Companies and creators

In 1975 the Bralen modern dance company of the Slovnaft Trade Union was founded by Peter Hroziencik and Olga Letenajova (née Potfaiova). This company is mentioned first because up to a certain moment (the moment of professionalisation) it had an exclusive position among the other modern dance companies (at least the Bratislava companies Alfa, Auriga and Allegro). A large number of dancers began their professional careers here. In 1986 this company changed its name to the Bralen Dance Theatre and exactly 10 years later it became a professional company, with Rastislav Letenaj as its head. Bralen participated in many festivals around the world and invited choreographers of high renown, such as Bruce Taylor and Joe Alegado (USA) and Libor Vaculik from the Czech Republic. The work of the Bralen Dance Theatre is based on the use of the modern dance techniques (jazz, the Limón technique). At the time, the name Bralen incorporated both the performing company and the studio providing lessons for the general public.
La Mosca, the Košice Dance Centre (1989-2003) was one of the few companies or creators working outside of the capital city of Bratislava. Marianna Muchova and Peter Mucha were its leaders. Although it was not a professional company (its members ranged from 14 to 30 years of age) it systematically worked with modern dance.
The Žilina dance company Alternatív was founded in 1986 by Zuzana Laskova. In 2000 it became a civic association known as Labyrinth – motion and dance centre, and thus extended its activities towards the education of the general public. The company under the original name TDA has been led since 2004 by a choreographer and dance teacher Zuzana Juhasova (née Burianova).
Professional companies have begun to spring up from the hotbed of amateur dance. In 1989, the theatre formation Hubris was originated. Its regular members, Jozef Vlk, Martin Ondriska and Martin Piterka most frequently designated their work as physical theatre themselves. This was one of the first groups to stage performances on non-theatre premises. Works on the boundaries of dance, motion and theatre – the plays Odysseus and Murphy – were performed in the magical environment of an old pool above the Bratislava Tunnel. The main form of expression of the company, which concentrated on classical themes, was a non-verbal approach to them (Kafka: The Trial, Borges: The Gospel According to Mark, etc). Later this company focused on locally choreographed work. In 2004 after some changes the group changed its name to Debris Company – art and people. Today the more chamber-like composition of the company (the director and music composer Jozef Vlk and the choreographer Stanislava Vlcekova) inclines to physical and dance theatre, but does not exclude the synthetic use of other media. EPIC and Clear that was awarded the special jury prize at the New Drama Festival in 2015 represent their most recent work.
The Studio tanca in Banská Bystrica is the only permanent professional contemporary dance company with its own stage. Choreographer Zuzana Hajkova is the founder and artistic manager. Its founding is the result of her effort over the course of many years. In 1992 the professional Skupina súčasného tanca (Contemporary Dance Group, SST) was created out of the earlier amateur group Auriga. SST presented itself in three full-length productions under the choreography of Hajkova and two productions by foreign authors: Tina Mantel (Switzerland) and Bill Young (USA). In 1994, the core of SST was transferred to Banská Bystrica, where Hajkova, under the State Oper, was given the chance to create the contemporary dance work Okno dotykov (‘The Window of Touches’). Through this she clearly demonstrated her ambition to create original contemporary choreography. However, at that time, the management of the State Opera did not know how to create a space for this kind of projects, and so in 1997 the State Opera was transformed into the Central Slovakia Theatre, comprising the State Opera company, Jozef Gregor Tajovský Theatre and the Dance Studio. Graduates of the Dance Department of Ján Levoslav Bella Conservatory were the latter’s first dancers.
