Les SlovaKs are a bit too fond of their roots
Les SlovaKs. With such a name, you’d almost think they are a circus act. But no: Les SlovaKs Dance Collective consists of five dancers who have performed with contemporary dance companies such as Rosas, Ultima Vez (Wim Vandekeybus) and Akram Khan Company. As I had missed the first performance of these gifted guys, I was really curious to see their new one, Journey Home. It premiered yesterday at Brussels’ Kaaitheater.
They met a long time ago as students at a dance academy in Slovakia. Later on they moved to Brussels and kept on bumping into each other while they were performing with various dance companies. In 2006 they decided to start a company of their own: Les SlovaKs, and one year later they presented their first performance: Opening Night.
New traditional dance. That’s the name they have come up with to describe their style. They use the traditional Slovak dance as a source of inspiration and mix it with a contemporary sensibility. Les SlovaKs are working without a choreographer and leave room for improvisation. Lightness, humour, games are other keywords. And they really want to communicate with an audience too.
It’s easy to see their appeal. Their style is quite virtuoso and funny. They clearly love to dance and want to share that love with an audience. No highbrow, conceptual stuff. But that alone doesn’t make for a good performance. Journey Home definitely needs reworking. The balance isn’t right yet, on several levels. Journey Home gets off to a slow start, for example. In the beginning it feels too much as if you’re witnessing the dancers in their rehearsal space, playing around with Simon Thierrée’s music. He plays the violin, on stage, and uses a loopstation to build his soundtrack. Later on you do get beautiful moments and feel more of a structure in this performance. But some of those fragments take too long. And sometimes it still seems as if the dancers are just trying to show off, each one in his own way.
And also, in my opinion, they were really overdoing it with the folkloric element. The rather grotesque costumes, and the singing (did they really have to sing, all six of them together?) certainly added to that. They were relying too much on those traditional styles; sometimes to get cheap laughs from the audience. And then all of this really becomes a gimmick. And Les SlovaKs unfortunately do start to resemble a folkloristic circus act.
(photo credit: Pablo Sánchez del Valle)