The Taming of the Shrew - What's Teasing...

Dance news - Roman Vašek


Shakespeare is a bottomless well of inspiration, and this also applies to various ballet treatments. The Taming of the Shrew, though built largely on verbal humour and sparkling conversation, is one of the choreographers' favourites. In the Czech ballet milieu, we are familiar with John Cranko's masterful version with music by Kurt Heinz Stolze, based on Domenico Scarlatti, which was staged by the Prague National Theatre fifteen years ago. But there have also been purely Czech ballet adaptations. The original musical composition by Oldřich Flosman was staged in the early 1960s in Liberec by Věra Untermüllerová and in the mid-1980s in Brno by Daniel Wiesner. This Shakespearean material has enjoyed great popularity in recent years. Last year, Robert Balogh staged this title in Olomouc, using a musical collage of Edward Elgar's compositions. Marika Hanousková worked with the compositions of several Russian composers and this spring presented The Taming of the Shrew in Ústí nad Labem. Jan Kučera wrote brand new music for the current Pilsen premiere.

Kučera is one of the most active Czech composers and his compositions The Taming of the Shrew is after The Three Musketeerswhich was performed by the Ostrava Ballet, the second great work for the dancers. It is music that serves the choreographer well - uncomposed, brisk, in a good sense danceable. Compared to The Three Musketeers is more colourful, drawing inspiration from a wide range of musical styles. The predilection for jazz is especially recognizable. Kučera got along well with the choreographer Alena Pešková in the overall grotesque tone of the work. The music is characteristically playful - at one point the composer and conductor even had the orchestra players themselves sing. In keeping with the choreography, the music drives the story by leaps and bounds, without respite. Pešková enjoys working with a live orchestra, which is not usually available on her home stage in Liberec. The orchestra has to be wary of props threatening to fall off the stage, and there's even a small mimed conversation between Petrucci and the conductor in one scene.

Alena Pešková in the topic The Taming of the Shrew she's obviously found it. She rightly grasped the theme as timeless. She has set the story - judging mainly by the costumes and props - somewhere in the mid-20th century in the temperamental, sun-drenched south, which is not necessarily Padua. At times it is reminiscent of Goldoni's Italy, at others more of Latin America, especially when a sort of Mexican band with typical sombreros comes on stage. In the dance language, the choreographer takes her inspiration from popular dances of the last century - different variations of spontaneous swing reign supreme, but in one of the taming duets there is also a tango. Just don't lose the tempo!


Pešková chose the main themes and characters from the colourful story, for which she found the exact characterisation and typification thanks to the excellent dancers. Jarmila Hrushkociováis the perfect representation of the irrepressible Katherine. She is an unstoppable fury, an elemental that destroys everything that comes in its way. Even in a quarrel with her sister Bianca, she is almost tortured and tied up with ropes. Petruccio is not left behind at all. From the first moment he enters the stage, he presents himself as a dapper little dude who simply has no time for pretense. He's always checking his watch to make sure he doesn't miss any of the fun. A surprisingly mature performance in this role is given by the young Gaëtan Pires!

The choreographer managed to translate the dialogues of the two main characters into the language of dance very well. The duet tells, explains. Actually, Pešková manages to convey the whole story through purely dance and mime means in a very comprehensible way, without making the viewer feel disproportionately descriptive.

The other motifs and characters of the comedy are also well sketched - especially the relationship of Bianca (already a Nordic type Sara Aurora Antikainen the opposite of the temperamental Catherine) and Lucenzia (Justin Rimke), the figure of the pantate Battista Minola in grotesque exaggeration Miroslava Hradila or the figure of the Priest in an energetic conception Jiří Žaluda. The courting duet between Hortensio and the Widowmaker, who comes on stage with a live dog, is humorously constructed.

The first half of the production in particular is like a tidal wave. Grotesque acting actions alternate with spontaneous dance performances. There are a few less sophisticated and dumber spots in the second half, but the finale itself, which is a credo for a happy partnership in which tactics and female weapons must be employed, is an excellent punctuation to the production. The Taming of the Shrew is one of Alena Pešková's best works to date. It is no fun to entertain well and cleverly.



Written from the premiere on 17 November 2018, J. K. Tyl Theatre, Plzeň.


The Taming of the Shrew
Music by Jan Kucera
Libretto, choreography and direction by Alena Pešková
Scene by Richard Pešek
Costumes: Ales Valasek
Lighting design by Jakub Sloup
Premiere: 17. 11. 2018


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