Arrival: The Company was greeted at the airport by U.S. Embassy Budapest’s CAO Dmitri Tarakhovsky who accompanied the team to the beautiful InterContinental Budapest. The InterContinental provided reduced-rate accommodations for BDC’s stay in addition to access to the executive lounge. Tarakhovsky, worked diligently over the next day to secure from Tarom Airways the lost luggage of Deputy Director Emad Salem, which arrived at the hotel the following day.
Master-classes: The day after arrival and the morning of performance day, the BDC team, accompanied by the Embassy’s FSN Monika Vali, split-up and conducted master classes across different locations in Budapest. Over two days, nine master classes were held at the Hungarian Dance College taught by BDC Teaching Artists Clement Menshah, Mira Cook, and Robin Cantrell; at the Budapest Contemporary Dance College, taught by BDC Teaching Artist Carmen Nicole Smith, and at the Jurányia Inkubátorház taught by Sean Scantlebury. A total of 90 participants took part in the classes. In addition, Salem and Cantrell conducted an arts administration lecture with 30 dancers at the Budapest Contemporary Dance College, and Cantrell provided advice and answered questions on career development and the life of a dancer in New York City for 12 international dancers at the Hungarian Dance College. One participant, Kati Basca, travelled 80 miles to Budapest to take part in the workshops. Kati previously visited Battery Dance Company’s studios in Manhattan in summer, 2012. Kati said of the workshops: “I cannot be grateful enough [for the attention paid to me], [to provide] me access to the classes and the performance! The two days [were] full of energy, impressions, and I got a lot of good feelings! I am very thankful, and I hope, someday I can repay you. I never thought that [I could have such an honor]. I very much appreciate what I got! Thank you again and also very often. I wish you the best, with whole heart.”
Performance: After a full day of technical setup by BDC Production Director G. Benjamin Swope, the dancers rehearsed on-stage and performed for a capacity audience of nearly 300 that included old and new friends, including Kovács Gerzson Péter, one of Hungary’s foremost choreographers, Adrienne Nagys, formerly of the Hungarian Cultural Center in New York, and Andrew Somogyi, former cultural officer at the U.S. Embassy Budapest. The audience showed its appreciation with three curtain calls. Somogyi said of the performance: “Only positives to broadcast! Full house, fantastic theatre for the performance, innovative musical composition, great multi-directional audio sound equipment, amazing dancers and very lovely choreography. The pace and length of the evening was quite appropriate and the performance had a genuine American sense of presence, an energetic view toward the future, a hopefulness that you do not see here performed in our theatres.” The full house was a surprise, given the fact that Budapest was socked in after 3 days of snowfall.
Media and Press
Workshops: The morning after the Budapest performance, BDC departed for Györ to conduct programming similar to that which it had done in Budapest. After a meeting over tea with local partners Elek Zsolt from the Györ Dance High School and Keszeiné Tóth Bernadett from the Györ National Theatre, the dancers led 3-hour creativity workshops with 30 students from the high school and 40 students from Györi Balett. After the workshops, master class participants were able to perform short pieces devised from their own inspiration. On the morning of the performance, BDC’s Clement Mensah also led an intensive master-class with the 30+ members of the Györi Ballet.
Performance: In an intimate gathering, Battery Dance Company performed for 80 guests and the Györ media. Despite a power outage in the middle of BDC’s set, the dancers continued performing while the audience provided rhythmic clapping to substitute for the lost music. Afterwards, a champagne reception was hosted by the Györi Balett in which audience members, Györi Ballet and Theatre dancers and administrators, local partners, and BDC intermingled.
Future Collaboration: Through the short stay in Györ, numerous meetings were also held between BDC Deputy Director Salem, Bernadett, and Kiss János, Artistic and Executive Director of Györi Balett over shared passions and ideas for future collaboration. The Györ Balett has invited a BDC representative as a special guest of the 9th Hungarian Dance Festival starting June 17, 2013 and discussions continue over having The Györi Balett perform at BDC’s Downtown Dance Festival in 2014 and for BDC to return to perform as part of the Hungarian Dance Festival.
