BB – Two Stories with Two Ends
The physical theatre Debris Company is a group that occupies a unique position in the Slovak theatre scene. Not only because of their many-year, intense production, but also for the capacity of their members not to stagnate and to constantly expand the boundaries of their creativity, poetics and style. Those usually lay in a combination of music, dance, light, stage design and a strong message and what matters even more, on their coordination.
In the past two premiere productions – Cradles and Epic the Debris Company inclined more toward a narrative form, which became reflected also in the team of creators. Dancers were joined by drama actors, in Cradles the latter even prevail. The original play by Jana Bednárová Cradles with the subheading of "battlezone" or battle field, is "a metaphor for polarities", as the author herself explains in the production’s bulletin. Four characters – Young Woman, Old Woman, Man and Crazy Soldier move in the captivity of life’s contradictions. They live in the present moment, yet at the same time they cannot get rid of the past, by birth, but also by the experience of death, by youth and old age, hope and disillusions. Their basic characters are determined by their affiliation to male and female worlds, inclination toward love and hatred. It was these basic lines of the content level that the Debris Company took from the originally extensive text of Jana Bodnárová. For their staging they have considerably shortened and adapted the play. The result is a radical modification and adaptation of the work into dance, almost wordless theatre.
In Cradles, director Jozef Vlk and choreographer Stanislava Vlčeková wobbled and played out the most important relational situations in the play. Stage design by Tom Ciller and projections by Alex Zelina, which filled the empty stage, had both been designed to match the purpose.
In Cradles, projections do not function as a formal, colour-changing element. Their effectiveness and visual impressiveness cannot be denied, but unlike the empty visual gesture, they perfectly correspond with the actions of the characters. The lighting installations suggest both the distribution of characters and changes in their relationships.
The first part takes place in semidarkness; on the stage, several precisely determined spots are lit up successively, and there we get to meet the characters. The spots are at the same time the only fixed points in the unsteady lives of the heroes of Cradles. In the second part the stage is lit by a projection – at times clear, at times green – of a grate – grid that reaffirms the confined and freedom-lacking atmosphere. However, a grate may also fall apart, swell out. The spotlights on the stage suggest the places where a man and a woman meet, but also those places where they are isolated and lonely.
Stanislava Vlčeková managed to use all the movement skills of the team of actors. The most flexible in this sense seems to be Marta Maťová. Mária Breinerová, for her part, gave the most confident impression in the passages based on expression and spoken word. Cradles offer a pleasant aesthetic and inventive music experience (Jozef Vlk and David Kollar). Performed by the Debris Company, Cradles become a gentle and sensitive probe into the life of a woman and a man, even though lacking a happy ending.
What is not, is possible
From time to time, theatre makers like to go back to the work of Bertolt Brecht – be it The Threepenny Opera, Mother Cougage and Her Children, Baal, The Good Person o Szechwan, Life of Galileo and so forth. However, his Lehrstücke are nearly unknown. It was this work that served as a source of inspiration to the new production Epic of the physical theatre Debris Company. They did not work merely with Lehrstücke, Epic pays homage to the work of B. Brecht and K. Weill, yet at the same time it is a polemic on the purpose and meaning of theatre nowadays. The creators thus go down to the basic question which Brech would ask himself a long time ago: “What is today's theatre like and what is its social purpose? Is it actually still able to convey social criticism at all? Can it be the voice of an "oppressed" majority against an elitarian minority?”
In order for it to be able to conduct a relevant polemic with theatre makers or us, the spectators, the authors had to draw from some basic premises. These had been offered by Bertolt Brecht and his epic theatre, the principles of film montage employed in the first half of the 20th century in both theatre and film, the principles of Meyerhold's biomechanics. Four characters with white-painted expressionist-ish looking faces play out a story of poverty and wealth, of a thoughtful and superficial attitude toward life, of classical values and their change.
Two couples representing two worlds – a world of the ordinary and poverty which stands in opposition to a world of wealth, manipulation and emptiness. Jack and Eve (Daniel Raček and Nikoleta Rafaelisová) have love, but no money. Jack is therefore forced to cross the river every morning to go and work in a factory. The love and sincere emotions of Jack and Eve are expressed in movement and emotionally evocative choreography. The every morning ritual of saying goodbye is accompanied by Eve’s falls forth and back, eventually she ends up on the ground. Jack supports her, lifts her, carries her around, holds her close and then leaves.
