Contemporary dance group founded in Gdańsk in 1993 by the choreographer and director Leszek Bzdyl and the dancer and choreographer Katarzyna Chmielewska, who is a graduate of the Gdańsk ballet school and the contemporary dance school in Brussels.
In their MANIFESTO the members of the group wrote:
Each and every performance of the Dada Theatre, together with a basic desire to be a show from the borderline of lent and carnival, is a result of searching and refreshing the rules of communication with the audience. The authors of the Dada Theatre's performances believe their creations are smarter than they are themselves just like each emanation of life is wiser than the person describing it. A theatrical play is nothing more than a theatrical play. This means that such a show shouldn’t try to make diagnoses, find solutions or engage in other similar intellectual entertainment activities which are damaging to theatre. Maybe the once existent purity of form is most important. The Dada von Bzdülöw Theatre makes use of motion, which is in itself a beastly pleasure. The Dada Theatre says the words, and the words are always the names of individual illusions. The Dada Theatre irresponsibly lets you mix all things together in the belief that this irresponsibility is our natural habitat. Finally, the Dada Theatre hopes that these artistic devices won’t be called avant-garde by anybody.
From 1998 to 2001 the Dada Theatre the Dada Thetre co-organised many projects with the Baltic Dance University. In 2000-2007 they worked together with the Żak Club in Gdańsk, later on in season 2008/2009 they co-worked with the Nowy Theatre in Łódź. From 2008 till now on the group has been working in co-operation with the Wybrzeże Theatre from Gdańsk where they staged many premieres including Red Grass, Le Sacre and Transmigrazione di Fermenti d'Amore. The group has also been in close co-operation with the Baltic Culture Centre and the Shakespeare Theatre Foundation in Tri-city, the Old Brewery in Poznań, the Nuova Foundation, Re-visions in Warsaw and the Zamek Cultural Centre in Poznań. Between 1996 and 2001 the group organised Dzień Pięknego Towarzystwa (A Day of Beautiful Society) and in 2002-2007 – the Gdańsk Dance Corporation – a festival of dance theatres and contemporary dance, promoting modern dancers and choreographers based in Tri-city.
The Dada von Bzdülöw Theatre operates within a space where acting and dance expression meet. The theatre contrasts high culture with kitsch and makes use of trivial everyday elements and the poetics of pure nonsense. The dance group, founded in 1993, uses the plastic qualities of stages to construct the atmospheres of the group’s plays, amongst others. In a single play by the Dada von Bzdülöw Theatre pastiche quotation marks and serious lyrical tones might appear. According to the members of the group the most interesting things in art are created within areas where various forms and styles meet. That is why the theatre’s actors willingly make use of various conventions in their realizations – they refer to circus theatre, fairground theatre and pantomime. Their choreographies are filled with inspirations from literary traditions. The group reinterprets ideas of the European writers and forms it into moves, not focusing on the story itself. We can easily find motives from Witold Gombrowicz (Several Witty Observations...) and Boris Vian (Red Grass).
Contemporary dance, pantomime and acting become the show’s integral matter. In this theatre an important role is also played by literary inspirations “Człowiek, który kłamał, na przykład Heiner Müller” (“The Man That Lied, for Instance Heiner Müller”; 1996) is a self-thematic performance, a tale about a toilsome creative process. The artist creates his works with effort and the visions that are produced by his mind – imagined, unfinished characters and situations - appear on stage – Magdalena Gołaczyńska wrote about the Dada von Bzdülöw Theatre (“Dialog” 2001, no. 3).