The Studio tanca in Banská Bystrica has presented a large number of premieres since its foundation. The first period was significantly affected by the work of stage designer Fero Liptak and composer Pierre Michaud, as shown by the fine works O strome vo mne (‘About the Tree in Me’), Sattó – tanec vetra (‘Sattó – the Wind Dance’) and others such as Zakázané miesta (‘Forbidden Places’) and Trois with their emphasis on dance and its special possibilities of expression. The choreography for Niečo medzi nami (‘Something Between Us’) was created by Julyen Hamilton, the first visiting choreographer, who it may be said distinctively affected everyone who participated, especially in the work with improvisation. The production Lietajúca Frída (‘Flying Freda’), presented in co-operation with director Ondrej Spisak, followed. In 2001 the Dance Studio presented the successful production Tak dávno som nič nenapísala (‘I Haven’t Written Anything for Such a Long Time’), featuring the music of Anton Popovic and the choreography of Zuzana Hajkova. It was subsequently adapted into a film directed by Andrea Horečna. Later, other works including Sectio by Zuzana Kozankova were created. The Dance Studio repertoire also includes works for adult audiences as well as for children. Among the latest ones we can mention the performances of the key company member Tobir Trulik and his Androgén, Juyen Hamilton’s Strieborná tekutine (‘Silver liquid’) or Roots by the couple Stanislava Vlcekova-Jozef Vlcek. The Dance Studio has performed extensively on various Slovak stages and at several prestigious international festivals, as well as participating in the making of several documentary films inspired by its activities. It is the only professional contemporary dance company whose founder is the state or a self-governing institution. However, taking into consideration the statements of the current governor of Banská Bystrica Regional Government the future of this dance company is rather unsure.
In 1990 dancer, choreographer, dance educator (at the Department of Dance of the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (VŠMU)) and dancer Marta Polakova have established a dato as the first professional dance group aspiring towards new tendencies in contemporary dance. Their first full-length programme was called Aspekty (‘Aspects’) and constitutes the transition between modern and contemporary dance. Polakova’s stay in France significantly affected her work. Further steps of the group’s work were marked by the search for a new motion vocabulary through new methods and concepts of choreography. Their co-operation with foreign choreographers (W Dorner, R Warshaw, B Young, M Hawkins, J Kaplan, P de Groot) also brought valuable experience. Until 1999, when the group ceased to operate due to changing financing conditions on the basis of project grants, a dato presented 12 full-length premieres at home and abroad. In 2003 Marta Polakova founded a free group of artists called Dajv. It was founded with the ambition to create distinctive and visually attractive projects on the basis of close co-operation between various media (dance, music, theatre, scenography, lighting and visual design). Dajv was one of several project groups without permanent members or a permanent stage. In 2008 Marta Polakova together with other artists founded Laban Atelier Bratislava, a project whose ambition is to bring into practise the theory and philosophy of Rudolf Laban, a native of Bratislava, who belongs to the most famous personalities in the world of motion art. Under the auspices of L.A.B. Marta Polakova created several works, one of the latest is SOLO – Endings/Beginnings.
The AS Project, established in 1995, is another of these project groups. Dancer, choreographer, motion therapist practicing BMC and currently mostly lecturer at the the Department of Dance of the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (VŠMU), Anna Sedlackova, founded this art group which – similar to a dato and the Contemporary Dance Group – uses new approaches to choreography and new motion vocabulary. She has created the following works for this group: Balada (‘the Ballad’), Kolotočenie (‘Merry-go-rounding’) and BM Express. Sedlackova was strongly influenced by her scholarship stays in the USA, where her year-long co-operation with Marta Renzi and Marta Miller began. Together with them, she created several projects introduced at home and abroad which also included the active involvement of Slovak dancers (Long Distance Dialogue, Šaty (‘The Dress’), Nový circus (‘New Circus’), etc). Anna Sedlackova has also frequently co-operated with dancer and pedagogue Anna Caunerova, who for a long time now has been working in the Czech Republic, where she has received several awards for her interpretation and teaching activities. Prešporské tangá (‘Pressburg Tangoes’), an intimate and partially documentary confession, is one of Sedlačkova’s distinctive works.
Lucia Holinova, one of the first graduates of pedagogy of modern dance at the Department of Dance at the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (VŠMU) is an independent dancer, choreographer and educator who actively participated in contemporary dance until 2002. In the course of her studies she created, together with Milan Kozanek, the duet Gagarin, in which contact improvisation was shown in Slovakia for the very first time. After she had finished her activities in a dato company, she began to develop her own work (eg. Škára and Fuga, both performances with original music of the Med group).
