Pál Frenák – visions of spiral Butoh

June 23, 2009

After blogging on dance and technology, let’s get back to the body…  an essential bodily theatre… contemporary dance inspired by Butoh…

Pál Frenák‘s choreography ‘Mennono’, which I saw on Dance Week Festival, gave me an opportunity to check again how Hungarians are doing physical theatre and stage philosophy… and I usually just plunge into it… letting my mind to flow with the artwork…

mennono_1.jpgPhoto: Compagnie Pal Frenak (c)

All guidelines were there: almost naked body, blue colour, music based partially on break beat and ambient with blue textile forming a horizontal circle in spiral shape. When I saw these elements, I recognized the idea of his meta-narration based on eternity and elementary quintessence of art.

Blue colour is an additive primary colour – it symbolizes never-ending horizons, far away landscapes, sky and water… Could be also seen as private aquarium or a pool of physics where choreographer is marking fragmented and minimal elements of human body and movements.

pal_frenak_1.jpgPhoto: Compagnie Pal Frenak (c)

Because, it has a strong visual impact, as viewer, you don’t have a choice but to enter. It’s the main characteristic of choreographers who are oriented in their work on artistic approaches, not allowing to be limited with dictionary of dance exclusively.

Dancer Kristof Varnagy starts his dancing reclined on the wall on the edges between backstage and front stage. He started with subtle movements and walk moving to the front where he took place in the middle of above mentioned blue drapery.

mennnono_2.jpgPhoto: excerpt Mennono taken from kni7 (c)

Being plugged-in by strong rhythm and ambient light, makes you feel like you are placed at the bottom of the ocean. That, for sure, creates a sense and need for air, and in this moment I realized that it’s so logical this piece’s length is only 15 minutes. Perhaps, as viewer I couldn’t stand to be longer under the surface.

The choreography that is inspired by Butoh is based on fast, interchanging moves which are sometimes smooth or snatched. It looks like you are watching ‘classic’ Butoh (take this term pejoratively) being on acceleration.

mennono_3.jpgPhoto: excerpt Mennono taken from kni7 (c)

Every move has its layer of meanings being fully in its mission, and that’s physical and ethereal creation of the spiral. Take it from mathematics, geometry, astronomy, Chinese philosophy and medicine; spiral has always had the meaning of the essential centre… centre of birth… centre of creation.

All characteristic of Frenak‘s style could be recognized as smartly and poetically shaped in length of several minutes. He explores parallels of bodily geometry with the lines of stage. He treats backstage on the same level as front stage, because darkness and disappearances play important role in his dramaturgy.


His bodily comprehension was marked early in his childhood, while growing up by deaf and dumb parents. Therefore, gestures and sign language were engraved into his memory. Combination of visual art with strong physical embodiment is always somehow remarked with powerful sound in his pieces.


Pál Frenák (1957, Budapest) lives and works between Paris and Budapest as choreographer and lecturer. Although he’s mainly based from mid-1980’s in France, he’s involved in progression of Hungarian dance scene, too. This resulted in settling his company as a joint Hungarian-French company, based both in Budapest and Paris.

pal_frenak_2.jpgPhoto: Compagnie Pal Frenak (c)

He’s an award winning choreographer in constant research for new challenges; and also well known for his pedagogic work in Hungary, guilty on all charges for spreading his knowledge to new generation of performers. As he likes to involve the audience too, he is considered as an ‘open dialogue’ oriented choreographer.


‘In each one of my shows, I act according to my own convictions and if I want to demonstrate something, I will bear the consequences. During rehearsals, I analyze their moves attentively. Thus frequently, a particular move is created by chance’.

‘The question is not whether my plays are good or not, whether or not the public likes them. When you are on stage, you have to show what you are, what you communicate to the public. You should not want anything, you should just be’.

Pál Frenák

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