Opposite them, on the other side of the stage, a completely antonymous situation takes place. Two absurdly acting characters, as though cut out from a circus or cabaret, or even Lynch’s The Elephant Man, give a humorous, crazy impression, but also arouse insecurity and are a bit frightening. The limping fatalistic Cat with a long cigarette wearing a tight-fitting dress is the typical femme fatale – mysterious, irresistible and demonic. She makes the factory owner Bar fetch newspapers, balls, she sits on him, fastens a collar around his neck – treats him like a dog. He subsequently regains his importance by controlling his employees.
On both sides of the stage there are a smaller and a bigger tent – the houses of Jack and Eve, Bar and Cat. Throughout the whole performance, both "houses" serve as projection screens for exterior and interior pictures of a simple village house and a factory. The film montage accentuates the characterization, as well as the environment in which they find themselves and move. It allows us to parallelly watch two people, two worlds and two realities. We see Jack work hard and we also see Eve who in the same moment is putting their child down to sleep at home. This bipolarity and contrast is also reflected in the visual and movement components of the production. The division line – the river represented by a white lane running across the stage – separates one couple from the other, so that in the end it can help connect them. It serves as a pars pro mediator in this world where “you are no better than I am / we are both very much the same".
The story is divided into seven days. The days are separated from one another by interludes with Bar in the main role, who, however, stops being the factory owner. He is rather a cabaret entertainer with a loudspeaker in his hand. He comments on the situations that have taken or are taking place, he decides about the alternation of days, sings songs related to the story, entertains. The performance of Juraj Hrčka is equally expressive as his voice.
The stereotype-ness of the first half of the week is suddenly interrupted. Jack meets Cat and neither he can resist her charm. They lean over to one another – she daringly, he shyly, keeping that mysterious distance from one another in which energy of attraction is flowing. Cat starts playing games with Jack – she offers him a cigarette swinging it from one side to another and Jack accepts this game. He moves from the left to the right, jumps around her in an attempt to satisfy all her caprices. In this moment, on the other riverbank, Eve starts to move around worryingly. Her movements are insecure, fidgety, sadness shows on her face.
Jack decides to leave to go to the other side of the river chasing the dream of a better life, Eve tries to stop him from going, but does not succeed. In the morning she finds a suitcase at the door.
However, a couple of days later we see Jack return home accompanied by Bar's song on the need for a change, on the vanity of a man's suffering, on how we waste our time in life looking for happiness in the wrong places.
In the production of Epic, the language used for communication, not only between the particular characters but also between the authors and the spectators, consists of stylized and expressive movements, gestures and facial expressions. These perfectly match with the visual, theatrical or film tendencies which in the 1920s and 1930s influenced Bertolt Brecht and his work. The atmosphere of the production strongly resembles expressionist films, and the acting style and stylized movement both perfectly fit in.
Choreography by Stanislava Vlčeková gives an original, dance and contemporary form to the principles similar to the basic rules of the mentioned biomechanics, such as stiffness, bipolarity, decomposition and composition of movements etc. In Epic too, the characters receive impulses to move but suddenly they get stuck, they stop, in order to be able to start off once again and continue the fluency. The tragic gesture, the jerky movements give a humorous, even grotesque impression which gives the production a tragicomic dimension. For instance, Dano Raček as a hard-working and tired Jack is hunched over, with his knees bent, stretching his legs in a funny way when walking while steadily keeping down.
The male actors go beyond their own boundaries of creativity. For Dano Račer the spoken word represents a challenge, for Juraj Hrčka it is the dancing and singing scenes. Stanka Vlčeková and Nikoleta Rafaelisová confirm their universality and versatility. They are both precise in movement and in spite of the deliberate jerky choreography, they move on the stage with grace and fluently pass from one dance position to another.
The production uses precise rhythm set by stylized, distinctive and consistently selected music. During several Bar's scenes and comments we hear compositions of Kurt Weill adapted by various contemporary interpreters. The tones of Salomon Song by Young Gods, Alabama Song by The Doors or some of the musical gems of Toma Waits alternate with the roar of machines, sirens and cock-crowing and they perfectly fit together. The theatricality and cabaret-ness of the chosen compositions correspond with the overall director’s concept of the production.
With this production, the Debris Company managed to expand the boundaries of the meaning of contemporary theatre. Epic is characterised by theatricality that uses all that makes theatre – there is a lot to look at. The form and content are balanced, the music, the visual component and acting and dancing performance correspond with the created stylization which, if used rightly by the authors, becomes incredibly playful and more emphatic in its statement.
Thus, the author’s answer to the above mentioned question of the purpose of theatre is this extraordinary work affirming the theatricality of theatre.
And one last subjective remark – for me personally, after a long time in the Slovak theatre scene this production (besides one or two other exceptions) is the kind of theatre that you like to watch and discover in it new and new relations.