Monika Čertezni, after she had finished her activities in the SND Ballet, participated in projects of a dato and Hubris companies and later she began to develop her own creation. Together with composer Marek Piacek she established an independent company Gourounaki connecting various forms and genres of stage art. We can mention the minimalist choreography to Martin Burlas’ opera Coma, created in commission of SND or CityZen, a common duet with Monika Caunerova, a significant personality in Slovak contemporary dance.
From the solo of M Certezni O (O as Schlemmer) a trio with the same name was created, which initiated the establishment of the grouping Neskorý zber ‘Late harvest’. It was founded in 2014 by four dancers and choreographers – Monika Certezni, Lucia Holinova, Daniel Racek and Anna Sedlackova. Their latest work is Zámerné čakanie ‘Intentional Waiting’.
Daniel Racek is a graduate of the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (VŠMU) and the Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Informatics of Comenius University in Bratislava. He has worked for many companies and is one of the best interpreters of contemporary dance in Slovakia. His selection for the 2005 Philip Morris Flower award for ballet in the category, best dance artist (awarded for the first and last time) is proof of that. Several interpreters in the field of contemporary and modern dance were nominated for this award. Currently, Raček is working on several projects at home and abroad.
Milan Kozanek and Zuzana Kozankova (née Bacova) two of the first graduates of the specialisation in Modern Dance Education, founded the dance company Artyci after graduation. To date, they have presented several interesting projects in Slovakia and internationally. These include Mýtus (‘The Myth’) in co-operation with puppeteers Ivan Martinka and Katarina Odzganova, the multimedia performance Tvrdé pristátie (‘Hard Landing’), Kozankova’s solos K sebe (‘Towards Oneself’), One Yin For Every Yang and Cocoon Invisible and last year’s duet premiere Sui Generis. All works are characterised by a high technical level of interpretation and utterance through pure dance motion and free of layers of other artistic means of expression. Artyci dance group is nowadays mostly marked by the solos of Zuna Kozankova.
After creating his first works in Slovakia – Noah, Zákaz vstupu vo dvojici (‘Noah’, Couples will not be Admitted’), Jozef Frucek does most of his work abroad. In 2002-2005 he was a member of the Belgian group Ultima Vez of Wim Vandekeybus. He has won several significant awards for his choreography. Most recently, his group the Company RootlessRoot presented itself at Aerowaves ´08, the prestigious festival in London. He has already created many works, among the latest ones there are Collective Loss of Memory for the Czech group DOT504. This performance won the highest award at the Czech Dance Platform in 2015.
After working for several companies and co-operating with many authors, Petra Fornayova began to dedicate time to her own work. Hlbinné porušenie epidermy (‘Deep Damage to Epidermis’), Diamondance, Kto je Annik (‘Who is Annik’), Všetko, čo mám rada (Everything I like’), Objekty výskumu (‘Research objects’) and others have been presented at international and domestic festivals. Petra Fornayova’s work is somewhere on the interface of dance and theatre; she strives for a purpose-oriented synthesis of various means of expression and she uses conceptualist approaches (eg Living Room Dancing With, StageCross). She currently cooperates among others with the music band performing modern music Cluster Ensemble (staging of graphic scores of Milan Adamčiak, TD Monogramista etc).
Peter Groll entered his name in the history of contemporary dance not only as the author of the music for several choreographers, but also as an interpreter and choreographer – In a Minor Key together with Fornayova and Racek, ProFile and a number of other works were selected for the prestigious East of Eden Festival of Eastern and Central Europe Art in New York in 1998. At present he only composes music.
