On a dark stage, light.
Josef Kotêšovsky and Jaro Ondruš are alone, separated by space and time. As Guide evolves, they will try to bridge the distance between them. Grasping for wormholes in walls of projected light, they will dance a shadow’s dance of evasion and frail encounters.
Light, mist and sound are the materials that craft the performance space, yet through them, choreographer Vera Ondrašíková and light designer Dan Gregor also engulf the audience: the stage disappears, covered by a mist that floats towards us, calling our empathy, may we see as one with the dancers.
I float, above this ethereal mass that has made the stage disappear before me, I am in the sky now, but then it becomes an ocean, and I see small waves grow taller and taller until they cover us all. Under water I hold my breath. Until the Jaro, like Atlas, lifts the pliable light.
When light becomes solid
Do you know the feeling when you look out of an airplane and you see the massive clouds so impassable that you cannot imagine falling through them? That feeling is so strong in the choreography of Vera Ondrašikova that the walls made up of light and smoke don’t let the performers meet. In this pseudo-duet between a man and his own future self, we only ever see one dancer at a time because of this solid, tactile lightwall, which acts as membrane, medium and transcendental border.
Their movements are guided by the hands, the creator part of the body. The man becomes a light-architect, but only as a second-hand creator – the light source is not under his control. At the vanishing point is the fount of every divine power: the radiant light which can cut space and time into slices.
Guide by Věra Ondrašíková is a dance with technology, so who leads?
An older man lights a candle with Promethian control. Glitchy electro sounds take charge and seem to compel the younger man’s limbs. A light projector (designed and synchronised perfectly by Dan Gregor) shoots its beam into life to battle the young man.
The stage is swamped in a beautiful sea of smoke, cut by a laser-thin spread of light: nothing can compete, the sound retracts and the man struggles, drowning. Finding the sea to be shallow, he reclaims human dominance using motion tracking technology: the submissive light is bent and moulded until a climactic storm of white noise engulfs us all.
A tedious two-projector segment follows, but man wins his fight against light: extinguishing the candle. A high-impact but heartless showcase of technical expertise and technique; ultimately more a choreography of effects than people.
Vera Ondrašikova’s Guide expertly conjures place: a universe almost sci-fi fantastic in its cinematic effect. Agile beams of white light slice through fog and electronic noise, delineating zones, establishing planes, glittering like the shards of an exploding mirror (one imagines the light technician gleefully pushing a large, red button marked ‘OVERDRIVE: WARP-SPEED’).
Two identically-dressed men navigate this graphic universe. Sometimes, geometries of light and shadow cut bodies into parts, an arm disappearing over here and re-appearing – presumably attached to another, hidden body – somewhere over there. The dancers seem to literally touch the virtual architecture and drag it around: tactile light!
For some, Guide will appear a profound commentary on our entanglement with smart technologies; others will decry it as a heap of special effects. Whatever your angle, it’s undeniable that Ondrašikova has a formidable talent for stagecraft and access to a whole lot of electricity.
From its opening premise – a soberly clothed man swizzling introspectively around a spare living space – you wouldn’t expect a bedazzling light show with intimations of cosmic mysticism. But Věra Ondrašíková’s Guide makes that quantum leap with considerable brio, messing with our heads with some light doppelganger drama along the way. Josef Kotesovsky and Jaro Ondrus are the identically dressed duo playing hide-and-seek between sheets of laser light that variously mimic cloudy stratospheres, tilting sea surfaces and assorted space-time warps. The men cut stark silhouettes as they pop out of and flit between these virtual zones, sonically imprinted with pounding beats, mellow moods and deafening blasts. When all that white light and noise return to a simple candlelight glow, we’re left rather spaced out – both a little empty emotionally (that mysterious doubleplay didn’t really go anywhere) and physically very wired.