As a dancer and choreographer who has staged the movement in over a dozen Polish theatre performances at the age of 28, Pelczyńska helps bring to life protagonists in Chekhov and Dygat’s plays. She has them tap dance, ride around the stage on roller skates and swing dance.
Weronika Pelczyńska is a graduate of the renowned SEAD Experimental Modern Dance Academy in Salzburg, as well as the Production Engineering Department of the Warsaw Institute of Technology. Her international experience comes from performing with dance and theatre companies including the Bodhi Project from Salzburg, Cocoon Dance from Bonn, and Random Scream in Brussels. However, in a talk with Culture.pl, Pelczyńska says she was always certain she wanted to work in Poland, for its great potential and oppportunities. "We have many ambitious and talented dancers", she said, "and the audience seems to be developing a growing need for dance as well".
As dancer in Poland, she has experimented with numerous forms: cooperating with the Teatr Studio Buffo and the Mumfi Dance Theatre run by Anna Piotrowska, and with the Volt group, garnering the gold medal at the European Championship of disco-dance formations. Her performance Fire Is Raging in Your Hair, choreographed by Anna Nowicka, received Berlin’s HAU prize. Pelczyńska has been cooperating with Marysia Stokłosa since 2009, and together they continually build upon their collaboration, the Right Hemisphere piece.
Pelczyńska’s first choreography for a theatre play came in 2010 - the work on Opowieści z lasku wiedeńskiego / Tales from the Viennese Woods, directed by Agnieszka Glińska as a graduation piece with the students of Warsaw’s Theatre Academy. This began the collaboration between the two artists, which includes seven performances to date. Pelczyńska says this constitutes one of the most significant encounters in her dance life.
She traces her memories of their encounters, and says her favorite moment is always the first reading of the text, when initial ideas and inspirations come bubbling to the surface. She says, "Agnieszka has an incredible gift of gathering around her an arrray of fascinating stage personalities. From the first meeting, she is capable of bringing alive a world that will later be built on the stage".
The process of creating stage movement starts with improvisation, and the actors are never told to perform certain steps and figures. Rather, they are encouraged to find the right shape for the movement. This does not have to be a complex dance figure; at times a subtle and natural gesture suffices to draw the viewer’s attention. Pelczyńska explains:
Choreography has a defined and repeateable form and rhythm, in this way it is different from stage movement, which is more of a process wherein we build the role together. Working with an actor is a fascinating thing, also because it is unpredictable. Every time it’s different. I observe the actors carefully, I check whether the movements that I prepared for them suit then, and whether they present themselves well on the stage and define the character in the right way.
In Pożegnania / The Farewells, a play written by Stanisław Dygat, the actors were tap dancing and on roller skates. In The Seagull, together with Dominika Klużniak, Pelczyńska searched for a movement that would allude to the delicate turn of the waves, or the swaying of a bird’s wing (this was embodied in a move of the wrists). As Pelczyńska described her method in a conversation with Izabela Szymańska,
I always look for ideas in actors, in their natural way of moving and in their own gestures. Every one has a particular way of touching, of smoking a cigarette, of saying hi to their friends, every one is distinct. I could invent a set of steps, a body language for them, but I think this is senseless. When the spectator grasps a move taken out of the everyday, an organic movement, it is as if they can experience a flashback - they know this rings a bell and they are more touched by this.
In Moralność Pani Dulskiej / The Morality of Madam Dulska, presented at the Teatr Współczesny, the characters move from steps, litte gestures and a march into a dance - the period favorites indicated by the playwright herself, Gabriela Zapolska. Cake-walk, twist, waltz, and then the dance thanks to which, in Pelczyńska's view, a theatre illustration makes the interrelations gain a new meaning. She says,
We search for it between the lines, in a certain atmosphere and not in the spelled-out syllables. At times, dance is capable of expressing and showing more than words can. The burgoisie dances of the past era are animated with jazz improvisation and energetic moves evocative of rock and roll.
Pelczyńska's idea was appreciated by theatre critics, who termed the choreography of the award-winning performance "gripping, fast, attractive and wise".
Pelczyńska and Agnieszka Glińska cooperated on the Amazonia performance, staged in Teatr na Woli, and on Final Judgement produced at the Teatr Studio in Warsaw. Recently, Pelczyńska cooperated with Paweł Szkotak on his staging of Anna Karenina, also at the Teatr Studio. Throughout rehearsals, the idea arose to allude to the tradition of dance macabre, and Pelczyńska created the movement in collaboration with the actor Marcin Januszkiewicz.
Pelczyńska also cooperated with Polish-cinema legend Barbara Sass-Zdort on two scenes in Pieśni miłosne / Love Songs, a film based on the true story of convent nuns in Kazimierz Dolny along the Vistula River, who shut themselves off from the world and refused to leave the convent grounds, though required to do so by law. Through the work, Pelczyńska searched for the source of a trance in the voice, which motivated an increasingly intense way of moving. The limits of this religious trance were tested, according to Pelczyńska, during a rehearsal in Warsaw’s Redemptorist church - which was, she says, "an incredible experience".
As a dancer, Pelczyńska works at the recently established association for independent artists and choreographers, Centrum (w) Ruchu / Centre in Movement. She is also performing the play Fale / Waves, directed by Agnieszka Błońska at Teatr Ochota in Warsaw. The Komuna / Warszawa theatre collective hosted the premiere of Pelczyńska’s performance entitled Yvonne, Yvonne in 2011, a remix of works by the influential U.S. choreographer Yvonne Rainer. Pelczyńska circles the stage at a steady run a number of times, then cuts through the space, changes direction, and adds a series of exercises to the trot. When she stops and tries to find her balance, she fluently goes into a series of exercises taken from ballet training, and the movement gathers intensity.
Pelczyńska is also active on German dance stages, especially in Bonn and Köln. She can be seen performing in Replay Swan, choreographed by Rafael Giovanola-Endrass for the Cocoon Dance Company, and in Under Green Ground, staged by Stephanie Thiersch from Movouir.
In speaking of her main interests in dance, she says,
What is important for me is the method of working with an actor and a dancer, a work with the body. I am not a conceptual artist, nor a critical one. I think that a choreographer should be widely educated, so that he could draw inspiration from a vast catalogue of movement and form. One day, I will construct a perfomance that will have the mechanism of a reductor.
At this stage in her work, she claims to have no need of using dance for socially engaged expression or politics. She says that working with the imagination is more important to her than the political world. A pure movement and a body uncontrolled by the mind is what she is after.
Author: Anna Legierska, translated by Paulina Schlosser
Video produced by Katarzyna Łuka, Marek Sokołowski
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