PLOVDIV - 1999
European Cultural Month Festival
Please see the Narrative for information relevant to lessons learned.
Battery Dance Company was invited to perform in the central Bulgarian city of Plovdiv during the European Cultural Month Festival, associated with the European Capitals of Culture program initiated by the Greek actress and cultural activist Melina Mercouri. The tour that emerged from this invitation eventually included other festivals in Maribor and Ljubljana, Slovenia, and the Varna Festival in Bulgaria. Key to the invitations and the workings out of arrangements in Slovenia was Tadej Brdnik, a Slovene dancer who was a member of Battery Dance Company (and Martha Graham Dance Company), and who was already well known in his native country. The Bulgarian leg of the tour was built through the guidance and networking of Milena Savova, a linguistics professor based in New York, originally from Bulgaria.
This was the first international tour for Battery Dance on which Jonathan Hollander, Artistic Director, was not present. However, with Production Designer, Barry Steele, Company Manager, Claire Pannell, and Tadej himself on the tour, the Company was in good hands.
Challenges abounded with travel arrangements – getting between Slovenia and Bulgaria was an unexpected complication with airlines routes. A train ride to Vienna from Ljubljana followed by a flight to Sofia proved to be the only way; however, arrival in Vienna in the early morning hours and a long wait before the afternoon flight to Sofia could have been exhausting for the Company, having taken the night train immediately after performing in Ljubljana. Fortunately, a good friend of the Jonathan’s, the Viennese journalist Ruth Pauli, opened her apartment to the Company, providing a hearty brunch and towels for everyone with an invitation to utilize the shower (and to nap on any of the beds, sofas or other convenient surface.) Once in Plovdiv (after another train ride from Sofia) The company stayed in a casino hotel where their meals were also provided. The Festival had originally planned to have BDC perform at the ancient Roman Amphitheater. However, Barry said “No” when he realized that the stage was stone instead of the platform wooden stage that was expected. Instead, the performance was moved to an old European-style opera house with a raked stage in extremely bad condition.
Since there were only 16 lights in the theater, of which 14 or so worked (and no spare parts in the theater with which to fix them), Barry concentrated his efforts on making the stage danceable so that the show could go on…. and it did!
Before the opening night, there was an episode regarding “stolen” properties in the theater – which turned out to be a Marx Brothers routine. One of the dancers could not find her clothes that had been stored in a locker, and all Hell broke loose with accusations flying in every direction….. until it was discovered that she was on the wrong floor of the theater where there was an identical set of lockers ! Lots of apologies had to be made to the local crew who were offended, of course, by the false aspersions that had been cast.
Maria Todorova, the translator and guide assigned to the Company by the Festival, was a life-saver, helping the company navigate its way through the twists and turns and assuaging the feelings of the crew.