DÁŠA ČIRIPOVÁ – theatre critic – KOD 2/2013 magazine
4+4=9 (No. 3) Soliloquy
…At the end of Joyce's novel, during her monologue, Molly is lying in bed. The dress worn by Stanislava Vlčeková who played the part of Molly, was a perfect blend of a duvet which covers her and offers her protection in her self-disclosure, and a ruched gown of an opera singer. Accompanied by another opera melody, the dress fulfils the function of a spectacular projection screen for Molly’s memories. As though pages of a book she turns the frills of her dress and the memories follow one after another. The emotionally evocative first part is rounded off by a demonstrative stripping off the dress/duvet. The revealing of Molly's soul and thoughts reaches its climax. There is nothing left to hide.
Vlčeková started to dance Molly’s monologue in a way which did not need any explanatory comments. She perfectly mastered the most diverse postures of her expression and movements. Molly in her stream of speech jumps from one theme to another according to the finest associations which, however, remain bound to the text. All the same, Vlčeková’s dance managed to break this bond. It showed that there is no need to know Joyce’s novel in order for the dance to produce the same effect of boundarylessness of the possible contact points of the most diverse events of human life. For a moment, Vlčeková vehemently tried to restrain her yearning body, and immediately afterward she delivers a child, shows up at a party, grieves the death of her son and once again seduces a man she meets. At times she is exalted, at other times indifferent. What words can only express by utterly breaking the syntactic structure, dance, on the contrary, can convey by all the stronger clenching of the particular movements. Had Vlčeková mechanically separated the various motifs in order to copy the written speech, the result would not by far be so convincing.
After that, Vladimír Zboroň enters the stage as Molly’s husband Leopold Bloom, the main character of Joyce’s novel, the ancient Odysseus. And the same as Molly in her dance, Bloom in his words reveals his subconscious in his monologue. He gets the same time as Vlčeková's interpretation of Molly and that is when it became obvious how challenging a discipline a spoken monologue on a theatre stage is. It is impossible not to recognize how difficult it must have been to learn by heart an almost half an hour monologue without a coherent narration which would help the performer or lead him. Luckily, Joyce’s text is relatively humorous so the audience did not find it too boring.
If the presented contrast between dance and traditional spoken word was supposed to be a measure of their contact surface, then,
I am afraid, it proved the opposite. At least in what concerns the theatrical interpretation. The overwhelming performance of Vlčková was muffled by Zboroň’s appearance in order to provoke an imaginative connection between the two different worlds of the main characters. From a literary point of view, the stage adaptation of the last chapter of Joyce’s Odysseus is a very inspiring method of interpreting such an intricate prosaic work, and from the dance-theatrical point of view it is an experience that makes you ponder on the state of word and movement in contemporary communication.
Author: Dominik Melichar / Divadelní noviny / Published on: 29 October 2012
Cradles in a Battle Zone
Coordinates, chess, mine fields, mazes and an uncompromising structure. All these images are evoked by the green grid lit on the stage of the elledanse theatre. That is where the creators of the production Cradles placed their own and not very pleasing analysis of relationships between men and women in the contemporary world.
The Debris Company is one of the pillars of physical theatre in Slovakia. The many-year experience, rich staging tradition and experience in conveying challenging and intimate themes in a non-verbal form are favourable preconditions for the birth of an attractive production. What needs to be said to start with is that spectators will certainly not be disappointed. This form of movement theatre would be communicative enough even if the creators had not used passages from the text by Jana Bodnárová, which served as the main source of inspiration for the production. The director Jozef Vlk perfectly masters the regularities of movement in space, the power of a well located prop, of the right timing, emotionality of music and the communicative value of movement.
In the first half of the production, the spectators easily decode the man's and woman’s positions of power in their relationship, read their different needs, the power of sexual energy, and can easily discover the symbolic meaning of objects which for a short time appear and again disappear from the stage. Logical is the continuous presence of a soldier standing still and an old women coming close, who symbolise two different archetypes of our world. Besides, the spectators may look forward to impressive physical pictures, a theremin played with stacks of money and the joy of cracking the fragile story. The text which appears in the second half of the production was certainly incorporated by the authors in the good faith that it would clarify some relationship levels.
The actors and actresses – above all the performers playing the parts of the central couple of the man and woman Marta Maťová and Štefan Martinovič, but also the old woman in the background played by Mária Brainerová, presented during the performance not only physically demanding, often even acrobatic choreographies by Stanislava Vlčeková, but also enormous accuracy and concentration, thanks to which the parts of the structurally challenging production perfectly fit into one another. Cradles are thus another interesting and quality production by the Debris Company which you should definitely see.