The group has prepared so far the following realizations: Peep-show after George Tabori, Ptaki podobno jak ludzie (Birds Allegedly Like Men; 1993), Zagłada ludu albo moja wątroba jest bez sensu after Werner Schwab (The Death of The People or My Liver Makes No Sense; 1994), Szczątki szczątków miłości (The Remains of the Remains of Love; 1995), Wyrywacz serc, czyli balia hańby after Boris Vian (The Heart Extractor or a Washtub of Shame); Nie było, nie będzie, czyli nie ma (There Wasn’t, There Won’t Be So There Isn’t); Człowiek, który kłamał, na przykład Heiner Müller (The Man That Lied, for Instance Heiner Müller; 1996), Łapiti kontra reszta świata (Łapiti Against the Rest of the World; 1998), Apartament nr 7 (Apartment No. 7; 1999), Dialogus in conventione (2001), W błogosławionym nawiasie (Between the Blessed Brackets; 2001), So beautiful (2001), Pokój do wynajęcia (A room for rent; 2001), Magnolia (2002), Fragment (2003), Strategia (Strategy; 2003), Kilka błyskotliwych spostrzeżeń (a la Gombrowicz) (Several Witty Observations...a la Gombrowicz; 2004), Zwłoki (The Corpse; 2005), Bonsai (2005), Juicy Flesh (2005), Eden (2006), Karnacja (Complextion; 2007, a project by Chiharu Mamiya and Katarzyna Chmielewska with music by Wojtek Mazolewski), Opus pessimum, czyli nigdy nie mów mi, że mnie kochasz (Opus pessimum; 2008), Barricade of Love (2008), Faktor T (Factor T; 2008), Przed południem, przed zmierzchem (Before Noon, Before Dusk; 2009, directed by Piotr Cieplak and staged at the Nowy Theatre in Łódź), Caffe Latte (2009), Le Sacre (2010), Fruu (2011), Celebration, czyli koniec. I jeszcze raz! (Celebration, So the End. And Once Again; 2012).
More than a half of these plays were…
(…) “literary”. But they are not adaptations. The text serves as a starting point but the inspirations drawn from the text may be developed in various directions. What we propose is at the same time a certain form of discussion with literature and a realization of the need to tell about everything that is born inside me during reading. (…) Because of the simple fact that dance theatre, theatre that makes use of the body, is by its nature not made specific by words, we needed literature that would give the body room to exist within itself – said Leszek Bzdyl (“Teatr” 2001, no. 4).
In 2009 the Dada Theatre created Red Grass inspired by Boris Vian. The realization was presentd during the Polish Dance Platform 2010. Regina Lissowska in his review notices:
The Dada Theatre transfered to stage the atmosphere of the novel in a way completely free from mimesis. Red Grass lets the audience experience the world of complex male-female relations, sensual colors and tastes, filled up with surreal spirit. Moreover the play is deeply reflexive, but not turning to pathos. This bitter-sweet play does not want to be treated with seriousness – it demands from the audience acknowledging its right to a non-committal existence here and now. ( Teatr, nr 2/2010)
Czerwona Trawa / Red Grass / Teatr Dada von Bzdülöw (full version) from Teatr Dada on Vimeo.
Invisible Duets from 2011 were presented for the first time at the Body/Mind Festival at the Studio Theatre in Warsaw. The performance is a compilation of acting, music (performed by Mikołaj Trzaska) and a video show.
Duety Nieistniejące / Invisible Duets - Teatr Dada von Bzdülöw from Teatr Dada on Vimeo.
Play It So 17 Dances About Something (2013) directed, choreographed and performed by Katarzyna Chmielewska, Anna Steller and Leszek Bzdyl has been recognized internationally and presented at two Indian theatre festivals - Bharat Rang Mahotsav in New Delhi and Kala Ghoda Arts Festival in Mumbai. Przemysław Gulda in his article "17 Świetnych tańców o czymś" (17 Brilliant Dances About Someting) writes:
After twenty years of a succesful career, dancers of the Dada von Bzdülöw Theatre do not need to prove anything. And this is beautifully presented in this play: there is no muscle flexing, no showing off, there are no claims and showing something for any price. Instead there is full maturity, economy in using artistic expression, which are present in big amounts, but they do not cover any of the meanings; perfect sense of tone, class - natural in every way. There is an excellent play. ("Gazeta Wyborcza", 13.05.2013)
Teatr Dada von Bzdülöw - Zagraj to, czyli 17 tańców o czymś / Play IT, so 17 dances about something from Teatr Dada on Vimeo.
Enclave 4/7 (2013) is a play directed and choreographed by Roberto Olivan, a Spanish choreographer. The performance was warmly welcomed by critics. Prof. Zbigniew Majchrowski writes:
Enclave 4/7 is a portrait of the Facebook generation, but at the same time a self-thematic play, even self-ironic one, a bit about how to make something out of nothing, how to fill the void with movement, how to posses space and people; what kind of temporary communities are created in this movement and what kind of tensions appear, what kind of euphorias and disappointments. How an enclave becomes a trap. ("Enklawa czy pułapka?", teatralny.pl)
Transmigrazione di fermenti d'amore from 2014 was the 46th premier of the Dada Theatre. Leszek Bzdyl on the official site of the theatre writes:
But if everyone else, by thoughts or deeds, experience a love ferment, so why do not we immerse into these exaltations, tremblings, desires, which, if we are part of them, cause a wonderful condition of paralysis of the life activities, which do no lead us to satisfaction? (…) We welcome the audience to the theatre where we speak Italian, a language which does not mean anything anymore, buffoonery and clowning mix with intimacy, and the temperature of feelings depends on where the wind blows from.
