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Charon: the past and future of the myth through the eyes of Tereza Cigánková

In November 2022, the dance-visual project Charon by Slovak creators Radoslav Piovarči and Paulína Šmatláková visited Ostrava, also this in was a Czech premiere. On the stage of the main hall of Janáček's conservatory, a meditative yet disturbing movement and sound dialogue on the subject of the power and meaning of myths could unfold. The main inspiration for the creative team was the figure of Charon, the mythical ferryman across the river Styx, as well as the claims of the American writer Joseph Campbell, who devoted many years of research to mythology and the study of archetypes. However, through this framework theme, we were able to uncover a number of other layers and motifs in the production, which the authors drew from fables, songs and other artistic and historical sources.

Both main representatives seemed to embody the contrast between the underworld and the world of people with their appearance and style of movement - Piovarči as Charon represented strength and stability, his tall and shapely body gave the impression of immovability and indomitable fate, but in a few moments it was able to move with incredible dynamism and precision. On the other hand, Paulína Šmatláková, a fragile and ethereal dancer, carried a volatile energy, her articulated movement, precise and fluid at the same time, managed to attract almost all the audience's attention. As the soul or essence of man she embodied, she disrupted Charon's dark path - full of life, expressing the eternal thirst for knowledge and unceasing movement that define the human body. But she was also vulnerable and surrendered, just as a material container cannot exist forever. Another part of the mosaic of sensations was the music of Michal Paľko, who accompanied the interplay of dancing bodies right on the stage – in his composition of ambient sounds, which helped to complete the mystical atmosphere, he planted sound-painting ancient texts.

Besides the theme of myth and its influence on our lives, Charon also deals with the value of money. How much has it been subconsciously important to us since the earliest times? How much do we constantly carry the feeling that everything has a price that must be paid at some point? Even the service of the dark transporter was not free. That is why the survivors used to put a gold coin in the mouth of their deceased, with which they were supposed to pay him. In addition, without burial (which not everyone could and still cannot afford), the dead were not entitled to travel across the River Styx. These philosophical reflections represented just one of the many levels through which the production guided us, using hints and symbols.

Radoslav Piovarči and Paulína Šmatláková are experienced performers, yet each of them represents a different generation and brings their own unique essence to the joint work - this also contributes to the play of opposites that is played out in Cháron takes place. The production is thus another example of the constantly developing, researching and technically growing Slovak dance scene, which makes itself known through projects that are often inconspicuous at first glance, but which are nevertheless very interesting in terms of movement and subject matter.

Written from the Czech premiere on 15/11/2023 in the Janáček hall of the JKO in Ostrava.

Author: Tereza Cigánková, reviewer, lecturer and dancer

Creative team of the production:

Radoslav Piovarči - concept, choreography, direction

Paulína Šmatláková - concept

Michal Paľko - music

Alexandra Rychtarčíková - dramaturgy, texts

Ján Čief, Michal Paľko, Radoslav Piovarči - scenography

Martin Kotúček - costumes

Ján Čief - lighting design

Radoslav Piovarči, Paulína Šmatláková, Michal Paľko - performers

Lukáš Matejka - video-art

Ondrej Geče - production

The creation of the performance was supported by the Art Support Fund from public funds.

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