Soňa Smolková, theatre critic | 22/10/2012 14:00 Pravda
Collision of the Worlds of Dance and Theatre in MONO
In the production directed by Slovak stage director Jozef Vlk two worlds meet: the worlds of dance and theatre. Accompanied by mono-depressive tones of electronical music, what the director makes come forward are individuality, intimacy, tragicality and comicality. The power of all five life stories. All five characters are wrapped up in themselves, they are together, but that is it. They are not able to coexist, they can only exist with their own self, with their body, deformations, secrets, obsessions. They all exist without the others, only for their own sake. They give their intolerance and indifference toward what surrounds them an absurd form of mutual attacks and disdain. In the border space with four entrances (doors), the performers show off in front of each other, Intoxicated by their own bodies, by their addictions.
All five scenes by the five performers - Stanislava Vlčeková, Emil Píš, Daniel Raček, Martina Lacová and Martin Piterka - show true pictures of situations and types of people we commonly come across. From an arrogant man who devotes his life to nothing else but his career, through a frustrated loner, to a strange guy with perverted cravings. The actors impersonate their characters in a factual manner, and also accurately, without overusing exaggerated gestures or emotions. The most characteristic and at the same time strongest moment is the final scene using a red T-shirt which in the eyes of all the characters symbolises originality and superiority – that is why everyone wants to own it, take it off the body of the other person. After this exhibition, on stage remains just a man by a laptop. He looks in the direction of the audience and closes the laptop. Was it reality or imagination of the observer?
The production is almost entirely wordless, yet through non-verbal action, through detailed character studies conducted by all performers, we learn from their inside the most important thing: your worst enemy is yourself, no matter how much you love (yourself).
Marek Godovič / 04/10/2011 Divadelní Noviny
...The stories of the people in the production MONO are told in form of very expressive physical theatre combining both dance and spoken word. Especially breathtaking is the original, demanding and theme-matching partner work – in the Debris Company, excellent dancers are a matter of course. A somehow fragile stage set which delineates the stage space is functional, too: it helps the dancers express their attitude toward the environment and by turning their cubicles inward at the end they insinuate a step towards the others, even though, for the time being, each of them remains curled up in their respective corners. The costumes, music and lighting sensitively and noncontradictingly add to the atmosphere, and it is above all the impressive music that catches the audience's attention....
Petra Dotlačilová / Taneční aktuality
Company - Soliloquy / Premiere
In expectation of what will
Debris Company do with the writing of James Joyce, I remained
surprised and at the same time caught by this piece of art.
Mostly by the overall atmosphere of the performance that
has been causing me goose-bumps all the way to my subconscious.
Yet, in the first sequences I have sensed a very accurate
with its original story and its own background. Just as I
have once breathlessly read the pages of Molly Bloom´s monologue,
now I was caught up in the stream of consciousness, without
any break, explanation or clear coherence. At that time,
was carried by a fascinating rhythm that magically allowed
me to anticipate connections without being able to determine
accurately why is it that I was so impressed by the theatre
version of Soliloquy. I was pulled into the very same magic
- through a clear and energetically exact motion vocabulary
applied instead of words. And music, despite of its strong
expression, has not drowned out this delicate and challenging
format. The one who did not read Joyce but visits Soliloquy
by Debris Company should easily succeed to immerse deeper
while reading this chapter...
Festival Bratislava in movement / J. Viňarský, Choreographer
The Star of the Festival was Supposed to Be a Canadian Compagnie
But was It Really Them?
Debris Company - Dolcissime Sirene
...Debris Company daze:
The star of the night (and perhaps of the whole festival)
was Slovak Debris Company. Even tough, Jozef VLK, Stanislava
VLČEKOVÁ and Daniel RAČEK performed Dolcissime Sirene in
the same premises three weeks ago, this time the evening
brought a more mystic atmosphere and passed smoothly just
as a perfectly prepared wedding. Suddenly, the building of
the Slovak Broadcasting has experienced Renaissance grandeur,
lightness, and elegance. Debris Company has managed to mediate
such an experience that dance can indeed create - lets call
SME Daily Newspaper / J. Kadlecová, Editor
It is Necessary to Speculate about Movement.
Debris Company - Dolcissime Sirene
Techniques are limiting". Risk is a kind of hope. It
brings a person to a new artistic testimony, which could
not be discovered if one is limited by a specific technique.
In Dolcissime Sirene, a lot is at risk as partners test balance,
boundaries of each other´s trust while walking over their
bodies and carrying one another in space. It is unpredictable
and therefore very attractive.
