• By: Karen Temple

Ottawa audience captivated by Slovak Dance Theatre Company

On the 33rd anniversary of the Velvet Revolution and the Struggle for Freedom and Democracy Day (November 17) that precipitated the fall of communism in then Czechoslovakia, his Excellency Ambassador of Slovakia to Canada Vit Koziak and the Embassy of Slovakia in Canada hosted an evening of culture.

In his opening remarks, Koziak acknowledged the Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Canada, Mr. Bořek Lizec. The former sister country endured the communist Soviet occupation and co-celebrate the same holiday.

Those in attendance unfamiliar with the land-locked middle-European country couldn’t help but be impressed with the economy as described by Ambassador Koziak. He noted that Slovakia is the car-building capital of Europe and that world-leading tech companies such as IBM, Lenovo, Dell, AT&T, and Accenture have invested in the country because of the university talent, innovation, and location on the continent.

ABOVE: His Excellency Ambassador of Slovakia to Canada Vit Koziak and Mrs. Janka Koziakova with the cast of Carmen from Slovak Dance Theatre.

Guests of the event at the Canadian Museum of History included Assistant Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons Carol Hughes, MP and the Chair of Canada Slovakia Parliamentary Friendship Group Michelle Rempel Garner, MP, Canadian government officials and business, academic and cultural contacts from the Slovak community in Canada.

The Slovak Dance Theatre performed its modern interpretation of the 19th-century opera Carmen, the story of an unbound Andalusian gypsy girl and a soldier, Don José.

As the gypsy temptress seduces Don José, the storyline unfolds with excellent choreography. The audience engages with the performers, recognizing the shallowness of Carmen and wanting to holler warnings to the handsome yet impressionable Don José, “Don’t do it.” But it’s too late.

ABOVE: Carmen, performed by Martina Hartl, seduces Raffaelle Zarrella’s Don José. 

The beautiful gypsy woman pulls the soldier into her web, but it isn’t long before she finds another man to seduce. Choreographed and directed by Ján Ďurovčík, the ballet introduced elements of Eastern European dance with the character of the matador Escamillo, who captivates the beautiful Carmen with his unique dancing.

The performance was enthralling. The excellent artistic interpretation led the viewers to be drawn into the story. It was difficult not to feel the heartbreak of Don José, who gave up everything to be with Carmen, only to find out her love was as skin deep as the red lipstick she applied to his cheek. The limited props were used to incredible effect, creating another dimension to the performance and enhancing the climax of the highly emotional show.

On the surface, the production might seem simple, but that results from the impressive artistry of the director and the dancers. The presentation felt as fresh and modern as it must have for the audience when the show was first performed in 2010.

The Slovac Dance Theater Company has taken Carmen to New York, Tokyo, London, Beijing, Rome, Madrid, Amsterdam, Mexico City, Québec, Helsinki, and Graz; if we are lucky, they will bring their brilliant production back to the nation’s capital before long.

Carmen by Slovav Dance Theatre

Music: Georges Bizet / Rodion Shchedrin
Libretto, choreography, and direction: Ján Ďurovčík
Costume design: Andrej Baraník
Set design: Jakub Klimo
Assistant choreographer: Marianna Paulíková
Production: Slovenské divadlo tanca / Slovak Dance Threatre
Lighting: Oliver Greš
Sound: Pavol Pogany – Pogy
Stage manager: Lukáš Hertel
Manager: Miroslav Dufinec

Photos: Courtesy Slovak Dance Theatre and the Embassy of Slovakia in Ottawa