How did you become the Slovak National Theater Ballet Director?
The SND Director General Marián Chudovský called me, we met and agreed that I would take on this role. I have always valued the opportunity to work in the Slovak National Theater, at first as a dancer and now as the Ballet Director. It was this honor, the opportunity to be involved with the SND again, that made me accept his offer.
The time when you took on this role was not the easiest – what did you set as your priorities?
It does not matter much, when you start in this role. The circumstances were not too optimistic, but we dealt with it reasonably fast. There were three things to tackle as priorities: building and stabilizing the ensemble of performers; orienting the repertoire to the classic ballet pieces with historic legacy as well as to contemporary works and staging original projects.
Many people cannot imagine what does it mean to manage a ballet ensemble. Could you give as an idea?
I can literally only give you an idea, as this work is very complex and there are many things you have to develop, manage and directly create. I communicate with people directly and via emails in connection with managing the ensemble’s work and its future plans. When necessary I travel to meet a potential partner and negotiate the details. I am actively searching for even better relationships with the public so that the SND Ballet is known more and differently than it has been until now. All of this is based on a good quality communication, correct, but hard negotiations, and diplomacy when dealing with issues that occur along the way. No director could deal with this on his own, without a good team of colleagues.
Three new performances had their world premiere at the SND Ballet in one season and each of them has been successful. From your perspective, which one was the most complicated one, the most stressful?
World premieres season was a result of years-long preparations of two projects and one change brought by budget modifications. We did not want to lose any of the scheduled premiere times, therefore we had to ‘fast track’ one of the projects. Nijinsky was the one with the most extensive preparation and implementation phases. However well you prepare a project, you do not escape stress situations. You can anticipate many things and try to eliminate them in advance, but something else will come up that is out of your control. You have to respond fast and effectively, of course.
How long does the preparation of a new performance take? For the ensemble, it starts with the rehearsal process – when does it begin for you?
Preparation for us starts in the moment when we decide to stage a production. You need guarantees and agreements in place to secure the production in the dramaturgical plan. In reality that means that we are now negotiating about the 2018/2019 and later seasons.
What do you need to keep in mind, how many things do you need to plan?
You need a goal in the first place, and a strategy how to get there. As in every other business. The difference is that theater has its specific mission and operates in a certain cultural context. It commits to a contract with the public and a part of its budget comes from the tickets sales. When planning, you move between what you want to offer the public and how you want to create it, with who and for how much. That is why choosing members of the ensemble and advertising outside and within “the company” also become part of your strategy. This sounds very dry and theoretical, but you cannot move forward without it. You remember past seasons because they have information that helps you navigate the future. This is called an informed estimate. It concerns the dramaturgical, budget and also human resources planning. We would not be artists if we did not want to bring some “magic” into the theatrical world, so I do admit – intuition is partly involved, too.
You have to deal with awkward situations in the process. Can you recall a lighter, funny story connected with preparations?
Maze of information does create quite funny situations sometimes. When organizing one gala concert, the director saw my name and thought that my father was going to perform – he was not quite sure how my dad in his 70s is going to manage on stage. We were both relieved when we found out that a graphic mistake moved my name from the organizers among the performers.
SND Ballet is staging the premiere Romeo and Juliet – Same as Yesterday… with choreography by Natália Horečná. What can the audience expect?
We are bringing a project that tells the famous story and also comments on currently very important issues. Naturally, all of this has always been in Shakespeare’s plays. By using the expressive devices of the contemporary dance theater in Natália Horená’s distinctive language we want to remind the audience the importance of love in our life. Each of us has the duty to tip the scales towards the good.