It is very important to speculate about the meaning of movement
in a word-less formation. We wanted to tell more than just
a story about emotions of two people. We tried to put it
in context of independence from wider socio-political matters..." /
SME Daily Newspaper
/ The theatre and Debris
...from a certain perspective of an unofficial scene in Slovakia,
I have found interesting the videos of Hubris/Debris Company
that I have seen. They seemed to me as a real alternative,
a true "other voice", unrelated to any official
stage. They open themselves towards what is done by modern
theatre of current period, i.e. towards music, sculpture,
dance and other fields of art. This is how "new theatre" could
also be defined, as openness to reality and words as well
as other areas of art. And at this point, I believe that
we know true alternative that exists - it is strong and
in addition it has many references to abroad, regardless
of political, social, and economic situation of these countries...
Teatro Magazine / from an interview with Jean-Michel Bruére,
the founder of International School of Stage arts FDM-Dropper
and Director of La Fabriks Theatre in Marseille
Debris Company - Hexen
Artistic feature of a wide-screen film-and-tulle "screen" dominated
that formed space between "the Earth and Heaven".
Differentiated performing plans thus served in details as
relationship situations of dance duets, trios, and quartets
along with situations comprising of artistic and magic compositions,
where witches´ Madonna of sufferance, their blue sphere of
hope, and finding of the portrait of "Dorian Gray" gave
natural impression with large dose of tension and internal
logic and dynamic. The scene of tearing "facial" mask
represented a unique stage element. Symbol of hypocrisy and
subsequent mockery "in situation" was a Director´s
delicacy of this introverted theatrical format. Dramaturgic
concentration and endless confidence in Contemporary Dance
with selected topic turned out as the axes of a multi-layered
...Slovak Contemporary Dance has confirmed the rule that
if equivalent interpretation personalities meet on stage,
a provocative theatrical format will arise that is full of
secrets, dynamics, tenderness, humor and unrepeated dance
plasticity. This plasticity has preciously balanced between
fantasy fiction, real time production, and charged invisible
harmony of dancing characters. The dancers have been orderly
working with "their own" personal topic. Hexen
therefore did not become a psychosomatic confession of a
dancing author, but a celebration of theatre, where inner
character-building dynamics, taste and esthetics of involved
artists has been dominating...
Reflector Magazine / P. Maťo, Critic/Reviewer
Debris Company - Cosmidiot
Theatre has many forms. However Debris Company is a different
theatre than theatre that can rely on its history or tradition
in Slovak space-time. It is different than the one, where
story is crystallized from a flood of words and sentences,
to which we are used to. Cosmidiot uses its own vocabulary
and language. This is a language of motion, light, gestures,
and expression. Motion is connected to gesture, gesture
is enhanced by light, light under-paints expression, so
that pictures and visual compositions can arise and tell
a story. Story, which arises in a viewer´s head on a separate
basis. Theatre of metaphors and theatre of sign...
Should there exist a term for theatre purism, Cosmidiot would
fulfil this notion...
SVÚ News / B. Gindlová, curator
Dance Festival of Literal Inspiration - Brno, Česká republika
Debris Company - Soliloquy / Dolcissime Sirene.
... The very first performance of the festival, Soliloquy
of Slovak Debris Company referred to Joyce´s novel Ulysses.
A dancer and choreographer at the same time /Stanislava VLČEKOVÁ/
has performed an expressive and a very pleasantly approached
solo of distinct appeal. Direction and light design /Jozef
VLK/ have enriched this solo of another dimensions, such
as images screened on dancer´s costume. A careful and sensitive
work with light was characteristic for this performance...
... In Dolcissime Sirene, inspired by Ottavio Rinuccini´s
text, VLČEKOVÁ was joined by Daniel RAČEK in a role of dancer
and choreographer. Romantic motive /wedding/ and content
of this play was handled with remarkable motion language
and the way how both protagonists managed to react to each
Both Slovak performances gave a very cohesive impression
and were highly communicative and free of any circumlocution.
...the most interesting to me was the very first evening
- Debris Company. During the performance, I had no time left
for thinking. And that is good, because usually a person
immediately thinks about what annoys him and looks for imperfections.
I had no chance to do so. I was simply sitting and watching
as if traveling in a train...
Taneční zóna - Dance Zone magazine / Michal Švanda, Critic/Reviewer
New Dramatic Communication
Debris Company is engaged with motion-dance theatre, action
art and performance. Their projects are always connected
with strong basis, original work, and adaptation. Soliloquy
arises from the last chapter of James Joyce´s novel Ulysses
Dolcissime Sirene /wedding and it is partly inspired by
texts of Ottavio Rinuccini and Plato´s idealism. Earlier
productions are strongly influenced by Samuel Beckett,
Franz Kafka, and adaptation of Knut Hamsun Hunger´s novel
is currently being prepared. Hidden in expressive, contrast,
sensitive, but also sharp and critical motions, is a strong
topic, testimony and opinion of authors - boundaries of
consciousness and unconsciousness, day and night, in which
we are combating for our place and existence. Performances
often express ambivalent values, doubts, relationship of
man and woman, study on identity issues, and historical
truth in close interconnection to present days. Similarly,
the protagonists are able to enthuse, be optimistic, enjoy
life with all that it brings. Debris Company is able to
connect music, motion, creative art and philosophy in a
sensitive and aesthetic manner. In their representation,
non-verbality of motion and music is converted into thought.
