, you should be I guess), a pleasure to be his guest. We left our scenography and costumes there, met with technicians and drank a obligatory beer (non-alcoholic for me) and drove back.

Sunday was a setting up day, and we worked from 9 am. Despite the simplicity of lights it took quite some hours to cover the white wash of the stage under the supervision of our light-maister Urška Vohar. In the meantime I prepared all the sound (using Pure Data patches, SuperCollider code and a track in Renoise).

It was a pleasure to setup everything (or most of it) one day before. So much less stress! However M. was pretty nervous as she was doing the show almost completely in English for the first time (and this is after the solo was made in Slovene and later done completely in French in Marseille)! However U. and myself had a classical but harmless teasing – M. imagined it resembles a kindergarten situation – and so it made nervousness much more endurable.

The show next day went smooth, pretty much without glitches. I used a different configuration of speakers – using two of them behind the audience, which created a better – more confusing – spatial image, at times. Software was obeying perfectly and without a hiccup. I only wish I would find time to optimize everything into one SuperCollider patch (instead of two PureData patches, two SuperCollider patches and a Renoise track. There was almost full hall, many young people (students from Duncan centre) and some other people. The reception seemed very positive. The after-show feedback again included somebody telling of shedding tears here and there during the show (as in Marseille), and that’s quite  heart-warming!

In the meantime news from Slovenia reached us, that everything is covered in ice and that trees and electrical grid is getting broken. 10.000 people without electricity, roads closed, schools’ off and so on.

After the show U. and myself got everything into a box in about an hour. We left Prague next day in early afternoon, after we bough some beer for ‘families’ at home. The drive was not that difficult – easy traffic, weather was mostly easy – but it was long and we were all tired. It also seems like I’ve more and more difficulties driving at night (night-vision). We stopped in Brno for a tea, sat down with Adam and Dora for a really quick catch-up. We arrived to Ljubljana at 1 in the morning.

This touring included slightly more hours of actually being in the city (although we didn’t see anything much from Prague), making few contacts, getting the feel of coffee places, however I would love to have more time, more interaction, more zero-time, more socializing with local artists. I guess there’s never enough of that.

What if process

Apart from some other – more administrative – craziness, the project that was finished last week was a solo performance “What if” by Maja Delak. A premiere on 3. October and re-run on 4. October at Old power plant (Stara elektrarna) was a tip of an iceberg of work. It was a pretty much non-stop work since beginning of august – two full months. While there was a lot of different material gathering through the process at wasn’t until Maja and myself went for a short 10-day residency at a lovely village ‘Savičenta’ (Sanvincenti / Svet vinčenat) where daily distractions were minimized that we were able to make a crucial turn with materials. Between separate blocks of texts and separate choreographies that had been somewhat disconnected there was no glue, no red line that would connect them (on non-mental, non-verbal level), they’ve been like boxes that one could stack up, but nothing would pass between or through them. We took a decision to improvise with sound, movement and texts in order to work on ‘ambiance’ non/presence, silences… This resulted in a more organic multi-layering of different media on various levels that somewhat made the right sense. There were related intensities flowing through the fragments.

The final piece holds a lot of this feeling of ambiance. Or perhaps an ‘unfocused focus’ on environment, a space that surrounds the action, the movement and texts and concrete sound – it is where the intensity lies. It is peculiar directionless quality of space, of its ephemeral-ness in time and in sound that seems so crucial in creating an atmosphere that supports non-judgmental but still extremely intense message that lies within the artist wanting to express it. Despite of desire to demystify art on every level, art is still a mystery. And these are just some of the aspects of artistic work and art’s role in the world that are extremely difficult to communicate to people like economists, merchants, many politicians.

A crucial lesson from it all for me was how important it was to take those 10 days of distance from different daily distractions (admin work, kids, meetings for this and that..) in order to be able to just sit, move, work for 4-6 hours straight with focus on one thing. It’s seems like the only sensible thing to do, but seemingly so difficult in these times.