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.