Body operates in an erotic sense, it is sensual but also
fragile or natural. Body formulates purpose and energy.
Its corporeality, bareness, and imperfection face technically
perfect, insentient instruments, props and produce no disharmony,
but synchronization, mutual reactions, and interconnection.
Beforehand defined intention and authors´ sensitivity for
detail and general context contribute to the success of
unique projects. Debris Company is still able to surprise,
discover new connections, all of this with professional
onset. Their production could be definitely classified
as multimedia, avant-garde stream enriching Slovak theatrical
scene for a longer period...
Vlna Magazine / D. Čiripová, Theatre Institute
...Debris Company projects
preciously combine universality of dramatic language, topics
and uniqueness of dramatic handwriting
and authors´ attitudes - nevertheless, high professionalism
These are the words that can be used to define,
in general, beautiful dance duet Dolcisime sirene. Premiered
in 2007, the piece still belongs to recommended performances
of today´s Slovak dance and motion theatre. Project was included
in IETM Bratislava 2009 meeting and anthology DVD KIOsk Digital
Showcase New Slovak Independent Performing Arts that was
issued by the Slovak Theatre Institute...
Romana Maliti / Theatrologist, Theatre Institute
Text from the publication
of the Slovak National Gallery/Dramatic Institute:
Slovak Dramatic Stage Design:
... in 1991, group of performers Hubris/Debris based their
work on a different imagination. The group realized several
unique projects in Slovak theatre. Screaching Pipes of Nothingness
(1991), Ulysses (1992), Code QUTNXZY (1995), and Nobody Knows
(1996) were launched in found stokehold premises of a forgotten
swimming pool at Žižkova street in Bratislava. It was the
most distinct example of "theatre" in non-theatrical
premises in Slovakia. In fact, almost unmodified premises
- installations, where fractions, a second lasting "stories" were
performed determined the work to the point that its realization
can be classified as the line of dramatic alternative that
is designated as site specific. Projects were based on knowledge
available on the progress of modern dance, performance, and
installation arts. All inputs - visual, musical, sounds,
motion, were precise, rhythmical in time and place. Authors
and collaborators of the projects layered events happening
in the stokehold in a parallel consecutive manner, whilst
viewers composed entire work from what they were able to
capture. There is no center or focus of "action" in
such environment, it is changeable and shifts from one place
to another. The performance thus goes against illusionism
of real time and an actor, who is more of a performer than
a dancer, through its motions uncovers gradually the space
and expresses itself not by dance rhetoric, but by means
of "simple language" of motions and gestures. The
projects fulfilled the axioms of environmental theatre proclaimed
by Schechner on the level of text that "does not have
to represent the background nor objective of performance.
The text does not even have to exist at all."
Dagmar Poláčková / Curator
It was on 30 October in A4 Bratislava´s stage of performing
arts, where I have experienced a theatre show where miraculous
things happened. Or rather it was a theatre with curious
energy. This theatre performance presents no social ideas
or social criticism, no false psychologism or formal art
for art. It is simply a theatre providing experience that
is shared among each other while bringing various feelings.
Or rather it is a theatre that will light up your latent
energy through its visual language of movements and gestures
aligned in a code of inner alphabet.
The first idea that crossed my mind was that this energy
ensues from the title itself HEXEN. Debris Company practices
witchcraft, literally. You will be evil-eyed by its strength
of schemed composition of moves and gestures and especially
by what can be expressed via its kinetic alphabet. And as
this is an alphabet of energy originating between sensuality
and non-sensuality as well as between sensuality of moving
dancers and that of sitting audience, it is almost impossible
to describe it. Indeed, dancers use no words and yet express
themselves. This is a fascinating feature of Contemporary
Theatre, where devalued written and spoken language of present
days is substituted by a language conceived by corporal body,
sounds and imagery. Indeed, it communicates.