Battery Dance Company worked and performed here in 2004.
Ask for Hotel Extras
The dancer's stayed at a hotel that was all about location and budget. Being strictly 2-star, it was a boon that the hotel gave free access to its health club for our dancers, which they supplemented with visits to Budapest’s legendary spas.
Arriving in the storybook architecture of Castle Hill, the essential tourist stop of this Middle European capital, sits the Nemzeti Tancszinhas, the National Dance Theatre. BDC would perform here during the visit to Budapest.
Next-door neighbor to the President's Palace, it is a grand building which looks pretty special to us with its large Battery Dance Company poster displayed prominently in a vitrine on the front facade, next to a poster for Ballet Rambert. (The Rambert is England's oldest ballet company, former breeding ground of Frederick Ashton, Antony Tudor and Margot Fonteyn.) On the night of the performance, our dancers and lighting supervisor lived up to the billing in every respect. Rhythmic applause and multiple curtain calls testified to the strong audience response.
On the second day in Budapest, having been welcomed with an elegant dinner at the residence of Ambassador on the night of our arrival, our dancers each taught a workshop for the local dance community. From 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., six BDC each brought their specialty (ranging from ballet to modern to Pilates, hip hop and repertory) at the atmospheric Mozdulatművészeti Stúdió.
Battery Dance Company worked and performed here in 2004.
Make Sure Scheduling is Understood
When BDC arrived in Pécs, they were prepared to lead workshops immediately. However, after some sort of miscommunication, nobody in Pécs had organized this happening. It is important to ensure that both the hosts and visitors have a clear understanding of the agreed schedule as workshops that were supposed to happen did not.
After a late night of hanging and focusing lights (and negotiating in Hungarian) with a professional technical crew at the Tettye Amphitheater, we were forced to cool our heels the next day when rain stalled our momentum. Communications were problematic – our liaison here was an 18-year-old who has just graduated from high school and confesses, sheepishly, that he was “hung over” from the various parties going on each night. How, we wondered, would we negotiate through all of the issues of food, logistics, technical set-up and the like.
We were to have performed the evening of June 20 among the Roman walls of the Tettye Amphitheater on the mountain overlooking this town. By mid-day, it appeared prescient that we had insisted on scheduling a rain-date months ago, and allowed for it in our travel schedule, though we still hoped that the squall outside would pass. Unfortunately, with mud all over the "backstage" area and intermittent showers all day, that was not to be. Our “sponsor” finally emerged from his inaccessibility at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday and demanded that we go ahead with the performance.
We were supported by Christine Elder, Cultural Affairs Officer of the U.S. Embassy who had come down from Budapest with the Embassy driver, Attila, to see how our performance went over in the provinces. Attila served as interpreter in the meeting and we explained why dancers could not safely dance under the circumstances. Though we held tight to our decision to postpone, our “sponsor” gave us the distinct impression that he thought we were prima donnas, spoiled New Yorkers. And his final words (in Hungarian) were: “Well, it will probably rain even harder tomorrow!”
The next day, Monday, was gloriously sunny, and we managed to get the stage area cleaned and to do our afternoon rehearsal. Putting the dancers through their paces on this particular stage was vitally important because 16th century monastery walls do not provide the easiest way to enter, exit and cross-over as you would do on an ordinary stage; and even more confusing, there wasn't a right angle in the place! "Where is center???” "Where is front?” “Where the audience is sitting, or perpendicular to the back wall?” (NOT the same, in this case!)
