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 numerous and 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, in their coordination.
In the past two premiere productions – Cradles and Epic, the Debris Company inclined more towards a narrative form, which also reflected in the team of creators. Dancers were joined by drama actors, the latter even prevailing in Cradles. 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 characters are determined by their affiliation to male and female worlds and their 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. They have considerably shortened and adapted the play for this staging. 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, were both 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. At the same time, the spots are 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 by a 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 the places where they are isolated and lonely.
Stanislava Vlčeková managed to use all the movement skills of the team of actors. The most flexible one in this sense seems to be Marta Ma»ová. Mária Breinerová, for her part, gave the most confident impression in the passages based on expression and spoken word. Cradles offers a pleasant aesthetic and inventive music experience (Jozef Vlk and David Kollar). Performed by the Debris Company, Cradles becomes a gentle and sensitive probe into the life of a woman and a man, 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 Courage and Her Children, Baal, The Good Person of 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 get down to a basic question which Brecht would have asked 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 elitist minority?”
In order for it to be able to conduct a relevant polemic with either 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, and the principles of Meyerhold's biomechanics. Four characters with white-painted, seemingly expressionist-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 everyday morning ritual of saying goodbye is accompanied by Eve falling forwards and backwards and 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 and balls, she sits on him and she fastens a collar around his neck, treating him like a dog. He subsequently regains his importance by controlling his employees.
On the stage, we see a smaller and a bigger tent – the house of Jack and Eve on one side and the house of Bar and Cat on the other. 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 working hard and we also simultaneously see Eve putting their child to bed at home. This bipolarity and contrast are also reflected in the visual and motion 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 rather chooses to be 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 as equally expressive as his voice.
The stereotypical character 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 – her daringly and him shyly, keeping that mysterious distance from one another; the distance through which the 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 and fidgety, while sadness shows on her face.
Jack decides to leave in order to cross the river, chasing the dream of a better life, and 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 change, on the vanity of man's suffering, on how we waste our life looking for happiness in the wrong places.
In the production of Epic, the language of communication used 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 influenced Bertolt Brecht and his work in the 1920s and 1930s. The atmosphere of the production strongly resembles expressionist films, and the acting style and stylized movement fit in perfectly.
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 get stuck and stop, all in order to be able to resume and continue in 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 makes use of precise rhythm created by stylized, distinctive and consistently selected music. During several of Bar's scenes and comments, we hear compositions of Kurt Weill adapted by various contemporary artists. The tones of Salomon Song by Young Gods, Alabama Song by The Doors or some of the musical gems of Tom Waits alternate with the roars 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 defines theatre – there is a lot to look at. The form and content are balanced; the music, the acting and dancing performance, and the visual component correspond with the created stylization which, if used right 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 – 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 reveal 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. In her stream of speech, Molly jumps from one theme to another through 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 boundlessness of the possible contact points of the most diverse events of human life. For a moment, Vlčeková vehemently tries 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. Through stronger and stronger clenching of the particular movements, dance can convey what words can only express by utterly breaking the syntactic structure. Had Vlčeková mechanically separated the various motifs in order to copy the written speech, the result would certainly not have been 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 reveals his subconscious through words of his monologue. He gets the same time as Vlčeková's interpretation of Molly and that is when it becomes obvious how challenging a discipline a spoken monologue on a theatre stage really is. It is impossible not to recognize how difficult it must have been to learn an almost half-an-hour-long monologue even lacking 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 concerning 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 abundant 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 first 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 or the power of a well-located prop, 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 and see the power of sexual energy, and they can easily discover the symbolic meaning of objects, which, for a short time, appear and again disappear from the stage. The continuous presence of a soldier standing still and an old women coming close is logical; they symbolise two different archetypes of our world. Besides that, 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 hope of clarifying some relationship levels.
The roles of the couple were played by Marta Ma»ová and Štefan Martinovič, while the old woman in the background was played by Mária Brainerová. Along with the rest of the cast, they presented not only physically demanding and 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 Debris Company and you should definitely see it.