In 2001 Jaro Vinarsky and Tomas Krivosik founded the group DuWadance, whose works include Vnútorné práva (‘Internal Rights’) and Malé podobenstvo (‘A Small Parable’). More recently they have begun to work independently of each other. Vinarsky has become the core of the interpretation-creative team around the Belgian choreographer Karine Ponties (Mi Non Sabir, Holeulone, Humus Vertebras, Havran) and has created projects, such as Sorton, Paisyn in co-production with the Grotowski Centre in Wroclaw and Buticcula. He won the Sazka Award for dance together with the Viewers’ Award for Posledný krok pred (‘The Last Step Before’) at the Česká tanečná platforma (Czech Dance Platform) in 2006. Jaro Vinarsky was awarded one of the most prestigious theatre awards in the world – Bessie Award – in the category ‘an exceptional interpreter’ for his interpretation of Pavol Zustiak’s choreography – Painted Bird. He founded a civic association Skok, which tries to popularise the modern dance among the broad public particularly in the regions.
Tomáš Krivošík created Uletená pieseň (‘Crazy Song’), Sapro-agape and Rozpúšťanie v realite (‘Melting into Reality’); together with Canadian choreographer Tedd Robinson, he created Absolute Naked Party and Books and Paper; for Dance Study he created Muscosus; and as an interpreter he has been involved in French choreographer Paco Decina’s Salto nel vuoto. At present he mostly creates movement parts for drama performances.
Katarína Mojžišová’s work successfully balanced on the edge of dance and performance. In 2005 she won a scholarship to the Irish Daghdha Dance Company and from that time until 2012 she lived and worked in Limerick. The Slovak audience remembers her for her choreographies for Kryk and Vank (together with Eva Klimackova in the Tank art group). Aukcia (‘The Auction’, which was designated for the opening of the first year of Excursions: The Performance Art Festival Limerick, Dragon and also presented at the Dublin Fringe Festival) and O1 – a seven hour improvised performance by Katarina Mojzisova together with musician Robin Parmer, all of which have resonated abroad.
Since 2001 dancer, pedagogue and choreographer Eva Klimackova has worked in Paris as an independent artist on projects by various choreographers, musicians, artists and circus artists. Amongst her creative output she created Lovers, a duet with pianist Kamil Mihalov which was presented at the prestigious Aerowaves’99 Festival, and Rieka (‘The Rivers’) presented at Kaaitheaterstudio in Brussels. Her last performance so far has been the solo MOVE, staged in Slovakia as well.
The most well-known group in the European contaxt is the Les Slovacs group. It was founded by Milan Herich, Peter Jasko, Tono Lachky, Milan Tomasik and Martin Kilvady in Brussels. The first four dancers were students of the Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (VŠMU), but they left together in 2003 to study at the prestigious P.A.R.T.S. school in Belgium. They started to work together there. Their works are mostly based on the use of dance improvisation. The third and so far the last work is Fragments. All of the founding dancers of the Les Slovacs work as visiting or permanent members on various international projects and groups appraised by reviews.
There were or have been other Slovak dancers/choreographers of high quality working abroad. Yuri Korec, a graduate of VŠMU, has been involved in several groups (The Dance Studio, DAJV, Editta Braun Company and CieLaroque Dance Comp., in Austria, the Ventura Dance Comp., in Switzerland, the Retina Dance Comp., in Belgium and the Jean Abreu Comp. in Great Britain). He created a dance movie Deň (‘The Day’) in cooperation with J Vlk and A Petrovic, a trio ph-neutral (in cooperation with A. Petrovic and T. Halaby), presented for the first time at BXL Bravo in Kaaitheater in Brussels. His last work, a solo – new bit -new beat, ZERO part of the trilogy num_bers (pre CieLaroque Dance Comp.) and others.
Tomáš Danielis lives and works in Graz. But as a dancer and pedagogue he is active in many countries of the world. He got engagements or cooperated on projects with various groups (eg the French group Pulso, Danish Granhoj Dans Theatre, Cie.W.Dorner or Pilottanz in Vienna, Sasha Waltz & Guests and Cie. Felix Ruckert in Germany). He has gained several international awards for his works Feather, Loose Leaf or Damnation.