In Intro (2015) the Dada Theatre cope with the issue of refugees who try to find their own place and integrate with the society after coming to Poland. Music for this play was created by a Polish group Nagobki (Adam Witkowski, Maciek Salomon).
The Dada von Bzdülöw Theatre's team usually consists of several people and is constantly changing. The only permanent members are the theatre's creators, Leszek Bzdyl and Katarzyna Chmielewska. Joanna Szmajda the vice director of the Dance and Music Institute says:
This is one of the Dada's most important features. They have introduced an open model of the collective co-operation. They have never been a closed group who wakes offense when someone decides to leave. Everyone needs to find his own path and they have always understood it. Thanks to this, the Dada has created many choreographers who now work on their own: Rafał Dziemidok, Radek Hewelt and Filip Szatarski. Of course Kasia Chmielewska and Leszek Bzdyl have always been leaders but they were not like gurus, they invited to explore together. The Dada is the place of absolute freedom. (Mike Urbaniak, "Przypadki Dada von Bzdülöw", Przekrój nr 31/05.07.13)
There are many renowned Polish dancers and choreographer who have launched their careers with the Dada Theatre. These include: Anna Steller, Rafał Dziemidok, Dominika Knapik and Filip Szatarski. The theatre co-works also with artists such as Tatiana Kamieniecka, Julia Mach, Ula Zerek, Patrycja Kujawska, Aurora Lubos, Magdalena Reiter, Izabela Chlewińska, Radek Hewelt, Dawid Lorenz, Magdalena Jędra and many more.
Presently the group named The Dada von Bzdülöw Theatre consists of: Leszek Bzdyl, Katarzyna Chmielewska, Aurora Lubos, Patrycja Kujawska and Magdalena Reiter. Music for their performances is composed by recognized Polish musicians: Mikołaj Trzaska, Wojciech Mazolewski, Hubert Zemler, Olo Walicki, Paweł Szamburski and Patryk Zakrocki (SzaZa).
The Dada von Bzdülöw Theatre participated in all of the most important showcases of dance theatre in Poland. The group has performed abroad on many occasions, including in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France, Denmark, Germany, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, India, Ireland, Iceland, Israel, Palestine, Romania, Slovenia, Switzerland, Sweden, Hungary, Turkey, the United States, Italy, Russia, China, Belgium, Finland and some other. The group regularly performs at the most significant dance festivals and other events in Poland, eg. Scena Tańca Studio (The Studio Dance Stage) and the Body/Mind Festival at the Studio Theatre in Warsaw.
Some of the most inportant international projects the theatre participated in were Landscape X in 1998 in Stockholm (The Rape of Europe directed by Piotr Cieplak), Drop Dead Goergeous at the Vincent Dance Theatre in England (2001-2002), SEAS in 2004 (ODYS-SEAS directed by Leszek Bzdyl) and Trans Danse Europe 2004-2006, Dance Advance in Philadelphia in 2007-2008.
In 2009 the Teatru Dada von Bzdülöw Association representing the theatre. In 2012, after 20 years of existance, they received own headquarters Biblioteka Tańca (the Dance Library) in Gdańsk at the Grunwaldzka Street 44. There used to be a municipal library in the building, now it is a place of rehearsals, workshops and artistic residencies. From 2012 the theatre has also been organising regular dance workshops Dada Hub led at the Zatoka Sztuki (the Art Bay) in Sopot.
Dada von Bzdülöw Theatre / 2012 from Teatr Dada on Vimeo.
The Dada von Bzdülöw Theatre has created so far over 50 premieres and still surprises the audience with energy and inspires nexte generations of dancers. Przemysław Gulda writes aboit the meaning of the group at the Polish dance theatre scene:
It is hard to believe that the theatre has existed for over two decades, when you look at its newest realizations which are full of vitality, youth and enthusiasm. Time passing by has not deprived the the group members energy, creativity and bravery. It may be the opposite. And this is probably why the Dada von Bzdülöw Theatre has such a strong position in the world of the Polish dance theatres. (Gazeta Wyborcza - Trójmiasto, 30-10-2012)
Monika Mokrzycka-Pokora, March 2004
Translated by: Marek Kępa, March 2014; updated June 2016 (ND)