On Slovak contemporary dance

A very lively and multi-faceted but still fragile segment of the Slovak cultural landscape. Similarly to other post-Communist countries, contemporary dance emerged after 1989. Shortly after the political change, a large number of new companies arise with the aim to address the poetics of the body, to produce dance pieces and, first and foremost, to teach dance in a different, more open way. Many representatives of this generation of pioneers are still active in a creative dialogue with the younger generations.

The character of the local dance production was largely influenced and accelerated by the cultural openness typical for the first half of the 1990s in the entire Eastern Block, when international artists arrived in Slovakia as well. Another important aspect of development was the proximity to a dynamic Vienna with its growing possibilities of informal education and cultural exchange (Impulstanz, danceWEB). On the local level, a well established amateur modern dance scene and a rich and diverse and to this day carefully nurtured folk dance culture played an important role. Undoubtedly the strongest bond, which still persists, is that between the Slovak and the Czech cultural scene, arising from the common history and coexistence in a common state of Czechoslovakia (1918 – 1993).

Slovak contemporary dance is familiar to the international scene especially thanks to individuals who have left the country and established themselves abroad. They first left as excellent dancers seeking more professional conditions, and later evolved into artistic personalities and teachers who have become valued members of international dance companies. For years, there has been a very dynamic and visible community of Slovak dance professionals based in the Czech Republic.

Productions that emerge in the local conditions are, for several reasons, less known. This is due to the conditions for producing contemporary dance in Slovakia and persisting oversight on the part of the official cultural policy. In the past decade a change has been made in this area and the local dance scene has been growing steadily.
The showcase format of the dance platform aims at fostering activities of the local scene and at initiating a regular presentation and establishment of new partnerships especially in the Central European region as well as positioning the Slovak contemporary dance in a wider context.

With a single exception (Dance Studio Theatre in Banská Bystrica), contemporary dance productions are created as single projects and without state support. Dance professionals lack resident venues and present their pieces as guest appearances in cultural centres that present various forms of contemporary art and they often coexist in platforms that give them the formal framework for their activities. The creative process is characterized by fluctuation, ambition, enthusiasm and disappointment which results in a great variety of outputs and a strong feeling of community and the importance of co-productions. With the exception of a few dominant and extremely talented personalities who create in isolation and are very purposefully following their objectives, the Slovak dance landscape is a fascinating network of relationships and influences which is balancing on the verge of existence in these hard times and at the same time is very strong and inspiring.

Maja Hriešik, PlaST