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Pal Frenak, continuous movement

Dora Haller @ Café Babel


As he travels incessantly between Budapest and Paris, 49 year-old Hungarian choreographer, Pal Frenak, talks about his sensual yet violent creations as well as the tormented world of contemporary dance.

"There is no great nor small artist, there are only artists", Pal Frenak tells us. He arrives wrapped up in a black scarf at the Odeon Cafe - the arty hangout of the Hungarian capital- on a freezing January day. In a shrewd and easygoing manner, he starts talking about his life and works, or rather 'attempts' as he calls them.

"I often hear that my plays are crude because of the very personal way I represent sensuality. But to me nudity means transparency, a naked man making use of his personal worth." Pal Frenak is known for his anti-conformist and sometimes daring creations represented in numerous European theatres, in the manner of 'Tricks and Tracks' in 1999, or 'Banquet', in which nudity is used as naturally as gender swap. Insurmountable loneliness, torture, violence and the brutality of sex are all omnipresent in his shows and are acted out in particular geometric spaces.

"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", points out my interlocutor. His plays often find themselves on the edge, halfway between reality and imagination, where one finally confronts oneself. In art, no two representations are the same. The choreographer's task consists of transmitting his emotions to his dancers whilst maintaining a freedom of interpretation within certain themes. "During rehearsals, I analyse their moves attentively. Thus frequently, a particular move is created by chance."

Nothing is set, everything is constantly changing and the dancers often live through tough moments, their minds and bodies naked, in constant turmoil between backstage and everchanging moves. "After the show, it is often hard for my dancers to get back to reality and to confront it", he points out. "But where is reality? I have to admit that I feel much better on stage. The stage is where barriers disappear, where I can float through space, outside of my carnal envelope. To achieve this, I do not need drugs, I simply give myself to an homogeneous existence in which i can dissolve. It is for this reason that success does not eat at me", he adds. "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."

Back to the past

Frenak tells me about the maturation of his strongly particular style of choregraphy, as his tea cools down on the pedestal table. His parents were deaf-blind and as a consequence the first language he learnt was that of signs, thus instigating in him a great sensibility to