2 + 4 Days in Motion International Theatre Festival

Logo of The Ponec Theatre

The 2+4 Days in Motion 7th International Theatre Festival is currently underway in Prague. Unlike the last four times, however, this year it is not taking place in unusual spaces such as the old sewage plant in Bubenec, or a former brewery but rather in one theatre only - the Ponec theatre in the district of Karlin. I spoke to the festival's artistic director Pavel Storek, to find out more:

Logo of The Ponec Theatre
"This year we are not in the non-theatrical spaces. We are using a classical theatre but will work in a non-traditional way, working with the flexibility of the theatre Ponec."

What countries are being represented?

"There are groups from around six countries. They are from Russia, Great Britain, Austria, Canada, Switzerland, and Germany."

Throughout the festivals that you have organised, how has the Czech audience's reaction and attraction to contemporary dance and theatre changed in the past few years?

" The reaction is very important to me because we invited companies that are different. We have a good Czech audience, and the festival is a kind of education and experiment with the audience. For them, of course, it's new and they never saw it but we are taking the risk because we have companies who are well known in their countries but unknown in the Czech Republic, so it is nice to present them in Prague."

How have the floods affected preparations for the festival?

"The concept of using this theatre (Ponec) was already planned before but we had plans to organise a concert in a night club and we cancelled it because there was one metre of water. We also lost our equipment in a cellar in Holesovice (a district of Prague), where we have festival equipment, lights, and some technology. But if I compare it with what the people in Karlin (another district of Prague) went through, I have to say that we still organised the festival but they lost their homes."

Talking about Karlin. The Ponec theatre is in Karlin, which was the biggest flood-affected area in Prague. Why did you chose the theatre in that case?

"Archa and Ponec are more or less the only theatres in Prague, which do not work with a resident company. Every night, there is a different company. The second reason is the fact that it is inside Karlin, which is a working class area and right in front of the theatre you see the policemen guarding off the Karlin district, which is like a dead zone. Since there is no tram or metro connection, the people who will come to the theatre will feel the effects of the floods when they arrive."

How has sponsorship has changed with the Czech Republic's preparations for EU membership?

"Abroad, the companies already view us as an EU member and not as a post-Communist country, as they did five years ago when they would give us discounts. Finding sponsorship is very difficult and is getting even more difficult because foundations are leaving further East to Asia and they think that we already have enough money for culture, here in the Czech Republic. This is not true, the opposite is more or less the case since there is no money for culture and the sponsors are leaving. So what we have left is grant support from the state and cities and sponsorship, which doesn't work at all as there are no good conditions for investments in culture. They invest in sports, for example, but culture is no longer interesting enough for them. We therefore have a big problem when trying to find money to organise international festivals."

What will be the highlight of this festival?

"It is hard to say because there are only eight performances and I like all of them. The first performance, Into the Blue by Jan Pusch from Germany, is very special work with dance and video art. The last performance Question for Next Year with Krystina Lhotakova, Soukup, and Gottliebova, which is contemporary dance is a very fragile and deep performance also. It's the opposite of the first one with different styles and different kind of dance."

As artistic director Pavel Storek just mentioned, "Question for Next Year" is a contemporary choreography for three performers: musician Ladislav Soukup and dancers Krystina Lhotakova and Ivana Gottliebova. The young and very talented Krystina Lhotakova is also the choreographer of the piece. Some of her past work includes "Venus with a Rubik's Cube" in which she focused on anorexic women and "Trans-It!" on people in motion in public places such as streets, parks, and train stations. What is unusual about "Question for Next Year" is that the two dancers featured are generations apart. Krystina Lhotakova:

"It's a performance for two dancers - I'm 25 years old and Iva Gottliebova is 77 years old. It's a confrontation between these two generations and it is a lot about Iva, about her history, and about the memory of an old lady in general. It was much different to work with her than with a dancer because the most difficult thing was to work with her memory of movements. This was a very long process that was very difficult. I hope that everyone can understand the piece and that it is not too abstract. It is a small story, which you can follow, and there is a third person on the stage who does the sound, the music and who is also a technical director. It is not a typical dance performance."

Krystina Lhotakova, found the 77 year-old Ivana Gottliebova at the Sokol organisation - a sports organisation that was established 140 years ago, at the time with the aim to create a healthy and strong Czech nation ready to fight for their national interests. Today, the less patriotic Sokol's most visible activities are traditional 'slets' which are small exercise displays with participants from all age groups. I asked Mrs Gottliebova how much she enjoyed being a part of the "Question for Next Year" performance, which differs greatly from traditional Sokol exercises:

"I've been very active in the Sokol since I was a child and I also teach physical education so when it comes to the physical aspect of it, I am in much better shape than psychologically. Whenever I said that I couldn't and wouldn't do it because I didn't like it, since I was brought up with the classic form of dance like the Swan Lake and the Nutcracker, they laughed at me, told me to forget about it and just follow them. So, I pulled myself together and forced myself to accept new movements that I doubted before. They are all very friendly and professional and with mutual patience it turned out well."

The 2+4 Days in Motion festival will also be accompanied by a weeklong series of workshops, auditions, and presentations of foreign performing arts artists such as Japanese choreographer and dancer Ryuzo Fukuhara, the South African performer Xoli Norman and director David Peimer, Dorita Hannah from New Zealand and many more. The accompanying programme will be held in the Alfred ve Dvore theatre under the artistic leadership of Tomas Zizka with the aim to recruit artists living in Prague to participate in a workshop project called "Heart of the Prague Quadrennial", to be launched next year.