Soňa Smolková, theatre critic | 22/10/2012 14:00 Pravda
Collision of the Worlds of Dance and Theatre in MONO
Two worlds meet in the production directed by Slovak stage director Jozef Vlk: the worlds of dance and theatre. Accompanied by mono-depressive tones of electronic music, the director makes individuality, intimacy, tragicality and comicality come forward. The power of all five life stories comes forward as well. 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 selves, with their body, deformations, secrets and obsessions. They all exist without the others, only for their own sake. Their intolerance and indifference is given 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 - depict true situations and types of people that 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 the reason why everyone wants to gain ownership of it by taking it off of the body of the other person. After this exhibition, the only person remaining on the stage is a man with a laptop. He looks in the direction of the audience and closes the laptop. Was it real or was it a product of the observer’s imagination?
The production is almost entirely wordless, and yet, through non-verbal action and detailed character studies conducted by all performers, we learn the most important thing: your self is your worst enemy, 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 the form of very expressive physical theatre combining both dance and spoken word. What is especially breathtaking is the original, demanding and theme-matching partner work – in Debris Company, excellent dancers are a matter of course. A somehow fragile 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 without contradiction add to the atmosphere, and it is above all the impressive music that catches the audience's attention....
Petra Dotlačilová / Taneční aktuality
Debris Company - Soliloquy / Premiere
Not knowing what to expect about what Debris Company will do with the writing of James Joyce, I was surprised and at the same time captivated by this piece of art and mostly by the overall atmosphere of the performance, which has been gave me goose-bumps all the way into my subconscious. Yet, in the first sequences, I have sensed a very accurate linkage with its original story and its own background. Just as I have once breathlessly read the pages of Molly Bloom´s monologue, I was now caught up in the stream of consciousness without any break, explanation or clear coherence. At that time, I 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 Marie Chouinard.
But was It Really Them?
Debris Company - Dolcissime Sirene
...Debris Company daze:
The star of the night (and perhaps of the whole festival) was the Slovak Debris Company. Even though Jozef VLK, Stanislava VLČEKOVÁ and Daniel RAČEK performed Dolcissime Sirene in the same premises three weeks prior, 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-like grandeur, lightness, and elegance. Debris Company has managed to mediate an experience that dance can indeed create – let’s call it daze...
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 and boundaries of each other’s trust while walking over each other’s 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 wordless formation. We wanted to tell more than just a story about the emotions of two people. We tried to put it in the context of independence from wider socio-political matters..." / Debris Company
SME Daily Newspaper
Silence Provocation / The theatre and Debris
...from a certain perspective of an unofficial scene in Slovakia, I have found the videos of Hubris/Debris Company that I have seen very interesting. 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 an openness towards reality and words as well as other areas of art. And at this point, I believe that we know of a true alternative that exists - it is strong and it makes use of numerous references to abroad, with no regard to the 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 what formed the space between "the Earth and Heaven". Differentiated performing plans thus served as relationship situations of dance duets, trios and quartets, along with situations comprised of artistic and magic compositions, where the witches´ Madonna of sufferance, their blue sphere of hope, and the discovery of the portrait of "Dorian Gray", gave a natural impression with a large dose of tension, internal logic and dynamic. The scene of tearing the "facial" mask represented a unique stage element. The symbol of hypocrisy and a subsequent mockery "in situation" were a Director´s delicacy of this introverted theatrical format. Dramaturgic concentration and endless confidence in Contemporary Dance with the selected topic turned out to be the axis of a multi-layered story...
...Slovak Contemporary Dance has confirmed the rule that if equally-interpreted personalities meet on stage, it will spark a rise of a provocative theatrical format that is full of secrets, dynamics, tenderness, humour and unrepeatable dance plasticity. This plasticity is preciously balanced between fantasy fiction, real time production, and charged invisible harmony of dancing characters. The dancers have been systematically working with "their own" personal topic. Hexen therefore did not become a psychosomatic confession of a dancing author, but a celebration of theatre, with the dominance of inner character-building dynamics, taste and aesthetics...
