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14 October 2016 marks the 90th anniversary of the birth of Conrad Drzewiecki, founder and first artistic director of the Polish Dance Theatre.

To celebrate the occasion, the Polish Dance Theatre will host a birthday meeting this Friday (6 pm) at its seat in Kozia 4, Poznań. Intended as an informal birthday party, the meeting will be a pretext to commemorate Conrad Drzewiecki not only as an eminent choreographer and dance visionary but also as a person, friend, and mentor.

The invited guests include Drzewiecki?s friends, collaborators and students. They will share their memories and anecdotes which do not figure in the artist?s official biographies. The event will be a unique occasion to peek behind the scenes of historic productions and take an intimate look at the legend of Polish dance.

 

The reminiscences will be bolstered with screenings of excerpts from Drzewiecki?s choreographies, including his famous Krzesany. The meeting will be hosted and moderated by Stefan Drajewski, author of Conrad Drzewiecki. Reformator polskiego baletu [Conrad Drzewiecki: The Reformer of Polish Ballet].

The event will be open to all interested parties upon previous reservation via e-mail (bow@ptt-poznan.pl)

or phone (+48 61 858 04 56). The meeting will also feature a presentation of theater costumes (some of them designed by Conrad Drzewiecki) earmarked for the 15 October auction.

 

On this occasion, we would also like to share a note on Conrad Drzewiecki by Jagoda Ignaczak:

Conrad

His domain was the language of motion, but he was equally at ease with music, stage design, theater and film direction, and literature. An admirer of refined Polish and conversationalists who kept up with his narratives, which were full of compound constructs, metaphoric meaning and sarcastic judgments on reality.

 

He theatralized everyday life, provoking with his clothing, hairstyles, artistic gestures, and his red car with leather seats. He maintained that we all ?play certain roles?. Rebellious in life, as he was on stage, he was a man of sharp retorts, sensitized to the wooing of hypocrites and immediate adulation. Full of contradictions in his relationships with others, he was sometimes generous, often pettish and unforgiving. He shrugged whenever addressed ?Maestro?, even though he was well aware of his worth; still, it was not through affectation that he expected to receive praise. Appreciative of analytical insight, he would often await it in vain. He claimed, Most of the time, I come across casual remarks or pure objectivism, pure to the verge of being devoid of any emotions. Teeming with imagination when it came to art, he was equally ruthless, principled and non-compromising when working. Faithfull to art and disenchanted with people, who notoriously failed and abandoned him. A courageous artist, he demarcated new paths against the grain of canons and transcending conventional confines.

 

He knew the taste of international success, having won awards at international competitions and toured Holland, France, Germany, Sweden and Cuba with his pieces. He taught at the Juilliard School in New York, became friends with Limon and Cunningham, but always returned to his home town, Poznań. It is in his beloved district of Grunwald that one may stumble upon a street named after Drzewiecki and located nearby a villa in which he lived for several dozen years.

 

A dancer, choreographer, pedagogue and reformer of dance, Drzewiecki?s performances became known as legendary. First staged at Poznań?s Wielki Theatre, and later produced by the Polish Dance Theatre, these works included Pavane pour une infante défunte, The Miraculous Mandarin, Variations 4:4, Adagio for strings and organ, as well as a number of shows created after 1973, such as An Epitaph to Don Juan, Eternal Songs, Stabat Mater and Krzesany. Many of them were also filmed, most by the Poznań television.

Drzewiecki began his groundbreaking activity as the doyen of the new style of Polish ballet in the mid-1960s, following his several years? long stay in France and the USA. He incorporated a number of original choreographies to the repertoire of the Wielki Theatre in Poznań, whose dominant was a language based on the synthesis of neoclassicism, contemporary dance and stylized national dances. The distinct style and the artistic program introduced by Drzewiecki eventually led to the establishment of an autonomous company, known as the Polish Dance Theatre ? Poznań Ballet.

 

Critics have praised the project ever since. The Polish Dance Theatre ? Poznań Ballet has been a catalyst to our expectations for the development of autonomous ballet, writes Teresa Grabowska. Szajna, Grotowski, Tomaszewski and Drzewiecki have contributed cultural phenomena which we boast abroad, writes a journalist of ?Kurier Lubelski?. Drzewiecki is clearly in pursuit of a new dance matter. It remains to be defined, has not crystallized yet, oscillating between theater, pantomime and ballet in search of its place. Drzewiecki continues to experiment, creating his ?auteur ballet? and combining the roles of producer, choreographer and stage designer, directing an integral piece which demonstrates the comprehensiveness of his artistic vision. ?Dance with your mind,? said the great Pavlova, and Drzewiecki obliged in teaching his dancers this difficult art, wrote a delighted Józef Opalski. This enthusiastic choir found its recapitulation in the voice of Paweł Chynowski, the-then resident Polish ballet reviewer, and the current attorney of the director of the Polish National Ballet. In his 1977 text comparing the Polish Dance Theatre and Henryk Tomaszewski-led Wrocław Pantomime Theatre, Chynowski notices that both are led by unique directorial and choreographic individuals, esteemed both in the country and abroad; both lack their own permanent stages, being reduced to tentative studios; both work in conditions more akin to a roadshow?
 
Everything has changed since then. Technology and aesthetics have evolved, as have generic clarity and narrative formulas, leaders and choreographers, dancers and teaching methods, the scope of activity (extended to include educational and therapeutic trends), the political system and the economy, the authorities and the media. The one perennial problem throughout the four decades of its existence, one which the Company is yet to resolve, is that of a permanent venue, or lack thereof.

 

Conrad Drzewiecki managed the Polish Dance Theatre from 1973 to 1987. His final choreographic premieres for the Theatre came in 1998 with the 25th anniversary of the Theatre, and included Isolde?s Death and Roksana?s Song, choreographed to the music by his beloved Wagner and Szymanowski.

There are many more compositions which he did not manage to choreograph.

Jagoda Ignaczak, Conrad, 10 x 4 = (XL) Polski Teatr Tańca wczoraj i dziś, Prolog,[Polish Dance Theatre in the past and present, Prologue]p. 4-6.

 

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