Laterna Magika enchants audiences
Translating to Magic Lantern, Laterna magika blends contemporary dance with music, film elements and video-mapping light projections to explore and amplify thought-provoking themes.
“Contemporary dance is a means of communication. It works more with emotions and is more for explaining or expressing feelings,” says Pavel Knolle, Head of the Artistic Ensemble of Laterna magika. “There is more freedom of movement. There are no borders, no definitions of what contemporary can or cannot be, it embraces all styles – everything is possible on the stage.”
The performances often bend reality and make the audience question their own eyes, with dancers seeming to be held in giant hands, almost falling off of cliffs or disappearing only to instantly reappear as a projection. It becomes difficult to distinguish between what is real and what is simply a screen.
Each show uses these mind-bending elements to portray distinct messages and thought-provoking themes.
“The Garden is about grown-up people who go back to some secret place they knew as kids and start remembering what they found so interesting here as children,” says Knolle. “It’s about trying to see the world through children’s eyes again.”
The projections in The Garden show what is going on in the minds of the dancers, essentially recreating the imaginative scenes they created there when they were children. The base of the video-mapping scenes in the show are hand-drawn illustrations of floral scenes and fantastical creatures. The projections in Cube, on the other hand, were made entirely digitally, except for a few film elements.
“Cube is absolutely abstract,” says Knolle. “There is no storyline, it is surreal. You have to figure it out yourself, it is about your emotions and what your memories and dreams are about. The inspiration comes from everything in the modern world resembling a cube, it is an object we use or see hundreds of times a day, you can even be in the cube, in a box! So the creators were playing with this concept.”
Human Locomotion differs from the other shows in the contemporary dance repertoire in that it is roughly based on the life of Eadweard Muybridge, known for his photographic studies of motion. Inspired by their shared exploration of the connection between film, photography and movement, the show uses Muybridge’s original photographs in the performance – including his famous images of a horse running.
“Everything – the music, the set, the costumes – it’s all combined so directly, you can’t imagine the performance to work without one of these parts,” says Knolle. “And of course the principle is that every part of all those aspects has to have some meaning. We don’t use technology just because it’s fashionable, new or interesting. We look for the meaning and then find the best solution and equipment – the technology is just a means of communication.”
Laterna came to be after the Czechoslovak government commissioned a display of Czechoslovak culture for the 1958 Brussels Expo. According to co-creator Josef Svoboda, Laterna aims to explore “the relationship between actions on the screen and on the stage scene” and to “multiply relations by combining various screening surfaces.”
Connecting the different mediums is not an easy task. After painstakingly creating the projections and film footage, the company often has to entirely re-work parts of the performances once they combine it with the choreography and music. The entire process takes over a year.
The company is fluid, with a core group of dancers often accompanied by new additions to keep the performances as creative and explorative as possible. The artists, directors and choreographers change with the show as well. Sometimes they collaborate closely and other times the artists simply bring the director and choreographer’s visions to life.
“We are living in a world of illusions and media and we at Laterna can stress this point, to let people know the world is full of illusions and we have to be aware of it,” says Knolle. “The most important thing is not to have beautiful movement, but meaningful movement.”