The day I arrived in Prague for Czech Dance Platform (CDP), I visited the city’s new visual art space Kunsthalle Praha. There, as part of an exhibition exploring the concept of Bohemia as a cultural movement, I saw a black-and-white photograph by Babette Mangolte of Trisha Brown’s Roof Piece (1973), in which dancers spread across New York rooftops signal to each other using their bodies. Somehow, this image imprinted on my brain. As a result, Brown’s work, and the dichotomy between theatricality and postmodernism became the lens through which I found connections between the four performances I saw at CDP 2023.
While training at Laban, London, I was unconvinced by the everyday minimalism revered by the American postmodernists of the 60s and 70s. I was a devout believer in overt emotion and theatricality – preferably used to make a socio-political point – and dubious about Yvonne Rainer’s No Manifesto’s rejection of magic, make-believe, glamour and eccentricity. So Boom Vol. 2, by Prague-based new circus company Cirk La Putyka should have hit my 18-year-old self’s sweet spot. Choreographed by Rotislav Novák, the piece is billed as a bombastic exploration of Generation Z and their obsession with social media. This said, the majority of the work focuses on the effect of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the students of Kyiv Municipal Academy of Variety and Circus Arts, who Cirk La Putyka invited to Prague and collaborated with on Boom Vol. 2. Cocooned in warm layers as if arriving from a long journey, the Ukrainian students emerge from the side of the stage, tentatively edging towards the Czech artists. Eventually, two boys extend their arms towards each other, one placing his hand on the other’s heart. Moments such as this, as well as weight sharing-duets and spoken accounts of how, for want of a common language, the artists communicate through the medium of circus, are tender and thought-provoking.