Reflector Magazine / P. Ma»o, Critic/Reviewer
Debris Company - Cosmidiot
Theatre has many forms. However, Debris Company is a different than a theatre that can rely on its history or tradition in Slovak space-time. It is different than the one where story is crystallized from the flood of words and sentences to which we are used to. Cosmidiot uses its own vocabulary and language. It is a language of motion, light, gestures, and expression. Motion is connected to gestures, gestures are enhanced by light, and light under-paints expression, so that pictures and visual compositions can arise and tell a story, which arises separately in the viewer´s head. Theatre of metaphors and theatre of signs...
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, was a reference 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 a 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 the role of a dancer and choreographer. Both the romantic motive /wedding/ and the content of this play were handled with remarkable motion language and the the protagonists’ interaction.
Both Slovak performances gave a very cohesive impression and were highly communicative and free of any circumlocution.
...what caught my eye was the very first evening - Debris Company. During the performance, I had no time to think. 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 makes use of motion-dance theatre, action art and performance. Their projects are always built on a 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 an adaptation of Knut Hamsun Hunger´s novel is currently being prepared. Hidden in expressive, contrasting, sensitive, but also sharp and critical motions, there is a topic, a testimony and an opinion of authors - boundaries of consciousness and unconsciousness, day and night, in which we are combating for our place and existence. The performances often present ambivalent values, doubts, relationships between men and women, as well as a study on identity issues, and historical truth in close connection to present days. Similarly, the protagonists are able to be enthusiastic and optimistic, enjoying 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, the non-verbality of motion and music is converted into thought. The body operates in an erotic sense, it is sensual but also fragile or natural. The body formulates purpose and energy. Its corporeality, bareness and imperfection face technically perfect, insentient instrument and props, and produce synchronization, mutual reactions, and interconnection instead of disharmony. The above-defined intention, the authors´ attention to detail and the general context contribute to the success of these unique projects. Debris Company is still able to surprise and 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
...the projects by Debris Company preciously combine universality of dramatic language, topics and uniqueness of dramatic handwriting with authors´ attitudes - nevertheless, high professionalism of performers.
These are the words that can be used to define, in general, the beautiful dance duet Dolcisime sirene. Premiered in 2007, the piece still belongs among the recommended performances of today´s Slovak dance and motion theatre. The project was included in IETM Bratislava 2009 meeting and the 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, a group of performers titled Hubris/Debris based their work on a different imagination. The group completed several unique projects in Slovak theatre. Screeching 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 ®iľkova street in Bratislava. It was the most distinct example of "theatre" in non-theatrical premises in Slovakia. In fact, the almost unmodified premises – installations, where fractions, "stories" lasting a second, 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. The projects were based on the available knowledge of the progress of modern dance, performance, and installation arts. All inputs - visual, musical, sound and motion – were precise, rhythmical in time and place. The authors and collaborators of the projects layered events happening in the stokehold in a parallel consecutive manner, whilst the viewers composed an entire work from what they were able to capture. There is no center or focus of "action" in such an environment; it is changeable and shifts from one place to another. The performance thus goes against the illusionism of real time. Through their motions, an actor, who is more of a performer than a dancer, gradually uncovers the space and expresses himself not through a dance rhetoric, but by means of the "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 the 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 that I have experienced a theatre show where miraculous things happened. Or rather, it was a performance with curious energy. This theatre performance presents no social ideas or social criticism, no false psychologism or a formal “art for art”. It is simply a performance providing an experience that is shared among all participants, evoking various feelings. Or in other words, it is a theatre that will light up your latent energy through its visual language of movement and gestures aligned in a code of inner alphabet.
The first idea that crossed my mind was that this energy emanates from the title itself, HEXEN. Debris Company practices witchcraft, literally. You will be evil-eyed by its strength of schemed composition of movement 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.