Depicting of conflicts and thus allowing their suppression
has always been one of the functions of theatre. Activation
of unconscious images and archetypes may bring healing. And
Debris Company succeeds to fulfil this mission. Hexen is
based on conflict and tension on material level, i.e. in
movement techniques of individual dancers as well as in construction
of its choreography. And as choreography and motion of individual
dancers is very precise, it leads to the transformation of
this motion that is based upon tension and subsequent release
into non-material level. Audience thus perceives movement
of four bodies arranged in space and it is not mere admiration
of physical abilities, the show simultaneously allows interconnection
of artistic and emotional experience enriched with somewhat
that, in fact, cannot be named, an innermost essence of experience.
This experience offers no materialized relations that can
be, easily or hardly, designated with real attributes. On
the other hand, it gathers archetypal energy of basic contradiction
of feminine and masculine energy.
This unnameable essence is most likely a combination of features.
In Hexen, all makers were equally involved in the creative
process and present their voices which are not forced. Dancer
is a maker, not mere material. A dancer´s personal energetic
input is important in addition to its excellent physical
The entire balance of alchemistic mixture of features was
achieved through sound production that provides framework
rather than dictation and through unique and minimalistic
music composed by Jozef Vlk. Electronic rhythm along with
contrapuntistic, stringed and at same time minimalistic musical
motive is the key element of choreography of Stanka Vlčekova
and Daniel Raček and music.
The scene of Eva Rácová delimits horizontal space and thereby
forms two performing plans. The first plan can be called
real space presenting physical theatre of real movements,
contacts, and specific sensuality. The second plan could
perhaps be called "the other side" or "space
beyond" representing sophisticated contrapunctic plan
(which is in harmony with music and sounds), in which the
first plan is "depicted". However, it is not a
copy or imitation, it is rather a game of significances referring
to "real plan" directly demonstrated to audience,
where deeper context refers back to Michelangelos or El
Greco´s Pieta. ee
The reference to tri-dimensionality of the statue or two-dimensionality
of the painting relates with delimiting of horizon, i.e.
principle of scenic space as tableau. This modifies significantly
the meaning of sculptural configuration of dancers in specific
positions. It is not a purposeless use of stop-time of motion.
It is a punctual play with dynamics of body and space. Through
stiffening, i.e. projecting motions on painting that is also
applied in the second plan "framed plan" or "space
beyond", the authors achieve desired tension and rhythm,
fast and minimalistic movement of repeated elements suddenly
petrified in time and space. Stiffening as an element of
dance theatre has always brought motive of irritation, interruption,
and diversion form what is expected. Indeed, Hexen applies
this motive accurately and impressively. Imagine hip-twisting
by dancer standing on a single place or minimalistic movements
of hands reminding oriental hand motions or precise play
with the body´s gravity centre, equilibrium, and specified
tension referring to the element of Eastern martial arts
that can stop instantly as if being evil-eyed.
Horizontal frame displays another dimension. As it is filled
with half-transparent and back-lighted fabric it evolves
mysterious imagery of immaterial beings beyond the frame
and video-projection and thus a mystic effect of the third
plan is achieved. The third plan as borderline with the other
reality, on which movements are screened either time-delayed
motion or parallel movements from the first plan. The borderline,
where fire is inflamed, luminous ring moves representing
full moon or where smoke clouds are diffused.
Etymology of word Hexe (in German - witch) describes witch
as a being burnt at the stake between two worlds. Here and
out there. In the world of substance and the other world
that is impalpable. Not surprisingly, Hexen rhythm has practically
shamanistic dimension that could lead us to parallel universe.
Antonin Artaud would be happy of that.
Hexen could also depict misunderstanding and conflict between
what one desires to live and what one actually lives, i.e.
borderline between what is deemed as real and unreal, lines
represented by bodies and possibilities and impossibilities,
and how to cross over these boundaries. Sometimes it is possible
to cross the line, else it is impassable. Or is it all mere
appearance? One could be burnt on such stake.
Elixir characteristic for Debris is prepared of the most
up-to-date doses of humour, lightness, rhythm, tension, release,
and resignation on representation and interpretation. Vicious
Salto Magazine / Martina Vánnayová, critic, dramaturgist
...evocative statements about the games played in personal
and social politics marked the choreography elegantly.
Very evocative. Different and enjoyable....
The Straits Times Life / Singapore
In the semi-darkness it appeared that the perfectness
of the form, sensitive harmony of bodies and dynamics of the
relationship on the stage are the assurance of a quality
work of art, which is evaporating, like the historic moment
of the wedding of two strong families...
of experience was helped by classical music chosen by the
creators, and everything had meaning also thanks to Beckett´s
quotation: "Firstly dance, then think. That is the natural
course of things." This has taken the wind from sails
of those who write history believing all is true. The only
thing which really matters in dance and history of mankind
is personal experience, not words.
