Budapest at the Gates of Heaven – as Interpreted by Pál Frenák
– Interview with Pál Frenák
Hungarian virtuoso dancer-choreographer Pál Frenák, who created a unique, authentic style in contemporary dance theatre, had been working in Paris since 1982, when he moved his residence to Budapest in 2000, while continuing to maintain roots in both cities. “Part of my family still lives in Paris, while others live in Budapest. I am lucky to be able to ‘go home’ to one and ‘come home’ to the other”, says Pál Frenák, director of the FrenÁk Company, whose work elevates contemporary dance up to a universal dimension.
His parents were deaf and hard of hearing, so Frenák learnt sign language as a mother tongue. That communication system has served as a major inspiration in his choreography work. “At the same time, as a hearing child of deaf adults, this gave me a unique, almost dual perspective”, he adds. He often describes his pieces as ones where he shows a “purified reality”; and his performances are not only intense for dancers, but also for audiences at both mental and emotional levels. His style can be distinguished from other artists’ employing a front-facing performance style by a spiral-organic system of movement, and a ‘Deleuzian’* peripheral perspective, while also being influenced by Irish-born British painter Francis Bacon and Hungarian composer-pianist Béla Bartók.
For 25 years, he has been touring the world with his dance company, Company FrenÁk, creating a new genre with his unique style and the blending of various artistic forms of expression. His creativity has always taken on astonishing dimensions, and his horizontal-vertical-spiral system constantly surprises audiences. Together with his dancers, he creates a unique visual- and acoustic world that’s suspended from above.
Frenák has played a major role in the international recognition of the Trafó House of Contemporary Arts; his works are performed at the Opera, the National Dance Theater and at the Palace of Arts (Müpa). His latest piece, entitled “Secret Off_Man”, was performed at Müpa in the spring of 2023. Based on his own eclectic taste, he recommends other performances by the Opera, National Dance Theater, Trafó, and Müpa as well.
For Frenák, Budapest is a city of excitement and mystery, one which invites all visitors into the fray. “The throbbing energy characteristic of Budapest is infused by the imprint of centuries of cultural experience, which leave an indelible impression on everyone”, he says. “Budapest is a city of contrasts, which sucks you in and then casts you out, and leaves visitors feeling almost helpless, unable to resist, too. Its architectural dimensions open up a fantastic perspective. Looking up and taking in the many unique architectural wonders of the city is akin to coming out of the darkness into the light and ascending straight up to heaven.”
*Referring to Belgian philosopher Gilles Deleuze
The Alrite speech recognation (speech-to-text) program helped to write the publication.
Photo: Pál Frenák (source: Katalin Bobal)
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