The funniest and most emblematic moment of our stay in Pécs occurred during our rehearsal in the afternoon on Monday. The “cleaning lady” had finally arrived by bus to mop the stage and do her best to clean the offstage run-ways of mud. None of the technicians had agreed to do this, their body language and grumblings making it crystal clear that cleaning was not in their job descriptions. Mike Riggs, our intrepid technical director, and I were pretty much reconciled to doing it ourselves but the “cleaning lady” appeared and … cleaned. Then she sat in the audience and watched the dancers warming up, and engaging in their usual chatter. At one point, when someone uttered a rhetorical question, and an answer emanated from the seats, in English, we had a Eureka! Moment: the “cleaning lady” speaks English! And what’s more she’s smart. And what’s more, she’s nice, and friendly,!
From that moment on Kata, a.k.a. “The Cleaning Lady”, was our constant companion.
At any rate, back to Monday and the business for which we were there: darkness fell as did the temperature -- translation: audience wearing furry vests and woolens; dancers in skimpy leotards! Fortunately, the choreography kept the dancers warm enough on stage, and when off, they rushed for the changing rooms (trailers equipped with heaters.) "Mother Goose"... in its white satiny costumes, was more dreamlike than ever in the moonlight against the stone walls of the monastery ruins. I wonder what the monks would have thought of the eroticism in the piece! The local newspaper photographer zeroed in on a particularly graphic moment, and we found a large photo in the paper on Wednesday. "Secrets of the Paving Stones" with its austere beginning and quasi - theatrical nature was another highlight of the performance and earned repeated curtain calls.
After the performance, the company had an unexpected day off – no one in Pécs had organized the “workshops” that were on the schedule. So Kata, “The Cleaning Lady” made a call, engaged a mini-van with driver, shuttled us up to the lake at the top of the mountain, called another friend who runs a kayak and canoe rental business, organized free boats for us, guided us to a secluded dock from which diving and swimming was perfect; found a country inn where we could have espressos and local wine, and delivered us safely back to Pécs afterwards.
Battery Dance Company peformed and worked here in 1999.
See the narrative for lessons learned.
Battery Dance was presented in three concerts at the MU Theatre in Budapest, Gerzson Peter Kovacs, Artistic Director. The Company presented a mixed-bill, comprising 6 songs from the Songs of Tagore production, Moonbeam, and Layapriya. The Tagore songs were performed with live musical accompaniment by vocalist Sharmila Roy, a world-renowned Bengali singer and her regular tabla accompanist John Boswell of the U.K.
Two of the performances, on Saturday and Sunday evenings, were marketed to the MU Theatre's substantial dance subscriber list and the general public via advertisements and listings in Budapest's arts & events magazines and daily newspapers.
The performances were sold-out and the audiences were noticeable for their multi-generational character. Rhythmic clapping at the end of the program attested to the audience's enthusiastic response to the work. A write up by Dr. Gedeon Dienes, dean of Hungarian dance writers, was further indication of the Company's reception.
The third concert, presented on Monday evening and followed by a reception, was arranged with the support of the American Embassy and Citibank. The audience was extremely international and included Ambassadors and diplomats representing the U.S., Mexico, Portugal, India, Hungary, the U.K. and Finland. The American Ambassador, gave an impassioned introduction prior to the performance, and hosted the reception afterwards.
Battery Dance Company sought out opportunities to teach young people in schools and local dancers in Budapest to take place during its residency. Though this type of activity is not common in the region, we found a partner in Adrienn Szabo and her non-profit, non-governmental organization called The Workshop Foundation, based at the Trafo Center for the Arts. Adrienn set up a three-day workshop entitled "Yoga For Dancers", taught by Battery's Katherine McGowan, which was attended by a 12 dancers from Budapest's active dance scene. Having never before set up dance programs in public schools, Adrienn had a difficult time establishing the contacts and organizing Battery's lecture-demonstrations. However, she managed to set up programs at a public middle school, a public high school and the American International School. We learned afterwards that this was the first time any contemporary dance company (including locally based ones) have ever brought their programs into Hungarian schools.