One of the functions of theatre has always been to depict conflicts and thus allow their suppression. An activation of unconscious images and archetypes may bring forward healing. And Debris Company succeeds in fulfilling this mission. Hexen is based on conflict and tension on a material level, i.e. in the motion techniques of individual dancers, as well as in the construction of its choreography. And as the choreography and motion of the individual dancers is very precise, it leads to the transformation of this tension-based motion and its subsequent release into a non-material level. Audience thus perceives movement of four bodies arranged in space and it is not a mere admiration of physical abilities; the show simultaneously allows the interconnection of artistic and emotional experience enriched by something that cannot truly be named; an innermost essence of experience. This experience offers no materialized relations that can be, either with ease or with effort, designated with real attributes. On the other hand, it gathers the archetypal energy of the 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 their voices are not forced. A dancer is a maker, not just mere material. A dancer´s personal energy input is as important as an excellent physical movement.
The entire balance of the 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 a contrapuntist, stringed and at the same time minimalistic musical motive is the key element of both the music and the choreography of Stanka Vlčekova and Daniel Raček.
The scene with Eva Rácová delimits horizontal space and thereby forms two performing plans. The first plan could represent real space, presenting physical theatre of real movements, contacts, and specific sensuality. The second plan could perhaps be called "the other side" or "the space beyond," representing sophisticated contrapuntist 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 the "real plan" directly demonstrated to the audience, where a deeper context refers back to Michelangelo‘s or El Greco´s Pieta.
The reference to the tri-dimensionality of the statue, or the two-dimensionality of the painting, relates to the delimitation of horizon, i.e. the principle of scenic space as a tableau. This significantly modifies the meaning of the sculptural configuration of dancers in specific positions. It is not a purposeless use of the stop-time of motion. It is a punctual play with the dynamics of body and space. Through stiffening, i.e. a projection of motions onto the painting, which is also applied in the second plan dubbed a "framed plan" or "the space beyond", the authors achieve the desired tension and rhythm, as well as fast and minimalistic movement of repeated elements suddenly petrified in time and space. Stiffening as an element of dance theatre has always brought the motive of irritation, interruption and diversion from what is expected. Indeed, Hexen applies this motive accurately and impressively. Imagine a hip-twisting by a dancer standing on a single place; imagine minimalistic hand movements reminiscent of the oriental hand motions; imagine the precise play with the body´s centre of gravity, equilibrium; the specific tension referring to the element of Eastern martial arts that can stop instantly, as if being evil-eyed.
The horizontal frame displays another dimension. As it is filled with half-transparent and back-lit fabric, it depicts mysterious imagery of immaterial beings beyond the frame and video-projection, thus achieving a mystical effect of the third plan. The third plan is perceived as a borderline with the other reality, on which movements are screened either through delayed motion or movements parallel to the first plan. The borderline is marked by a burning fire and a moving luminous ring, representing the full moon or the spot where the smoke clouds are diffused.
The etymology of word Hexe (in German - witch) describes a witch as a being burnt at the stake between two worlds; both here and there; in the world of substance and in the other world that is impalpable. It is no surprise that the rhythm of Hexen practically possesses a shamanistic dimension that could lead us to a parallel universe. Antonin Artaud would be happy about that.
Hexen could also depict the misunderstanding and conflict between what one desires to live and what one actually lives, i.e. a borderline between what is deemed as real and unreal; lines represented by bodies, possibilities and impossibilities; and how to cross these boundaries. Sometimes it is possible to cross the line, else it is impassable. Or is it all a matter of mere appearance? One could be burnt on such a stake.
Debris prepares a characteristic elixir of the most up-to-date doses of humour, lightness, rhythm, tension, release, and resignation towards representation and interpretation. Vicious hexes.
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 perfection of the form, the sensitive harmony of bodies and the dynamics of an on-stage relationship are the assurance of a quality work of art, which is evaporating like a historic moment of a wedding between two strong families...
The natural character of experience was emphasised by classical music chosen by the creators and everything carried meaning also thanks to Beckett´s quotation: "First dance, then think. That is the natural course of things." This has taken the wind from the sails of those, who write history believing everything is true. The only thing that really matters in dance and the history of mankind is personal experience, not words.
