Words about Dada

Jadwiga Majewska

A quote from Vaclav Nijinsky’s memoir: I’ll pretend to be a clown to make myself better understood. What I mean is that a clown can be ok when it expresses love. A clown without love doesn’t come from God. In our “world without love” neither may a dancer come across as a priest, nor should dance be associated with a liturgy. You may dance for pleasure, fun, the cameras; yet, if you dance ”for real”, at most, you’ll be taken for a funny freak… On a scale of madness, I’d say, Dada von Bzdülöw Theatre should be top-ranking. 

Why? On the one hand - for the bravery of a Dadaist radicalism in tearing the disguise off the elegantly classic authorities, and not yielding to the dictates of fashion; on the other hand - for the provocative and necessary quote unquote of what’s authentic, noble and pure; for the unpredictable directions in search of the new ways of staging a theatre performance; for persistence in avoiding the convenient institutionalism; for lasting tolerance for mistakes, and modesty in coming to terms with success; for patient education of dancer-actors working as individual, creative personalities; for the performances staged, whatever the cost; for sixteen years of active interaction with an audience, and the respect  expressed this way; in a word: for something of an exaggeration without which “the risk of creation”  - so often declared by many an artist – remains an empty declaration.  

Yet, it all seems even more valuable, for the simple reason of being a rare phenomenon in the Polish theatre… In 1993 Dada’s first performance was provocatively titled “Peep Show”, the recent 2008 performance was titled theoretically – “Factor T”. In between there were 15 years of damn serious fun before the audience’s very eyes. With hindsight, still having the beginning of Polish “freedom” in mind, Dada artists have contributed a new quality to the Polish understanding of theatre – by opposing the established divisions Dada have overstepped the bounds of the provinces. Leszek Bzdyl and Katarzyna Chmielewska - the founders and leaders of Dada, from the very beginning wanted to make a new theatre, somehow overstepping the bounds of drama theatre and dance floor, and yet, firmly standing on stage. Hence perhaps, the irresistible impression that contrary to a correct imitation that can be seen on a Polish stage so often (let alone the parquet floors), our “Dadaists” offer something genuinely native – without a complex.

When Bzdyl started out, his theatre was strongly related to a pantomime - this oh-so “Polish” style which may either stem from Witkacy’s-like-buffoonery performed before the lens, or perhaps Gombrowicz’s faces on the brink of ceremony and a daily life. Thanks to this heritage our “director of a body” has worked out a unique language of movement based on the given dancer’s acting abilities and improvisation. As a performer, he so happens to be authentic as The Constant Prince, and obedient to the whole of a stage “expression” as Kantor’s Über-marionette. Yet, Bzdyl as an artist is surprisingly, as for a performer, “literary”, to mention only Tabori and Schwab, Majakowski and Gombrowicz, Themerson and Muller, the writers who are universally “ours”, and who have inspired his “personal” performances. The performances that are authentically “rehearsed on stage”, and with time, only gain in subtlety, and philosophical and formal refinement, which integrates intellectual significance with emotional tension (Several Witty Observations…, Bonsai, Eden, Complexion, Factor T). In essence, each particular production with even greater clarity adds to the whole that is internally diverse. No matter how loose-fitting the dramatic structure of the performances may seem, they all seem related to one another – by a web of intricately spun inner tensions, and related to the outside world – by a web of outside references. Some performances arrogantly almost slide towards “bad taste”, some manage to rise to the height of a modern “mystery play”. That is why, I guess, doomed to this “Sarmatian” duality – the phenomenon of Dada von Bzdülöw Theatre becomes even more etched into the memory of Polish performing arts…  Its creator is either a high priest of art, or a clown, but never the artist. Clearly, in Poland it must be so.