Ballet – early developments

The years from 1920 to 1940 marked the beginnings of Slovak ballet, a development which was linked with the formation and artistic development of Slovakia’s first professional ballet company, the Slovak National Theatre – Ballet.
The company’s first Artistic Director was Vaclav Kalina, a Czech dancer who staged the ballet Coppélia to music by Léo Delibes on 19 May 1920. After two vacant seasons in 1920/21-1921/22, his position was taken over for the 1922/23 season by Czech dancer Marta Aubrechtova. The curiosity attraction of 1923 was a performance by the famous Russian dancer Tamara Karsavinovova and her partner Peter Vladimirov held on 5 May 1923.
The foundations of the first ballet company in Slovakia are therefore linked with Vaclav Kalina and Marta Aubrechtova. In the 1923/1924 season, the ballet company was visited by Achille Viscusi, who came by invitation of Oskar Nedbala, Director of the Slovak National Theatre. Viscusi’s activity played a decisive role in the stabilisation of the ballet company and in the development of a respectable repertoire, as he was already an experienced choreographer and performer, not to mention an excellent organiser and teacher. During his active career, Achille Viscusi founded two ballet companies, in Ostrava and Bratislava. He had previously worked for 12 years at the Prague National Theatre Ballet, as well as in several other countries around the world, including Italy, France, Austria, Germany, Spain, Brazil and Argentina. During his eight-year tenure at the Slovak National Theatre he helped to professionalise Slovak ballet, solving personnel needs through the creation of a private ballet school which trained domestic ballet artistes. This made it possible for him to prepare a repertoire which, while not avant garde, was nonetheless functional, purposeful and effective.
The successful work of Achille Viscusi in Bratislava was interrupted by the tragic death of Oskar Nedbala in 1931, after which Viscusi ended his activity on the stage of the Slovak National Theatre and left. The vacant position was taken over by Viscusi’s student, dancer Ella Fuchsova-Lehotska, who from 1931 to 1933 followed the previous artistic direction of the ballet company. She had previously been active in the East-Slovak National Theatre, where in 1924, together with her partner Viktor Jassik, she had founded a ballet company. With her later activity in the Slovak National Theatre and her private ballet school, Ella Fuchsova-Lehotska significantly inscribed herself on the parchment of Slovak ballet history.
This successful period was followed by short intervals led by other Czech choreographers – Vladimir Pirnikov from 1933-1935, Ella Fuchsova-Lehotska again from 1935-1937, and finally Bohumil Relsky in the 1937-1938 to 1939-1940 seasons. The years 1933 to 1940 closed the initial stage of Slovak ballet as well as the engagement of Czech artistes in it. The name of Bohumil Relsky is also linked with the Slovak Folk Theatre in Nitra and also, for a short period after the Second World War, with the Jonáš Záborský Theatre in Prešov.