Interpretations of Humanity Through Dance: An Interview with Choreographer Dan Datcu
“Mountain Call” is one of three presentations that will explore humanity through contemporary ballet this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Photo Credit: Ctibor Bachraty/Balet NdB
Brno, Sept. 21, 2022 (BD) – This Friday, with the many difficulties of the world as the context, Janáček Theatre will stage “Bolero”, a three-part exploration of humanity and identity through the contemporary ballet interpretations of three different choreographers.
Johan Inger, a well-regarded Swedish choreographer, will begin the evening with “Walking Mad”; Dan Datcu will continue with “Mountain Call”; and Mário Radačovský, the Artistic Director of Ballet NdB, will close the show with his interpretation of “Unanswered Question”.
The premiere is Friday at 7pm, with additional performances scheduled for 24 and 25 September, and 1, 20, and 26 October.
Click here to see the English-version NdB website for the complete schedule, ticket information, and more details.
* * * * *
Dan Datcu hails from Constanţa, a Romanian port city on the Black Sea, and received his professional education as a ballet dancer in Bucharest. He then moved through several European cities and ballet companies, including Vienna; Bratislava; Mecklenburg, Germany; the Slovenian National Theatre in Ljubljana; and, from 2014-16, the Brno National Theatre.
In 2010, while still dancing, he branched out into choreography, winning the first prize and the critic’s award at a contest in Belgrade, Serbia. In his final year in Brno, he choreographed “Obliviously Aware”. He also contributed to a performance based upon the theme of Mozart in 2018.
“Mountain Call” is 25 minutes long and an original piece created specifically for the Brno National Theatre. It touches on folkloric motifs and rituals within the contemporary context.
You had a long career as a dancer. When did you start with choreography?
When I was young we were asked to watch performances in the city where I was born. I was enchanted by the magical world, especially what was happening on stage and how it was supported. All of the machinery and the way that everything was synchronized to the music, the dance and the performance. What made the impression on me was the arrangement of everything.
What was the inspiration for “Mountain Call”?
I focused on folklore and I looked into my own culture. That was the start for this piece. With everything that is going on in the world, I think that cultural identity should be celebrated. It is a way for us to look forward to a more peaceful world. It is a way to respect other cultures and learn. We are in this world of technology. I think a lot of ancient wisdom has been forgotten.
The published description of “Mountain Call” explains that it will address the themes of birth, marriage, and life and death. How do you bring these to life?
Folklore works with images. It is a lot about rituals that regard the major moments of life. The passing, the birth, marriage. It is a lot of about the intimate connections. You have the rituals that bring the community closer. “Mountain Call” is mainly a dance piece where there is a lot of group action. There are individual solos, but the focus is on the group — the people going through those phases of life together.
What aspects drew you to the concept of folklore?
I focused on where I come from. The Balkan area has a beautiful concept. It is in French, too: la mort mariage. Death and marriage are in the same phrase. In the Balkans, we celebrate death as a wedding. Conceptually, you get married to the cosmos. It is a passing towards something bigger. Culturally there may be some difference with Moravian (folklore), but I am sure that what I bring on with the music is very relatable. The ballet company is international. They responded beautifully to the music. I think what I chose is understandable and emotional. The music really comes through.
What type of music will be used?
The music is by Balanescu String Quartet and, originally, by Maria Tanase. It represents the essence of Romanian culture. Balanescu took a series of songs from her, which were from the villages and continued by oral tradition and embedded for many hundreds of years, and reorchestrated them with a string quartet on top. It offered me a good texture to play with choreographically.
What were the steps of the creative process?
I get inspired by what I see, how I feel about the world today. In a way, for me choreography is a way of coping with aspects of my life and my place in society. It starts with a small idea. Then I think, that is interesting, I can go into developing that into something. In this case, I prepared the dance material myself, before I went into the studio. Then I teach it to the dancers. I explain where it is coming from and what it represents. I am open to the moment and how it adapts to the body. If a dancer is interested in their own artistic impulse, then I like the sculpt and adapt it. Slowly, we put more steps together and movement material is built up.
What is it like to watch your choreography performed?
At the premiere I would say that I cannot sit and relax. You are worried about a constellation of things. It is not just the steps, it is the steps and the music, and everything else. It is not an easy process. The joy comes in the third performance when you have already accepted that the piece is done and the piece has taken on a life of its own.
“Mountain Call” was choreographed specifically for NdB. Did you have specific dancers in mind?
There are some people with whom I collaborated for 12 years. It was important for me that everyone had a place. Next to those people I added people that I didn’t know. There are dancers who are 20 years old and dancers who are close to their 40s. I like that combination of young and very experienced dancers.
Traditional folklore costumes are often complex and not ballet-like. What will the dancers wear?
I worked with Alexandra Grusková. It was my wish that stage design and the costumes stayed black and white because I see the music as extremely colorful. The idea was to have the music as the drop of color. We are using white shirts and black cargo pants. I went for a unisex look. I wanted to push a little of the idea of sexual equality. Every cut for every dancer is (a little different). We tried to find different identities. The idea of the cargo pants was more about street wear to bring in a contemporary element to not follow too much the folklore line, but kind of break it a bit.
Is there a narrative arc for the themes, like birth to marriage to death?
You will have to see the performance. There are transitions, but it is not linear. It goes back to La mort, marriage. Death as marriage. That is something I worked with as a transition and there are bridges between (other important events).
What do you want the audience to leave with?
When you are confronted with a painting or a performance or music, the nice part about it is the way it makes you feel. Without culture we would not be in such a good place. In every economic crisis, it seems that art is the first thing that is cut. We are seen as whipped cream and it is not seen as important as things that really have a function in society. That is the beauty of art.