EFFE Laureate - Tanec Praha Festival
Location: Prague, Czechia
Director: Yvona Kreuzmannova
Nearly thirty years after the implosion of communist regimes across Europe it seems to be a sad fact that audiences have proved to be slower to respond to changing times than political systems. The near ossification that the regimes imposed on the arts from the start of the Nazi era until 1990 meant that two generations learned to have profoundly conservative expectations of the arts. The artists themselves, however, were desperate to explore new thinking, styles and techniques.
It was against this background that Yvona Kreuzmannova, fresh from a year's scholarship in Paris, started the Tanec Dance Festival in Prague in 1991, gradually introducing audiences, venues and dancers alike to the genres that had already been a part of the tradition in Western Europe for decades. “There was only Russian ballet and folk dancing,” she says, “and we needed to show the young that something else was going on.”
The process has been an uphill struggle, she admits. “It takes time, and we still have a big fight with many of the institutions over budgets,” but the understanding is growing. “Now at last we are respected by the main venues, and not just in Prague. We are starting to engage with other regions.” She is proud that the festival now takes in nearly twenty other towns and villages round the country - which is progress, if slow.
As one of the EFFE Jurors said, “They are attempting here to make a much needed statement about contemporary dance and its viability. It's not there yet, though, by any means. It's at an interesting halfway but it shouldn't be underestimated. It's a really strong attempt to establish their own ideas of modernity in dance in a place where everything was about theatre or tutus.” Without Tanec, he went on, “there is no internationally renowned contemporary dance programme in the Czech Republic”.
Yvona says that “as well trying to bring dance to the whole country we know it is important to compare Europe with others and so increasingly we are working with the rest of the world, with Asia and Latin America.” She feels it is important to challenge audiences’ self-imposed limitations. As one of her themes stated, “we are not responsible for your imagination”.
Simon Mundy for EFA