Milan Zvada/festival Kiosk/ KOD Magazine
Vlk´s Witty Mono-Solitude
For over 17 years, Jozef Vlk has been the spiritual father of an independent theatre group called Debris Company. I consider it 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 aiming at the viewers, who refuse to watch series about a "happy health service" or a concrete maze of banal relationships.
Vlk’s latest work titled Mono is an excursion into the lives of ordinary contemporaries, who regularly pay taxes and get salaries, which reach the amount of state support needed for "inadaptable" citizens. They are neither optimistically tuned and successful political privatisers from the 1990s, nor actors, who work in professional consumerism. They are outsiders with an inferiority complex, who watch their privacy and human dignity. Stories from the life that they originally depict are their only code of communication in the real world of the everyday paradox. Tired Beauty on Stilettos by Stanislava Vlčeková leaves a total "obeisance" on the bodies of her men. They hope they will once visit her human den. Upside down, she returns to the memories of dancing waltz and believing that Cinderella’s forgotten shoes will be eventually returned to their original owner by a sympathetic person. The character of the Phlegmatic Boy with Hands in his Pockets played 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 shield of protection. The Girl with the Camera played 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. The Talking Skinny Neurotic in a Red T-shirt and Spangled Pants played by Daniel Raček is a caricature of his dashing body. The obsession burns him and evokes an irresistible need to undress his body to nakedness in order to show his human courage. Martin Piterka imprisoned in the world of the Imagination of an Infantile Outsider dances with all signs of a man, who stands out of "picture" and "sound" . Jozef Vlk, Stanislava Vlčeková and Peter Jaško created a stage feature full of humour, wit and irony. Despite the closed space for life and the stereotyped mutual “sniffing around" of the characters, the production of Mono created plastic areas charged with the inner strength of theatrical tension and active relief.
Peter Ma»o / Pravda daily newspapers
Debris Company - Hexen
In its contents, it examines the essence of man and his need for love or encounter with others in any form. Concerning the form, this choreography carries on in the style of Debris Company: a cast of dancers of distinctive expression, the precise technique following the potential of contemporary dance, thought-out visual ideas and original music by a contemporary Slovak composer. Their message works without any casual connection, the bearer of the significance here is the thoroughly built atmosphere, which could be described as magical. They lead us to an imaginary timelessness, where the only meaning of being is the unresisting flow of time, space, others, but mainly ourselves.
Julie Kočí: Debris Company (SK) / Hexen
written for the Tanec Praha festival, divadlo Ponec, 13 June 2010
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 Debris was did a better job in curing it in its magically-ironic quartet entitled Hexen, with choreography created by Stanislava Vlčeková and Daniel Raček. Using the magic of lights and darkness, 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 with numerous gentle allusions of purifying movements. In the contemporary central-European dance zone, the Slovaks are becoming a growingly interesting phenomenon - but that would be a topic for a longer story.
Nina Vangeli / theatre critic / Divadelní Noviny No. 15_2010
MONO / Is One Always Less than Enough?
Debris Company is one of the few Slovak groups that has been working ceaselessly. The style of the group is distinctive, marked by their typical gesture work and the extreme-reaching mimic expressions, as well as the hypnotic and seriously (and likeably) built-up dynamics of the choreography based on the solidly connected partner work. The performances of Debris Company are characterised by a foundation consisting of a strong idea on which all else is built: the physical work and the ambition to leave the movement to face literature, or to succumb to dramaturgy. In MONO, the theme flashes from the final form more naturally. We see a world of narcissists; a world of lonely perfection or perfect loneliness. By the use of civil costumes and a few props / symbols, a new physical character is formed, based on play with fetishes and vanity.
The production of MONO moved the group into a more extreme and physically 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 have the room and conditions necessary for a continual output. Therefore, in this case, even one can mean more than enough.
Maja Hriešik / SALTO magazine