Tanec Praha

One of the Czech Republic's most popular dance festivals is currently underway in several cities throughout the country.

Once again, all performances of the 13th International Festival of Contemporary Dance and Movement Theatre, "Tanec Praha 2001", are sold out. This year, it not only features European companies but also dancers from as far away as Canada and Israel. Dita Asiedu spoke to one of the festival's organiser's, Yvona Kreuzmannova:

"For thirteen years, we've been trying to develop modern dance, contemporary dance and movements here in the Czech Republic. The festival is taking place not only in Prague but also in Ostrava, Brno, and Hradec Kralove and we really want to enlarge the audience for dance throughout the whole country because it is very special. For our audience, in the beginning of the nineties, it was a very new art form and we really wanted to bring it here because it's very rich, diverse and interesting. Working internationally, it's very easy because you don't need any text. It's about combining different art disciplines at the same place and the same time."

For 13 years, Tanec Praha has concentrated on promoting modern and contemporary dance in the Czech Republic. So how has the company fared during a time which not only witnessed cultural and economic change but also saw the redrawing of the political map?

"In the beginning of the '90s there was no audience for dance. Nobody understood what contemporary dance was about. They saw that it was more about neo-classical ballet and didn't think that dance was much broader and closer to the daily life and other modern art. And then, it developed throughout the years and thanks to some sponsors we have more publicity and more visibility. We've also had a good design every year which showed that movement is very dynamic and very interesting. So, in the mid-nineties, there was a very big change and we started to have full houses and since then, they've been sold out almost every time."

One of the dance companies that gave an outstanding performance at the festival was the Czech-German duo, Cerna & Vanek Dance. Its founder, Karel Vanek was born in the Bohemian town of Litvinov, founded the company in Prague and then, in 1992, moved to Freiburg, Germany, where he was invited to join a theatre company. Mr Vanek has been living and working in Germany for nine years now and Dita Asiedu asked him to compare the lives of German dancers to their Czech counterparts:

"As a dancer in a big company, in a city company, in Germany, of course it's much easier. But Czech Dancers think that to be a dancer in Germany is like paradise but if you are a free-lance dancer it's more or less the same. Of course, if you earn money in Germany you earn more than here but then cost of living is also much higher. So, the living standard of the free-lance dancers is more or less the same as here... you can't get rich as a dancer."

...and if you want to hear more about the festival and indeed contemporary dance in the Czech Republic in general, tune in to Dita Asiedu's Arts programme, during the first week of July.