Author Monika Štúrová, Dance News - Special Edition 2019
In April 2019, the public was surprised Alena Pešková the unexpected news of the end of her tenure as head of the ballet company of the F. X. Šalda in Liberec. As a choreographer in the Liberec company, she also prepared one successful premiere every year, for example Periferie (2010), The Nutcracker (2012), Gustav Klimt (2013), Gazdina roba (2015) and this year's Storm by A. N. Ostrovsky's. In addition to The Tempest, A Christmas Carol, choreographed and directed by Richard Ševčík.
In hindsight, don't you regret your decision to leave the Liberec ensemble?
No, I think it was high time for me as an artist and a person and an ensemble.
In an interview for Dance Actuality immediately after your resignation, you talked about the last three drops (impossibility of solo contracts, cooperation with the opera, cancellation of third premieres) - has anything changed since then?
On that one point, it was the reassignment of some dancers to the 12th grade, where I think they got lucky. I am not entirely sure if I am well informed, but I think that the director spoke to representatives of the Dance Association of the Czech Republic and I suspect that she came to the conclusion that these dancers should be placed in grade 12, which I am very happy about. At least if nothing else, this is worth it. As for the third premierships that were to be cancelled, give or take three years, they are saved.
Can you somehow grasp what the years you've spent in Liberec? What did it teach you?
Some things seemed very positive at first, but in the end, if you have too much of something, it's bad. I had no desire to lead a company when I started, but it came at a time when I felt the need to pass on my style to the dancers in the longer term, so it seemed like a great challenge. So, for example, the first positive I felt was that nobody was talking too much into the dramaturgy. That's the dream of a choreographer, an artist... But it has its pitfalls. Complete freedom is not always a win artistically, and I think that theatre, even regional theatre, when it is a three-ensemble theatre, should have a chief dramaturge. It should have a face, an originality. I don't think it would matter at all if each regional theatre was a little different, specific. The specificity of Liberec is that it is so small that it works in one cast, with all that it entails - the negative and the positive. You're afraid of someone getting sick, you don't have the possibility of competition between people. There are the types of dancers who blossom on their own from that feeling of being unique and would never make it if there was competition behind them. On the other hand, then there are the other types of dancers who, if they don't have competition, they are very difficult to work with, they don't feel responsible, they feel that nobody is going to replace them anyway... Anyway, dancers in one cast have one big advantage, if you just think about the dress rehearsal week, if there are three casts, the dancer barely gets on stage, barely touches the partner, the prop, once he's in costume he's off. Then the experience is different.
In your opinion, what are the strengths of the Liberec ballet company? What makes it stand out among other Czech companies?
I don't know if I'm capable of being objective. I think the dancers there are very versatile because they have to....
What did you choose the titles based on? I guess you were limited by the number of dancers? I suppose you couldn't do big titles.
When I was working for Liberec, I had to make the big titles a bit alienated. The roles overlapped in different ways... maybe it was a bit specific that we didn't play that he's sticking on a beard... just at the moment when it's an indifferent crowd, it can be a character from another image. The Storm is not a small title either, it could easily take an ensemble of sixty...we do it with fourteen people. I've also always tried to make sure that the repertoire is balanced, we always have something lighter, dramatic, something for families, something for connoisseurs... I've also tried to highlight regional themes a bit, we've put on titles like Ota-Pavel-Rashka or Café Reichenberg.
And could you name any exceptional productions that you are particularly proud to have been performed in the Liberec Ballet?
As far as my choreographies are concerned, I think the first premiere was a success, if I may say so. That was Peripheries. Then I liked the performance Harald Daniel Zabi, Kerosene lamps Libor Vaculik, or House of Bernarda Alba by Marika Hanouska.
Several dancers have announced their contracts will be terminated at the end of the season. Are they leaving because you're leaving?
Not quite. Part of it has to do with what happened before. I wanted to make some amends for letting some dancers go to other activities in the industry. I get it, it's always an asset, an intelligent dancer will pick up the experience and bring it back to the company. But it has to have its limits. It was no longer tenable, then only those who rehearsed over and over were left in the hall, so I announced to the company that this would change from the next year and because some dancers were throwing themselves in another direction, they preferred something else. From the audition we picked good dancers, partly experienced, partly from school...If they all start now, it will be something to watch.
How do you perceive the relationship of the audience to the Liberec ballet? Is it well attended?
Since I joined Liberec, I think the attendance has increased a lot, but it could look much better. It's kind of the city's job, too. City leaders and elites should point out more often that Liberecers have their own ballet to be proud of.
You will have a premiere in Liberec in the new season. What kind of title will it be? Are you already rehearsing?
No, no, we're not trying yet. Now the Bolshoi is being renovated, so it's going to be exciting because the theatre is due to be handed over at the beginning of November and the opening night is on 15 November. So if we can have ten rehearsals in the space, it's going to be a lot... plus we'll have new people coming in. We're going to The servant of two masterswhich I am transporting from the time Goldoni intended to the plus-minus 1930s, jazz dance theatre. Rehearsals don't start till after the summer. There are no new dancers in now.
What would you say to the future of the ensemble, to Marika Hanouska?
All the best! I'd love it if everything worked out there, and I hope it does. Even better than before. I especially wish they would improve their collaboration with the opera, it's very annoying, I think the overall position of ballet in multi-company theatres should be improved - an opera soloist is no more than a ballet soloist, there's only quality...other comparisons fall short.
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