Diptych Twice Seen

The NANOHACH dance company has premiered its latest production, another authorial work of the dancer and choreographer Michal Záhora. His creations can be characterised as spiritually-oriented in their content and physically-oriented in their form. His dance pieces always epitomize highly cultivated movement qualities, building on aesthetic values of the beauty of the human body. The motifs of his choreographies do not follow any specific story, but rather focus on visualised abstractions of philosophical and psychological approaches - they intend to explore human emotions in the context of the evolution of the world and universe. And Diptych is no exception. It is neither a personal confession nor a generation testimony. It is a study in progress. As the title suggests, the piece consists of two parts representing two distinct views. Two poles - like east and west, woman and man, hell and heaven - symbolise the duality of perception and approach. The choreography has been premiered twice in two different spaces, in front of two distinct audiences and staging conditions. The first one took place on 16 October in a rather intimate atmosphere of St. Anne’s Chapel in Nečtiny near Pilsen and it was attended by the representatives of Pilsen and Karlovy Vary’s dance community. The second premiere was held on 29 October in the Ponec theatre. The performance in Nečtiny was sort of a first attempt in a row. The atmosphere of the chapel created a natural framework for the piece: its first half was oriented westward, the second one eastward. This technically not fully accomplished design supported the main idea, despite the low temperatures of the ground and the air. In more than ten days between the two premieres, Diptych underwent some technical as well as representation improvements. Ponec did not offer any variability in placing the stage and auditorium but this limitation was fully compensated by professional backstage conditions, including the technical facilities for choreography. The first part of Diptych is a duet of Michal Záhora and Radek Bohata, both in black. They are and are not one single soul. Their dance is a materialised dialogue, and also a monologue, of the oscillation between desire, knowledge and acceptance. Their mutual relationship is packed with inconsistencies stemming from constantly occurring changes and impulses. The two men look for security and support and that is what actually separates them. There was a reason why knowledge became a sin, when it freed the human soul from imposed attitudes. The second part is Dagmar Chaloupková’s solo - she resembles an apparition and temptation at the same time. Her dance seems like balancing above the water-table and staggering on the edge of a bottomless abyss. The possibilities of flight are terrifying, yet tempting. And fear and frustration become a tying rope pulling you down to the eternity of escape into resignation. The content is clear and its fulfilment is a challenge for all participants. The music for the piece was composed by the Italian Carlo Natoli, the visual side, including light design, was prepared by Jan Komárek. But the final result was ambivalent and it seemed too vague at both premieres. While Radek Bohata is still looking for his original approach to the role, Michal Záhora’s performance is convincing. His stage presence is now more mature, he has stepped out of his comfort zone, has abandoned familiar dance vocabulary and started to explore new ways of movement expression. However, he is not able to fully imagine his large-scaled vision, despite all the improvements realized between the two runs. The first part dispensed with the backdrop video projection as its function was obviously not clear, though it formed the foundation of the whole visual side. It did not do the duet any good, anyway. Drawing the audience’s attention to the dancing helped to intensify the mutual relations of the dancers, it added suspension and make the whole opening part more compact. However, it still lacked dynamism and energy, including the rhythmical aspects of the dance expression. It was not obvious if such effect was caused by dance performances or the choreographic work itself, or if there was ano ther reason. Carlo Natoli wrapped the melodious piano music into sound effects which were rather a burden than support for the dancers. It showed inscrutably in the second part, in which the solo dancer had only music and light for partners. Suddenly, we strongly missed the lancet arch of the eastern wall of St. Anne’s chapel which, unfortunately, was not compensated in the scenography more than it was necessary in terms of practical purposes (window frame for installing the contra spotlight used in the finale). The attention of the public was thus fully concentrated on the dancer, rather ineffectively. Dagmar Chaloupková was gradually locking herself into her own story and her own world. Only the light design helped the audience understand her dance expression, her mime and gestures, which became more concrete through her inner transformation, but their motivations remained hazy.  More than the effort to be on the same wavelength with the dancer, both premieres in Nečtiny and Prague evoked memories of the solo of maiden Uliana from Bohuslav Martinů’s Kytice, presented in September at the Malá Strana Cemetery in Prague (choreography Eva Blažíčková), in which Dagmar Chaloupková perfectly embodied everything the role required, surely thanks to Martinů’s timeless and ingenious music. The longing, tempted, tested, regretting and resignedly atoning fragility is the essence of her ethereal solo part in Diptych, too, though in a different context. But something was missing or redundant - maybe the costume, a combination of a transparent nude nylon unitard and plainblack women’s underwear. It flattered the dancer’s beautiful body, but within the concept of the piece it seemed over-combined. The similarly “unsuccessful” element was the reproduced voice at the beginning and the end of the first part. It would have sounded better live, for sure, without the taste of pathos and with more humanity. It is absolutely obvious that the endless circle of maturing (as described by the authors of the piece), be it any kind of maturing, has its phases consisting of certain cycles and gained life experience. When many such phases go by, we are finally able to look back on the specific point in time and understand it and also understand ourselves. However, Michal Záhora’s choreography reflects the recent times, almost the present, and we can only doubt that its cycle has been completed. In layman's terms, he and other performers in the piece (except for Jan Komárek) are too young for such a subject and for the theme of depersonalisation. They are not inexperienced or immature, just too young. Diptych belongs to productions that need more time to reach their final, fixed form, which - provided there is the right constellation - can turn into a fatal impulse. Like Orbis Pictus (choreography by Michal Záhora and Lenka Bartůňková) or Flashed by (choreography by Lenka Flory), Diptych requires the audience’s empathy, as it explores the deepest corners of the human soul. Not everybody is allowed to look into the human soul and not everybody really likes it. But those who are able to appreciate the values of this choreographic style can discover another dimension of the human existence and its sense. Written from both premieres, on 16 October 2014 in St. Anne’s Chapel in Nečtiny near Pilsen and on 29 October 2014 in the Ponec Theatre, Prague. Diptych Subject and choreography: Michal Záhora Creation and dance: Dagmar Chaloupková, Radek Bohata a Michal Záhora
Music: Carlo Natoli
Scenography, light design and photo: Jan Komárek
Costumes: creative collective
Costume design and realisation: Pavel Křivánek
Production: Honza Malík & NANOHACH, z. s.
First premiere: 17 October 2014, sv. Anne’s Chapel, Nečtiny 
Second premiere: 27 October 2014, Ponec Theatre, Prague
Translation: Tereza Cigánková

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