Theatre Divadlo Pôtoň & Jihlava Horácke Theatre, SLOVAKIA, CZECH REPUBLIC
directed by: Iveta Ditte Jurčová
This production of the Pôtoň Theatre and the Jihlava Horácke Theatre brings the stories of the subculture that has become a manifestation of freedom and non-conformity.
Swing Heil! was a parody of the Third Reich salute used by young people in the 1930s and 1940s. The striking hairstyles and colourful outfits of swing and jazz followers did not go hand-in-hand with the ideology of Nazism. The production of the Pôtoň Theatre and the Jihlava Horácke Theatre brings the stories of the subculture that has become a manifestation of freedom and non-conformity. The first is the story of the dancer, choreographer and artist Nina Jirsíková, who was perhaps the only Czech woman deported to the Ravensbrück concentration camp for her dance in the ballet production The Tale of Dance. The protagonist of the second story is Anna Goldsteinerová from the town of Pulkau in Lower Austria. She who was beheaded for allowing the local youth – jazz and swing aficionados – to keep meeting in her flat. The visual and movement performance is impressive and imaginative, whilst being highly inspiring: it exposes and condemns nationalism and extremism.
directed by: Iveta Ditte Jurčová
libretto: Michal Ditte, Iveta Ditte Jurčová
visual concept: Iveta Ditte Jurčová, Katarína Caková
dramaturgy: Marek Godovič
music: Ivan Acher
sound design: Milan Slama, Lukáš Kubičina
lights design: Michal Ditte
choreographic collaboration: Tom Rychetský, Denisa Musilová
objects and puppets production: Katarína Caková
mechanical object production: Peter Kvitkovský
project management: Monika Škojcová, Michal Ditte, Ľudmila Kvitkovská
cast: Ela Lehotská, Denisa Musilová, Tom Rychetský, Filip Jekkel
presentation at Divadelná Nitra supported by the Slovak Arts Council, the Nitra Self-Governing Region, The City of Nitra, SPP Foundation, LITA – authors’ society
Iveta Ditte Jurčová (1968) graduated in stage directing (2006) at the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. She is the stage and artistic director at the Pôtoň Theatre, which she has been running since 2008 in Bátovce, in the former cultural centre – now the Centre for Art and Creativity. Iveta Ditte Jurčová, together with the dramaturge Michal Ditte, made the Pôtoň Theatre into one of the key independent theatres in Slovakia. Together they staged a number of critical and award-winning productions: Two Words of Bellisa Twilight … The Story of Eva Luna (2004), Terra Granus (2007), Bride of the Ridge (2009), Misery (2011), American Emperor (2018), Terra Apathy (2022). As stage director, she also collaborated with a range of Slovak and Czech theatres (e.g. Puppet Theatre Žilina, Slovak Chamber Theatre in Martin, Slovak National Theatre, Municipal Theatre Zlín, Silesian Theatre Opava). She is the author and lecturer of numerous learning projects in performing arts. As stage director she regularly collaborates with the Slovak Radio.
The co-production of the Pôtoň Theatre and the Jihlava Horácke Theatre is based on the Petr Koura book Swingers and Grebes in The Power of the Protectorate about the Czech urban subculture of swing kids. The authors of the libretto, Iveta Ditte Jurčová and Michal Ditte, decided to show the absurdity of the times through the stories of two individuals. Nina Jirsíková (real name Anna) was a versatile artist. Inter alia, she was member of the dance group Jenčíkovy Girls that performed in the productions of Jiří Voskovec and Jan Werich in their avant-garde Liberated Theatre.
Jirsíková worked closely with the Prague theatre D 34 and the stage director E. F. Burian. Her libretto A Tale of Dance – about a kingdom where dancing was forbidden anticipated the ban on dancing in Bohemia in 1941. It brought Jirsíková to the Ravensbrück concentration camp. Paradoxically, she survived the camp precisely because she danced and was artistically active there. Anna Goldsteiner is the less conspicuous character in the production. She lived in the small Austrian town of Pulkau. Young swing and jazz aficionados, including her son, used to in her flat for over a year. The townspeople reported them. Gestapo arrested . She was accused of high treason and anti-state activity. In 1944 she was demonstratively executed by beheading. As a memento of this absurd act, woman’s head appears in the production in several scene in the form of an object or lighting that cuts off the rest of the performer’s body.
The stage director Iveta Ditte Jurčová has a fine sense for gradually building the point of her productions, moving from gentle irony to absurdity of monstrous proportions. The metaphors created on stage amuse at first, only for the light smile to freeze in a monstrous grin. Ditte Jurčová achieves that by using contrasts, such as rapid music and slow movement. Yet these are not randomly created actions. The precise work of the director, makes the actors/dancers methodically gradate the internal tension of the performances to the point where the audience gets chills. (…) Swing Heil! can be described as a classic post-dramatic theatre.
The production is deconstructed into individual elements, sound and image work independently. It is not linear in plot or time: both only exist as a certain narrative boundary, yet we move freely in any direction in the two stories, using documentary material and acting distance. Each scene contains several layers that can be named, while remaining open to individual viewer interpretation.
Dária Fojtíková Fehérová: Art Cannot be Banned [Umenie sa nedá zakázať]. In MLOKi [online]. 15. 6. 2021. Available at: https://mloki.sk/umenie-sa-neda-zakazat/