Lucia Kašiarová is based in Prague where she is the co-founder of the civic association Altart, under which name she supports the interconnection of activities in the field of the Czech and Slovak contemporary dance. She is the director of the theatre Studio Alta, one of the most relevant places for staging modern dance in Prague. Apart from her own choreographies (Ala I-III and others) she works together with many national and international choreographers. For example with Jaro Vinarsky they created a duet Srdce ako postrelené vtáky (‘The Heart as Shot Birds’), with VerTeDance they created Kolik váží vaše touha (‘How much does your desire weigh?’), that was awarded the Dance Production of 2012; with Vanda Hybnerova Angel-y, and with Peter Machajdík Area.
Sona Feriencikova belongs to the youngest generation of producers. Since 2014 she has been working under her own civic association body. She has so far created a successfully staged solo Debody and she also initiated the creation of the performance Imago, directed by Lucia Kasiarova. As an interpreter she has been involved in several projects in Slovakia and in the Czech Republic. Among others she cooperates with Czech groups VerTeDance, Spitfire Company, Dutch UNITED-C Company and T.R.A.S.H Dance Collective and Slovak producers Jaro Vinarsky and Petra Fornayova.
Jana Terekova also belongs to the youngest generation. She was a member of the Elledanse Theatre Group. She is the co-founder of the civic association Bees-R, within which several interesting projects have arisen (a multimedia project Skúmanie javov- ‘Phenomena Research’, Creation 2014, See in the choreography of David Sportelli and others). She has cooperated on various dance and dance-theatrical projects of eg. Milan Kozanek, Petra Fornayova and Stanislava Vlcekova.
Peter Saval, a graduate of the prestigious P.A.R.T.S dance school in Brussels is one of the most interesting personalities of modern dance. His work includes eg Much More Then Nothnig (2013, in cooperation with Stano Dobak for the Czech group ME-SA), Boys Who Like to Play with Dolls (2014, in cooperation with the Czech dancer and choreographer Tereza Ondrova) and Bakcheia (2015, for the civic association body). They were selected to the best European choreographies of authors younger than 35 years at the Aerowaves Spring Forward festival. His last choreography so far, created again with Tereza Onrova and in the international coproduction is As Long As Holding Hands.
Zdenka Brungot Svitekova is a graduate of VŠMU in Bratislava, CND Paris and danceweb Vienna. She is one of the initiators and organisers of the festival ImproEvents Prague aimed at the stage improvisation. Her cooperation with the Czech choreographer Bara Latalova on performances for children is also very significant. Moreover, she cooperates with the improvisation group NA:U and the civic association SE.S.TA.
Renáta Ptacin (née Bubniakova) founded the BublaCompany in 2006, which works on interconnecting contemporary dance and musical stage forms (eg Kozmonauti ‘The Cosmonauts’). She was a member of the Dance Studio and Nova Scena companies, later she cooperated with national and international choreographers. Apart from her own production, she mostly works together with musical theatres.
The Tangere Dance-Theatre-Circus was founded in 1999 as a dance-theatre group under the artistic leadership of Jan Gonscak, the co-founder of the Moving Studio, which began to teach and promote the concept of recreational dance for the general public in Slovakia. Until 2014 it fused modern and contemporary dance styles and non-verbal theatre.
Sarka Ondrisova, an artistic director is known especially as a choreographer of classical and musical productions. She founded in 2007 elledanse, a dance school and theatre. Since its establishment she has sought to profile elle danse as an alternative theatre orientated towards contemporary trends. In 2008 its first production Canto Hondo (directed and choreographed by Sarka Ondrisova) won the Dosky Theatre Awards in three categories – direction, production and music. Every year there are several performances created in the theatre. The production of many of them has been enriched by the cooperation of Slovak and international producers – Taj dych ‘Hold your breath’ by a young choreographer Rado Piovarči, Lucia Holinova’s Watch, YouMakeRemake by an Israeli choreographer Renana Raz and others.
Bratislava Dance Theatre was founded by Jan Durovcik and Robert Mesko in 1997 as the first professional – in the sense of the employment relations of the dancers to the company – and private theatre of modern dance in Slovakia. Its existence followed the existence of the Durovcik’s Torzo Company (1993-1996). In 2005 Jan Durovcik established the Slovak Dance Theatre which, on the background of its works, belongs to the world of show business.