Three questions for Ivan Dunovský, Intendant of the Prague Chamber Ballet - Phenomenon Šmok still without successor

Lucie Hayashi Autor: Lucie Hayashi
On the occasion of the ninetieth anniversary of the late Pavel Šmok, there are many questions about the existence and future of the ensemble that changed the direction of the Czech dance of the last century. Intendant Ivan Dunovský is still looking for an artistic director and finance to keep the legacy of Pavel Šmok alive.

  I think the general public is particularly interested in whether the autumn open competition for Šmok’s successor – the new artistic director of PCB – has been successful. We are curious... have you found such a person? Could you at least give a hint if the search has been successful? And when will you announce the results?
Yes, the open competition for the "artistic director" of the Prague Chamber Ballet indeed took place. A total of 10 applicants were registered. However, we have concluded the competition without any winner, because, unfortunately, none of the candidates proved themselves suitable enough for us! It is no secret that lately we have been negotiating with Petr Zuska who has set the standards for other candidates really high. Unfortunately, Petr decided otherwise in the end, which makes us very sad. But we are glad that we have agreed on a different form of artistic collaboration with him.
We are currently addressing the dilemma of choosing a director who has choreographic ambitions or looking for a person with a natural authority who has managerial skills. Is it better for the PCB just to keep the original repertoire or, on the contrary, to be open to new talented choreographers? For the past three seasons we have been testing the second model, and I think it has been a success. We have contacted "Czecho-Slovak" choreographers Hanka Polanská Turečková, Mário Radačovský, Hana Litterová, Ondřej Vinklát, Marek Svobodník, Martina Hajdyla Lacová and Tomáš Rychetský. They have proven themselves. A new repertoire for PCB has been created, and in particular, the Three Czech Quartets, The Mystery of Time and Requiem for Infinity have been successful with audiences. In the spring of 2018 we plan to mount a new premiere with Lukáš Timulák and Jiří Pokorný from The Hague. For autumn 2018 we have arranged for a full-length production with Petr Zuska. PCB also restages the pieces from the high-quality repertoire created by Pavel Šmok. Partially in regard to the ninetieth anniversary of his birth we have restaged several of his timeless choreographies - From My Life, The Wild Dove, On An Overgrown Path and Musica Slovaca.

  The Grant Commissions will soon meet, but the budget for culture is still uncertain.  Financial problems of your company are very pressing, is it possible to work without a permanent founder? Last year you said that competing with other entities for leftovers from subsidies is useless for PCB, considering the budget amounts etc. Under what conditions could the ensemble continue to work and do you see any possibilities in the current system in the Czech Republic?

Grant systems of the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic and the Prague Municipal Authority are not optimal for PCB. PCB is a company that works continuously, rather than being just project-based. We are a professional ensemble with the organizational structure common to big theatres. Dancers do their everyday routine of compulsory trainings and rehearsals and, of course, performances in Prague, regions and abroad. PCB provides a public cultural service for approximately 22 thousand theatregoers a year, but only 17% of its funding come from public grant sources. This ensemble has never been "sleeping on a bed of roses," but the current financial situation is simply unsustainable. As a part of the grant system of the Ministry of Culture, PCB has been transferred to the State Support Program for Professional Theatres and Professional Symphonic Orchestras and Choirs from this year on the basis of an exception. However, the approved financial support is so negligible that the company is still on the verge of bankruptcy. It is not possible to make plans for premieres if you do not know in advance even the basic amount of funds for operation and regular fees for artists.

  In many repertoire ballet ensembles there is an increasing share of foreign dancers. Do you not mind this tendency, or do you want to keep the majority of Czech dancers in the company at all costs? And what is the current composition of the ensemble?
You are right. Quite a lot of foreigners apply for a vacancy in our company almost every time there is an audition. For example, more than 150 foreign dancers auditioned for a spot in PCB this spring, not counting dancers from Slovakia. However, they often leave after one season and go abroad, where they usually earn higher salaries. In any case, we prefer Czech and Slovak dancers. At present, Aurora Fradela from Italy is the only foreigner in PCB.

The company has gone through a change of generations and is in a good shape. The basis of the ensemble consists of graduates of Czech conservatories, with whom we closely cooperate in the selection of talented students. PCB is the second largest permanent employer of dance-graduates in Prague after the National Theatre Ballet. We have nine regular soloists and 4 external dancers. Among our ballet masters and pedagogues there are qualified instructors, such as Kateřina Dedková, Igor Vejsada and Linda Svidró, who has been named the leading ballet master and thanks to her very good organizational skills will be in charge of the PCB artistic direction. The trainings are led by outstanding external and visiting pedagogues, such as Michaela Černá, Zuzana Susová, Václav Janeček and others. An integral part of the team consists of three technicians, a wardrobe and the head of the artistic and technical operations Monika Petrušková. Both the artistic and operational activities of the Prague Chamber Ballet / BALET PRAHA, o.p. are handled by a total of 23 people.  

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