Milan Zvada/festival Kiosk/ KOD Magazine
Vlk´s Witty Mono-Solitude
Jozef Vlk has been a spiritual father of an independent theatre
group called Debris Company for more than 17 years. I consider
a miracle that this independent company has not yet been
closed down. Despite the long-term financial super-diet from
the side of the state, the artists execute their projects
for the viewer who refuses to watch series about a "happy
health service" or a concrete maze of banal relationships.
The latest Vlk´s work called Mono is
an excursion to the lives of ordinary contemporaries who
regularly pay taxes
and get salaries reaching the amount of state support for "inadaptable" citizens.
They are neither optimistically tuned and successful political
privatisers from the 1990s nor actors who work in professional
consumerism. They are inferiority complex outsiders who watch
their privacy and human dignity. Stories from life, which
they originally depict, are their only communication code
in the real world of the every-day paradox. Tired Beauty
on Stilettos by Stanislava Vlčeková leaves total "obeisance" on
the bodies of her men. They hope they once will visit her
human den. Upside-down, she returns to the memories of dancing
waltz believing that forgotten Cinderella´s shoes will be
eventually returned to the place she has taken them from
by a sympathetic person. Phlegmatic Boy with Hands in the
Pockets by Emil Píš is a humble womanizer unable to lure
his prey sexually and show her his true heart beating under
the rags he wears as a protecting shield. Girl with a Camera
by Martina Lacová wants all parts of her body to be kept
in the album called The Perfect Woman. Under her dynamic
and affected girly curiosity a slumbering beast of prey is
hiding. Talking Skinny Neurotic in a Red T-shirt and Spangle
Pants by Daniel Raček is a caricature of his dashing body.
The obsession burns him and evokes an irresistible need to
undress his body until naked in order to show his human courage.
Martin Piterka imprisoned in the world of Imagination of
Infantile Outsider dances with all signs of man who stands
out of "picture" and "sound" . Jozef
Vlk with Stanislava Vlčeková and Peter Jaško created a stage
feature full of humour, wit and irony. Despite the closed
space for life and stereotyped mutual sniffing around" of
the characters, the production of Mono created plastic areas
charged with inner strength of theatrical tension and active
Peter Maťo/Pravda daily newspapers
Debris Company - Hexen
By its contents it examines the essence of man, his need
of love or encounter with others in any form. By the form
this choreography carries on in the style of the Debris Company:
the cast of the dancers of distinctive expression, precise
technique following the potential of contemporary dance,
thought-out visual idea and original music by contemporary
Slovak composer. Their message works without any casual connection,
the bearer of the significance here is the thoroughly built
atmosphere which can be called magical. They lead us to imaginary
timelessness where the only meaning of being is the unresisting
flowing in time, space, in others, but mainly in ourselves.
Julie Kočí: Debris Company (SK)/ Hexen
written for the Tanec Praha festival, divadlo Ponec, 13 June
The Healing Pathos of the Slovak Debris Company
I don´t deny Nigel Charnock´s first high-minded movement
to cure people from depression. The Slovak group called Debris
was much more better in such curing in its magically-ironic
quartet entitled Hexen, with the choreography made by Stanislava
Vlčeková and Daniel Raček. Using magic of lights and dark
two enchanters were sending mysterious physical signs to
two men who were being cured (or initiated?). The physical
form, brought by the composition of pieta with the man lying
in the lap of the enchanter, was interwoven by numerous gentle
allusions of purifying movements. In today´s central-European
dance zone, the Slovaks are more and more an interesting
phenomenon - but it would be a topic for a longer story.
Nina Vangeli / theatre critic / Divadelní Noviny No. 15_2010
MONO / Is One Always Less than Enough?
The Debris Company is one of the few Slovak groups which
has been working continually. The style of the group, with
typical gesture work and the mimic expressions reaching extreme,
the hypnotic and seriously (and likeably) built-up dynamics
of the choreography based on the solidly connected partner
work. The performances of the Debris Company are characterised
by strong idea as the base for the physical work and the
ambition to leave the movement to face literature or succumb
to dramaturgy. In MONO the theme flashes from the final form
more naturally. A world of narcissuses is opened in front
of us, the world of lonely perfectness or perfect loneliness.
By the use of civil costumes and a few props / symbols a
new physical character is formed, based on playing with fetishes
The production of MONO moved the group into more extreme
and physically more demanding stages, sometimes even into
acrobatic levels and prevailing swiftness and precision.
Watching MONO one has a feeling of not being in Slovakia,
the country where almost none of the contemporary dance groups
has room and conditions for a continual work. Therefore,
in this case even one can mean more than enough.
Maja Hriešik / SALTO magazine