Lenka Vagnerová brings two dance pieces to 2014 Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Czech dance star's Riders and La Loba features Andrea Opavská, singer Jana Vébrová and actress Tereza Voríšková
This article is from 2014.
Czech dance star Lenka Vagnerová brings her company to Edinburgh with two shows about life and nature. Kelly Apter met her to discuss the subtle art of collaboration
As the judges take to the stage, the tension starts to mount. The 20th annual Czech Dance Platform (CDP) has just come to a close, and here in the Ponec Theatre on the outskirts of Prague, this year’s award-winners are about to be announced. In keeping with tradition, the four-day event has just ended with the winner of last year’s Best Dance Piece award: Lenka Vagnerová’s Riders, an energetic, poignant yet comic work for five performers, that explores our relationship with birds.
But now, sitting in the front row at Ponec, Vagnerová has her eye on another prize. Her contribution to this year’s Platform, La Loba, featured a stunning performance by dancer Andrea Opavská who is currently in the running for Dancer of the Year (an award Vagnerová herself scooped in 2005). Twenty minutes later, the mayor of Prague is back in his seat, the awards having all been distributed, and Opavská is wearing a broad smile, prize and bunch of flowers in hand.
For Vagnerová, who will bring both Riders and La Loba to the Fringe, it’s proof that starting her own company in 2012 was a wise move. Prior to that, she helped form Czech dance company DOT504 (who won over Fringe audiences with Holdin’ Fast and Man Hunt in recent years) and created work at home and abroad with Akram Khan among others.
When we meet in the picturesque Czech capital, Vagnerová has a new project in hand. A baby daughter is sitting in her lap as we chat, and who, in her own special way, influenced the making of La Loba (Vagnerová was pregnant during the work’s creation). A woman with a gentle manner but fiercely intelligent vision, Lenka Vagnerová has moved from performer to choreographer to company boss in just a few impressively short years.
‘I started the company because I wanted to work more deeply on my performances,’ she explains, ‘and I wanted to feel more free; I felt I was a bit squeezed. But mainly it was because I like to choose the people I work with; I wanted to collaborate with musicians, actors and singers.’
She got her wish. Both Riders and La Loba benefit from astute creative choices on Vagnerová’s part, bringing in talented collaborators both onstage and behind the scenes. Inspired by a South American folk tale, La Loba (or ‘wolf woman’) finds Opavská roaming the land in search of bones, which she then brings back to life. Joining her on stage is singer Jana Vébrová, whose atmospheric live vocals combine with the straw and bone-strewn stage and Opavská’s captivating movement style to create a powerful duet.
‘There are two performers in La Loba, but only one character,’ explains Vagnerová. ‘Having a singer and dancer is a nice combination, because what I was searching for in the movement qualities, Jana also has in her voice. But this woman isn’t just a person; she’s the whole earth. Earth gives life, but then takes the bones back; it recycles over and over.’
For Riders, Vagnerová looked to Czech film actress Tereza Voríšková to give the show a theatrical edge. Voríšková performs alongside four dancers, but viewers would be hard pressed to spot the difference. ‘Tereza did a great job,’ says Vagnerová. ‘She came to dance class every day, and I pushed her so much she probably hated me. But I think everybody can move and dance, you just have to find a way how.’
Riders: 2–10 Aug (not 7), 5pm, £12 (£10). Preview 1 Aug, £10
La Loba: 12–25 Aug (not 18), 5pm, £10 (£8).
Both at Zoo Southside, Nicolson Street, 0131 662 6892