Through (Skrz) - A Student Journey Through The Difficulties Of Life

For the second time now, the traditional student choreography of 3 year students at the Konzervatoř Duncan centre was entrusted to one of their alumni, Jiří Bartovanec. In the production Skrz (Through), the students used choreography to find ways to negotiate the obstacles and pitfalls which a young person encounters on their journey through life alone. An interesting and impressive piece resulted, albeit with minor shortcomings. 

Through. Photo: Adéla Horelicová.

Through. Photo: Adéla Horelicová.

Clara Zanga Author Clara Zanga

The dancers stand closely huddled together on a bare stage, wearing an airy black costume and hairdos, which effectively unify the girls (not so much the four boys), and give their faces a dramatic expression. The choreography does not linger on a superfluous, drawn-out introduction, it gets straight into the action - that is, the dance. Through is largely a dance piece, and doesn’t really include any other theatrical forms, as is common. This is definitely good for the students, who were able to dance to their heart’s content. 

The production aims to show the journey of young, hopeful people who are looking for a way out of the complications and pitfalls life throws at them. In a wider context, the struggles of the first part of one’s life are currently being debated publicly. For example, the newspaper Deník N has warned of the so-called ‘quarter life crisis’, and this was loosely followed up by the magazine Respekt. We can therefore definitely consider Through to have widened this debate and busted the romanticised myth that it is always easy to be young. One welcome aspect is that this theme of finding one’s place in the world is tailor-made for dancers who are themselves on the threshold of adulthood. After all, it is based on the student’s own work in their creation class. 

However, the truth is that this piece stays mainly on an abstract and imaginative level, it would be possible to project a whole range of different themes onto the choreography, not just that of a young person’s struggle with their outer and inner worlds. Overall, this piece is dark, dramatic and feels something like a thriller. It is slightly lacking the hope of young people, as is discussed in the annotations, as if all hope and the chance of a positive ending disappeared, at least emotionally. The music also supports this dramatic mood: Martin Tvrdý’s original electronic music is broken up by excerpts of Gustav Mahler and Wolfgang A. Mozart. 

It cannot be denied that Jiří Bartovanec brings a great deal of originality, in the performance movement clichés are kept to an absolute minimum, instead he delights with a string of surprising moments. For example when the students are crowded together at the hall’s rear wall, bringing about a significant feeling of distress and the other dancers slowly and carefully climb over their backs. These figures are partly spoiled by a particular uncertainty among the young dancers, especially the visible trembling of their bodies. 

Through. Photo: Adéla Horelicová.

However, the production is hampered by several scenographic clichés. One I’ll mention is the use of microphones, through which two girls silently speak to each other whilst surrounded by the other dancers. The microphone is likely supposed to be a symbol of intensification, arguments and settling of accounts. Often in productions, a microphone is taken by the character who is supposed to be dominant in a given piece. They are often used as a metaphor for the media or a public debate. In any case, their use, along with megaphones, is starting to be a bit overdone. Maybe this shows the limited collaboration between the scenographer and the choreographer in contemporary dance. 

Much of the first half of the choreography takes place in large group scenes. These are dynamic and energetic, supported by the well chosen rhythmic music. In some places, the effect is hampered by lack of synchronisation of the ensemble. This is especially due to the fact that several of the students are not completely mature in their movements and others, conversely, were ‘killing it’. Another factor might be that similarly large performances of thirteen dancers are usually reserved for slightly larger spaces than the Duncan centre theatre in Prague. 

In the second half when the dancers change out of their black costumes and into their sweaters and shorts, as if they become themselves again, we also see more solo parts and duets. These greatly improve the overall impression of the choreography and allow for some exceptional individual performances. 

Out of everyone I will single out Tobias Gočaltovský who, in an excellent scene, is suspended and hovers above his colleagues making elegant figures in the air. This is all supported by the apt lighting from underneath which displays only the silhouette of his body. Emily Jane Steele also impressed with her clean, mature and universal dance display. Karolína Fejtová stood out too with an emotional and well-received solo towards the end of the production. These three, plus others, are the upcoming generation of movement art. 

Overall, this was an above-average and multi-layered student piece. Of course, Jiří Bartovanec must take a great deal of credit for his presumed role as a capable coach. The aforementioned imperfections must be taken into account but that doesn’t change the fact that the artistic process was likely a very important and formative experience for the students. After all, they showed this not only through their energy and enthusiasm, but also through their gift, which they dedicated to their mentor after the performance. 

Written after the 11th June 2021 premiere.


Skrz (Through)
Choreography: Jiří Bartovanec
Assistant choreographers: Dora Sulženko Hoštová, Julie Kubrychtová
Music: Martin Tvrdý, Gustav Mahler, W. A. Mozart
Costumes: Eva Judová
Sound: Michaela Švédová
Photography: Adéla Horelicová
Performers: Simona Bednaříková, Karolína Fejtová, Tobiáš Gočaltovský, Miroslav Goroľ, Tomáš Havlík, Veronika Helclová, Amelie Lea Janáková, Aneta Kellnerová, Adéla Malíková, Lucie Němčáková, Eliška Perutková, Ondřej Růžička, Emily Jane Steele


Translation: Aaron Bohlman

Témata článku

Duncan CentreJiří Bartovanec