Lukáš Slavický: „Ballet is like a cut piece of jewellery... A kind of Black Badge of Rolls Royce.“
The artistic director of the ballet ensemble of South Bohemian Theatre in České Budějovice, Lukáš Slavický, celebrated his 40th birthday on September 17th. The former first soloist of the Bavarian State Ballet took the leadership from the choreographer Atilla Egerházi who led the company for eight years. Although Slavický has no creative ambitions yet, he decided to build a strong regional base for Czech ballet. He begins his fifth season in a difficult time affected by Covid-19, but with optimism and calm of his own. Just like four years ago, when I first interviewed him for Taneční aktuality.cz.
What is the current situation in the company? You’ve just had an audition…
Yes, we recruited new dancers. I think after these four years I finally feel that the ensemble is in good shape, touch wood. There are people with whom we get along and want the same thing. I am happy to feel that we are a team, which is really crucial for a group of seventeen people. All it takes is one or two who oppose any decision, and it destroys the atmosphere of working together. We are really multinational, the ensemble includes Italians, Czechs, Hungarians, Japanese and others. Everyone is able to dance contemporary choreography, but they are not afraid of the classics either.
How did you manage the difficult end of last season?
We had to cancel the premiere of Radio Free Cunning Little Vixen, which we had already rehearsed on stage. The dancers then had an individual plan, they went to the studio to train individually. In June, we performed A Streetcar Named Desire, then most of the ensemble went home, but fortunately everyone came back fine. In August we trained Cunning Little Vixen and Keys from Nowhere. These are renewed after a year and at the same time they will be closing. But we were a little lucky in this misfortune, thanks to the freer season and the cancelled revolving theatre we were able to concentrate on rehearsing.
It is known that with the salary classification of dancers in a regional multi-ensemble theatre you can’t really hit the jackpot. What is your regime and do artists have a chance to realize themselves elsewhere and prepare for their next career?
Our regular working day is from ten to six, with a break from two to four, and on Saturdays we are in the theatre from ten to two. I will not lie that I am happy as the head of the ensemble if all the dancers are in the theatre and working at that time. Of course, if someone has another artistic opportunity outside the theatre, performative, pedagogical or even creative, I try to comply when the rehearsal schedule allows it. I know that's how they gain experience. Last season we performed Ballet Extra, when they had the opportunity to create their own choreography, which was quite challenging because they did it in their free time. But then they received some bonuses. If one of the dancers, for example, assists, he will receive an assistant’s contract.
The position of the director in a multi-ensemble theatre is not much to be envied, but it is clear that you and Lukáš Průdek are related in artistic terms. Nevertheless, do you ever feel that ballet is the last of the three ensembles here as well?
Certainly not. I am lucky that Lukáš has a relationship with ballet, even though he is not a dancer. Of course, I sometimes have to raise my voice if we need anything, but I don’t feel like we’re the Cinderella who never gets her part. I think our director is really trying to be fair.
When you came into the ensemble, you had a vision of what you want to do with the company and where to direct it. One three-year period is over, the fifth season awaits you, so what did you succeed in and what is left to do?
As I mentioned earlier, after four years, I feel that I have managed to create an ensemble in terms of personalities, and some dancers have worked really hard. I still have plans for the revolving theatre. I am very satisfied with the repertoire, because we manage to present original things, especially the works of Czech choreographers. I manage to invite interesting guests who are willing to work with the ensemble. We only minimally take over productions from other theatres. I’m looking forward to an evening of young artists 3+1, in the spring for Tomáš Rychetský’s A Clockwork Orange with music by Ivan Acher. I'm very artistically curious about that.
You said you needed the dancers in the ensemble not to be afraid of the classics. Do you have your eye on another classic title?
We'll see, everything is alive, in the game. I'm thinking about how to put a classic title in some new scheme, differently. But I don't want to reveal more yet.
You also planned the ensemble's trips abroad, which hasn't happened much yet.
Yes, in the future I would like something to work out, like a tour of Germany. We used to go to Passau, maybe in a year we will go to Brno. But for operational reasons, it's not easy at all, the dancers are also involved in operas, our technical staff is also very busy - we are constantly dealing with their overtime.
Where do you see yourself in the next decade when we speak together on the occasion of your 50th birthday?
I don’t know at all. Somehow, I don’t deal with it, life is unpredictable. I don’t dare to plan anything at all. My first thought is that I will probably be somewhere else, but on the other hand I would like to stay in Budějovice for at least a few more years. Time flies very fast and it takes time to change and build something. My second three-year contract is coming to an end in two years, and I can already see how little time it is. But I believe that things in life come as they should. And I will deal with them when they appear in front of me. Ballet is like a cut piece of jewellery that requires care, and as long as I can, I will polish and grind it. I would like classical dance, but actually also contemporary dance to be a kind of Black Badge of Rolls Royce.
Lukáš Slavický was born in Prague, Czech Republic. At the age of six, he started his ballet training at the School of the National Theatre in Prague. In 1991, he entered The Dance Conservatory in Prague where he finished his studies in 1999. His main teachers were Jaroslav Slavicky, Pavel Zdichynec, Aneta Voleska, and Alena Drapalikova. In the course of his studies, he performed big roles from the classical repertoire such as Nutcracker, the Prince in Sleeping Beauty, and Colas in La Fille mal Gardee. In 1998, he was a guest with the National Theatre in Brno, Czech Republic as Basilio in Don Quijote. His repertoire included classical Pas de Deux from Le Corsaire, Don Quijote and Grand Pas Classique, as well as solo parts in Cadets Ball and Polovetsian Dances. He was also created on by contemporary choreographers Petr Zuska, Robert Balogh, and Alena Drapalikova. In 1997, he won Grand Prix at the International Ballet Competition in Vienna and received First Prize at the National Competition for the Czech and Slovak Republics. In 1998 he was a finalist in Prix de Lausanne and was awarded Third Prize at the International Ballet Competition in Budapest. In 1999, he took part at the International Ballet Competition in Nagoya, Japan where he was also awarded Third Prize. In 1996, 1997, and 1998, he attended the Summer Academy in Cologne, Germany where he worked with B. Keil, V. Klos, and Andrzej Ziemski.
In 1999, he became a member of the Bavarian State Ballet in Munich, Germany. His first appearance was in pas de six in Giselle. In 2000 he performed the role of Romeo in Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet. He then performed roles like the Prince in A Cinderella Story by J.Neumeier and Jeane de Brienne in Raymonda by R. Barra. In 2002, Lukas was promoted to soloist and also danced in ballets from G. Balanchine, M. Ek, J. Kylian, L. Childs and J. Neumeier.
In 2003, Lukáš Slavický was nominated for the Prix Benois de la Danse for the role of Jeane de Brienne in Raymonda (R. Barra) and received this prize on April 29, 2003 at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. In May 2003 he was promoted to First Soloist after a performance of Swan Lake in Munich.
Lukáš has also appeared in a few gala performances. In 1997, 1998, 1999, he danced in Ludwigsburg and Essen, Germany, in Riga, Lithuania as well as in Budapest and Vienna. In 1999 he was a guest with Jeune Ballet de France and he danced in a benefit gala for UNESCO in the Kremlin Palace in Moscow. In 1999, Czech Television (CT) made a twenty-minute documentary about him. In 2001, Lukáš danced at a gala celebrating the 55th Anniversary of the Prague Dance Conservatory.
Currently he is the artistic director of South Bohemia Ballet Company.
This interview was published in the Czech original on 6 September 2020.
Translated by Kristina Soukupová.
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