Prague Chamber Ballet announced its closure
Prague Chamber Ballet is closing on 1 June 2019, the reason being a chronic lack of public sources of funding, according to the company director Ladislava Jandová. The independent professional ensemble is celebrating 55 years of existence this year.
Although the Ministry of Culture’s programme for funding professional theatres and orchestras has been increased by 60 million CZK (compared to last year’s160 million), Prague Chamber Ballet was the only one of the assessed companies that obtained lower funds than last year, according to Ladislava Jandová.
Prague Chamber Ballet was among thirty fund claimers included into the above-mentioned programme and it has received 2 million CZK this year (last year the company obtained 2.2 million). Public resources (including funds from the City of Prague) covered 3.5 million CZK. But Jandová points out that the company’s budget for this year is 15 million CZK.
She also explains that the end of the Czech ensemble with a rich history can be averted by an immediate intervention of the Minister of Culture, by increasing the financial support by at least 10 million CZK and changing the Ministry’s approach towards dance art. If the company closes on 1 June, it will be able to fulfil its artistic obligations by the end of the year. “Twenty workplaces will disappear, in time of economic growth,” pointed out the company director. Prague Chamber Ballet is, in her words, the only professional group of Czech contemporary dance in the Czech Republic, but it does not dispose of its own venue and must rent rehearsal and performance spaces. “The company can’t survive without public funds,” noted its director.
The last premiere of Prague Chamber Ballet was created by Petr Zuska, the former artistic director of the Czech National Ballet. He was the choreographer, stage designer as well as director of the ballet Kytice. “State administration in this country has long assumed a negative and harsh attitude towards culture and arts. One thing that our country can boast – historically and globally - is its culture. But it is chronically neglected by the state’s government, which is reflected by the current condition of Prague Chamber Ballet,” said Zuska.
Last year, Zuska was addressed by the then Minister of Culture Ilja Šmíd (ANO) and asked to help the company get out of a difficult situation. Šmíd also came with a new motivation – to rebuild an old house at Klárov into a rehearsal space and base for the company. “The Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO), who appointed the Minister Antonín Staněk (ČSSD), promised the building would fall under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Culture. In November, Minister Staněk was not able to answer any of my questions concerning the new base for Prague Chamber Ballet or its future support,” said Zuska. “I’ve had much experience with the Ministry of Culture over the past 15 years, the situation has always been disappointing, but now it’s at its worst. Of course, something much more unpleasant might still be ahead of us,” he concluded.
According to the choreographer and manager Antonín Schneider who has also collaborated with Prague Chamber Ballet, the state has not found any systematic support of dance art. “We don’t have time for lobbing or running around offices, we must spend hours a day in the studio. We expect that good work sells itself,” he said. And Zuska added that dance art today is one of the most popular genres. The average attendance of ballet performances in the National Theatre is, in the long term, around 95 percent, the overall attendance of the theatre is around 72 percent.