A Fairytale About Power – What is happening in TANEC PRAHA?

There is an artistic anarchy in the PONEC Theatre. On the last day of November, the position of artistic director, which had been held for two years and three months by Markéta Perroud, was abolished. However, the announcement to the professional public came, somewhat unusually, by email on Friday 24th November, and only to selected artists and collaborators of the organisation (the full original Czech text of the letter can be found here). It was signed by Yvona Kreuzmannová, the founder and director of TANEC PRAHA, the organization under which the PONEC theatre falls. And the reactions from the artistic community did not wait long. Let's sum up the status quo of the public debate at the moment, which, at least in the world of contemporary dance, is far from a peaceful Christmas time.

Josef Bartoš. Photo: Michal Hančovský,

Josef Bartoš. Photo: Michal Hančovský,

Josef Bartoš Author Josef Bartoš

After Yvona Kreuzmannová's press release went public, the social networks were flooded with exclusively negative feedback commenting on the unclear meaning of this event. Petr Boháč (director of Spitfire Company) asked in his Facebook post: "Is this the announcement of the dismissal of the current director, Markéta Perroud, wrapped up in a radical management and leadership change of the PONEC Theatre, or is it a change that can be interpreted as an earthquake and that has been prepared for a long time, after a precise analysis and evaluation of the needs of the theatre operation?" Even a manifesto called For TANEC PRAHA (here) was written and signed by over 300 prominent Czech representatives of dance and movement art, including the professional organization Vize Tance, which promised to be a mediator between the general public and TANEC PRAHA. Yvona Kreuzmannová responded with an offer of a personal meeting on Wednesday 20th December and an extensive commentary (original Czech text available here).

In response to her comment, however, Jitka Pavlišová and Maja Hriešik publicly objected to the misuse of their names (original Czech text available here). “However, not only were any of our questions or arguments never adequately communicated and discussed, but - as we find out - they were even, completely out of context and in a fundamentally distorted wording, explicitly used for the purposes of Yvona Kreuzmannová's rhetoric defending her concept of re-structuring and re-personalization of the PONEC Theatre (notabene TANEC PRAHA in general)."

But this is not the end of the matter. Last Friday Marta Ljubková, Jitka Pavlišová and Markéta Málková resigned from the jury of the Czech Dance Platform with the following justification: "In the current situation, we consider it impossible to remain on the CDP jury and hereby resign our membership." (quoted from an e-mail provided by one of the resigning members)

As is evident from the preceding paragraphs, the TANEC PRAHA organization and PONEC theatre are experiencing a turbulent period that brings many questions and almost no answers. The original email talked about the absence of strategic leadership, however the announcement of the abolition of a crucial position comes three months after season have already started with the change happening in less than a week. Moreover, the position of the artistic director should be replaced by a team of advisors to the newly appointed executive director, Hana Pelánková (yes, just advisors, apparently without executive authority), about whom we learn nothing further. The original email also mentions that the team members are overloaded, but in the Facebook comments, those mentioned have also expressed themselves and claimed that they certainly don't feel that way. In addition, the whole email was written in an impersonal tone, which Petr Boháč commented on Facebook as follows: "I dare to say, and I am sorry to write this, that the whole announcement of the abolition of the position of artistic director is written in a somewhat tendentious language full of purposeful phrases."

Although the whole affair is now being presented by TANCE PRAHA as a poorly communicated affair, I believe that the problem lies elsewhere. Marta Ljubková touched on it in her personal and honest confession, which she formulated in response to Yvona Kreuzmannová's initial e-mail. She pointed to the theme of the power that Yvona Kreuzmannová concentrates in her hands. "This is also why I decided to write this rather personal letter, perhaps it is also related to the CGT (Culture Get Together Conference – editor's note) in September, where we both spoke, Yvona. In the discussion that followed, someone asked about your 'power' on Discord (communication platform – editor’s note) and you said that you don't have any power, that politicians have power. At that moment it struck me – of course you do, you are the most powerful woman in Czech dance – and it sounds celebratory, admiring, but there is a sting in it." (Quoted from Marta Ljubková's e-mail)

Yvona Kreuzmannová's power is unusually great. She is one of the leading representatives of Czech dance abroad, thanks to the Czech Dance Platform and TANEC PRAHA festivals. Her voice has an equally strong influence on our political representation, with whom she often negotiates for better conditions for Czech professional dance. We can be glad that we have such a person in the field. Few will lend themselves to tiresome debates with politicians that require a thick skin (for example, explaining to new and new ministers of culture why a professional, non-established scene is important). The sting, however, is that such a strong voice can swiftly overwhelm or perhaps completely thwart the efforts of someone else who finds himself in its disfavour. And no, it's not necessary to have an official position, as Yvona Kreuzmannová defends herself when she claims in her answers that she left the management at PONEC Theatre entirely to her colleagues less than three years ago. Power exists even without an official position.

Moreover, this case brings with it an unpleasant aftertaste. Markéta Perroud was dismissed from her position as artistic director in the same year that her mandate as a member of the expert commission for the field of dance at the Ministry of Culture ended. This commission decides on the distribution of state subsidies in the Cultural Activities programme and therefore brings with it a great deal of power over Czech dance, as it is the most significant financial resource for the Czech independent scene. No member of the commission can vote on their own or collaborating projects and therefore Markéta Perroud could not directly influence the vote on PONEC Theatre or its other activities. Nevertheless, membership on the panel brings with it considerable attention from the applicants, i.e. all representatives of the Czech dance and movement scene, and consequently power outside the meetings of this expert panel. Perroud, however, lost this power with her departure from the commission, and it is therefore questionable to what extent the cancellation of her position in the theatre is related to this. Whatever the case, the timing really doesn't favour it. 

Markéta Perroud has not yet commented on the whole affair.

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