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A Dancer’s Life: Amazons and Horses and Havasi

Choreographer and co-founder of ExperiDance Sándor Román knows he is facing an extremely busy 12-month period, but even so he is thinking longer-term, and determined to set an example to artistic creatives, whatever their chosen specialization.

“Art has started to become a factory,” Román says in an exclusive interview with the Budapest Business Journal. “All over the United States and Europe we see a kind of art factory.” Art has become a commodity, something “to be put on the shelf” he says. Artistic endeavors are increasingly seen solely from the point of view of whether they will make money. Risk taking has been pushed to one side. And matters are not helped by the high pace at which we, the audience, lead our lives. Román says things need to be stripped back.

“Everybody is running, nobody is listening; it is really hard to catch and find people. But we are all human. We have to find what is the pure point of being human. You need to find a human message, find something touchable, something people feel is missing.”

The need is real, and present, he insists. “There is nothing new because the creatives do not have enough time, and time is money. The business world has reached very deeply into art and ‘killed’ the creatives.” To be clear, Román is not against business per se. But he feels that in the arts too many decisions are taken from a business perspective, instead of an artistic one. Rather than trying to communicate a human message, people are trying to sell an artistic product.

“Art and business have to live side-by-side, and not one under the other,” he explains. “Now business is on top, pushing down on the arts. Business needs to support the artistic world, like the great patrons did in the Renaissance.” The message, Román says, is that the arts need sponsors, not dictators. “Creatives have to take creative risks, they have to believe in themselves. This is also my message; we need to start to believe, and not to fear.”

This, he says, is ExperiDance’s new challenge. “We have to take the time to create something that can be this new message, because we have the background, we have lots of experience.” That they most certainly do, and the repertoire will grow this year once again, for Román is practicing what he preaches, and is creating something new.

Amazons on the Horizon

That is a show called “Amazons”, which charts the story of the progress of the fairer sex. As yet it is a work in progress, but it will have its premiere in September. “Behind every man is a woman; without women in our lives, who can help men? We need Amazons to solve the problems of the world. Women can solve all problems; this is a very positive message we want to send.”

Román says the characters he is creating are not actual people, but they are drawn from historical events, and the challenges women have overcome throughout history. “For example, the vote; women wanted the vote, fought for the vote, and eventually they got the vote. Or pants; they wanted pants and they got pants, but there are many, many examples.”

The dancing team Román is pulling together for “Amazons” will not be all-female, however; as he says, men are part of this story, too. “Men are nothing without women, but women need men too. It is women and men, this is the human message, because we are linked. We are both of us better together.”

The dancers have to be found, the dances created, the characters built, the music written, a way of seamlessly incorporating ExperiDance’s unique LED light wall needs to be found. It is a lot of work. But that is not all the dance company has coming up.

A second premier will take place in Riesa, in Saxony, Germany, in the late fall. “We are co-producing a show with Apassionata, the biggest show with horses and dancers in Europe. So, we have to create a new show for October before starting a year-long tour around Europe.” The show will surely be spectacular: Apassionata has built a reputation for what its website calls “the harmony between humans and animals, combined with wonderful music, spectacular light effects, opulent costumes and great choreographies – family entertainment at its best”.

Still that is not all. ExperiDance also has what Román calls the Havasi project, which will combine its dancers with the virtuoso pianist and composer with the rock star-like persona and embark on a tour taking in Ljubljana, Gdansk, Vienna and Krakow.  

Around all of that, ExperiDance will have its usual roster of shows at its home venue, the RaM Colosseum in Budapest, and at an increasing number of venues around the countryside. And then, next spring, there comes a two-month tour of France with the Empress Elisabeth-inspired production “Stormy – the Legend of Sissi”, encompassing 25 shows.  

Balancing Workloads

How does he balance the dancers’ workload? By paying careful attention to energy levels, as much as anything. A choreographer has to know when he can ask a dancer to go again, or when they should rest. And in between the daily exercises and rehearsals for new shows or the cleaning up of the choreography of old shows, time has to be made for study and other activities. As Román says, a dancer’s professional life is short, and not everyone can become a choreographer or leader.

“A dancer is like a high-quality athlete; everyday they must do something physical. It doesn’t have to be dance, it could be weights, yoga, running, but something with the body. My master told me ‘The first ten years are hard. And the last’.”

It is clear ExperiDance will need more dancers, but that itself is a challenge. “It takes me four years to create an ExperiDance dancer: it also takes lots of money and time to ‘build’ a dancer to our level.” Classical dance teaching focuses so much on nailing the steps, the technique, that it removes the personality of the dancer; it is that in particular that Román is looking for.  

“I need individuals, I need a lot of characters because that makes for a richer show.”

Little wonder, then, that Román is both proud and hopeful for the dance academy ExperiDance launched two years ago for younger children. He would dearly love to set up a joint program with a European arts university, and says he is open to offers. He has spent his time in the limelight on the stage; now he wants to pass on the knowledge, that passion, that search for the human message to a newer generation. “I spend too much time organizing. I want to spend more time in the rehearsal room. That is my world.”