SHORT STORY OF THE COMPANY
„Pál Frenák always enthralls his audience, who are transported into a special, fascinating environment, richly saturated with feelings, surrounded by dancers who are wonderful in every sense of the word” (Le Figaro)
Pál Frenák was born in Budapest in 1957. Being raised by deaf and mute parents was a formative experience of his childhood. His primary means of expression was thus sign-language, which has made him susceptible to facial expressions, gestures, and the use of the body for conveying ideas. After his father’s death, he spent seven years in an boarding school, where he secretly began experimenting with series of movements in front of the mirror. At the age of ten he directed a play with amateur children actors. Subsequently, he studied classical ballet, folk and modern dances. He considers Endre Jeszenszki to have been his Hungarian master.
In search of new vistas, he left for Paris in the mid-1980s, where he worked with several renown figures of classical ballet, and studied the dance techniques of Cunningham and Limon.
Thanks to his French wife, the architect Catherine Frenák, he discovered the world of contemporary arts, and familiarized himself with the unconventional use of forms and space. The films of the Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, the work of Francis Bacon, the writings of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, and his personal relationship with the French painter Jean Olivier had a great impact on his later work.
In 1989 he founded his Compagnie Pál Frenák in Paris, but he never turned his back on the Hungarian dance scene. Since 1990 he has been visiting Hungary regularly, and has taught contemporary dance to local artists. Several of his performances premiered in Budapest (1990-Secret Souls; 1991- Terre; 1993-Skateboards; 1996-Saint Rita; 1998-The Wild Ones), and he has invited talented young artists to work with his company in Paris. The Pál Frenák Company toured France, Romania, the Baltic states, Russia and Israel between 1993 and 1998.
In parallel with his work as a choreographer, Pál Frenák has taught at the Paris and Lille Theatre of the Deaf, and has been a visiting instructor and choreographer at the French College of Acrobats in Chalons en Champagne. He has developed a dance therapy programme (“the role of the art of movement in healing”) for disabled and autistic children at the University Hospital in Amiens.
In 1998, Pál Frenák won the Kyoto Villa Kujoyama choreography award, thanks to which he spent more than six months on Japan, where he has regularly returned since then to choreograph performances.
In 1999 the Pál Frenák Company – which had existed in France for a decade – became a joint Hungarian-French company, based both in Budapest and Paris. The young dancers, carefully selected by Frenák, have proved extremely inspiring for each other, and have developed a unique dance style and an individual character over the years. Their work draws on an integrated use of facial expressions, sign-language, and body movements, as well as related genres (circus, theatre, fashion shows, contemporary music).
„The systems of tortures offered in the works of Frenák are majestically uplifitng, they hurt in a lofty manner, and their passionately suffering erotomaniac universe purifies the spectator. Frenák’s group provides a beautiful representation of an ugly world. It presents savage inexorability in a refined way, and life-and-death struggle with dainty elegance”
Molnár Gál Péter, Népszabadság
The new structure of the company has increasingly enhanced Frenák’s creativity. Following their first performance, Out of the Cage, he gave a new form to Skateboards. Then, he presented a performance inspired by his experiences in Japan, Tricks & Tracks, which has earned him the wide and unanimous acclaim of both critics and audiences. In 2000 Tricks & Tracks won the main prize of the Veszprém Dance Festival, and the main prize of the Soros Studio Theatre Days in the following year. The company recieved more and more invitations to perform all over Europe, and this success engendered new works. Feast was premiered in March 2001 at the Trafó House of Contemporary Arts, which has been the foremost supporting institution of the company since the beginning. ChaOs was performed at the prestigious Budapest Spring Festival in 2002, and all the shows sold out immediately.
„…no feelings, desires, passion, jealousy or thirst for revenge are falsely presented as really experienced; merely the infernal counterpart of relationships between couples. The dancers of Pál Frenák are like the experienced society of scholars who are observing the way in which a volcano is slowly seething and annihilating everything.”
Fuchs Lívia, Élet és Irodalom
In recognition of his professional achievements, Frenák was awarded the Gyula Harangozo prize of the Hungarian Ministry of National Cultural Heritage in 2002.
In 2002-2003, the audiences were eagerly awaiting the performances of the company. In 2003 he presented Blue Spring at the Budapest Spring festival, then in 2004 he started working on an idiosyncratic interpretation of the eternal theme of possible relations between man and woman. This resulted in The Hidden Men and Csajok, followed in 2005 by Apocalypse-Frisson.
In 2005 he also went on a two-month East European tour with The Hidden Men, performing with resounding success in fifteen cities of nine different countries. He also won the main prize of the Veszprém Dance Festival after this tour.
Trying to break out of the confines of thetrical space, he searches for new, inspiring spaces. Thus, in 2004 and 2005 his company performs enormously successful improvised show in the exhibition halls of the Ludwig Museum during the Museum Nights. In August 2005 he performs another improvised show, with seven other Hungarian companies, at the Pannonhalma Arts Festival in the arboretum of the local abbey.
„What is interesting about Frenák’s performances is the combination of affected and artistic visions on the one hand with a dramatic composition cleverly elaborated along a particular idea, on the other. Nevertheless, one has the impression that his works have been conceived in a trance-like state of consciousness”
Helmeczi Hedvig, kontextus.hu
Besides his creative work as a choreographer, he regularly teaches professional workshops, organizes free performances with the company to initiate school children into the world of dance, participates in meetings with the public, emphasizing a continuous dialogue with the viewers, as well as with other branches of art.