Budapest dancer Pál Frenák raises the curtain on Hungary’s capital of dance
Folk may come to mind when picturing Hungarian dance but in Budapest, one man is reinventing the game. Pál Frenák is one of the city’s greatest home-grown talents and his unique eye for movement has resulted in jaw-dropping productions around the world. As founder of Compagnie Pal Frenak, he has swapped his dancing shoes for choreography and teaching. Ahead of the Budapest Spring Festival, at which he’ll showcase his latest production, XX_&_Fragments, Frenák lifts the curtain on dance Budapest, the Hungarian capital of contemporary dance.
Growing up in Budapest, what inspired your passion for dance?
My first mother tongue was sign-language, and I used movement and facial expression as a way of communication. Growing up, I started to use gestures and dance to express myself and, somehow, my talents were discovered. I went to Endre Jeszenszky (Frenák’s dance master – renowned Hungarian dancer and choreographer) and suddenly found myself in a truly inspiring environment. That was the moment I seriously became acquainted with dance.
What makes Hungary’s dance scene so exciting?
I believe one of the most exciting things in the Hungarian dance scene is the versatility of the different genres. There are many talented dancers and choreographers in classical ballet, contemporary dance and folk. It is amazing to see how these genres can exist together. On the other hand, everyone is excited about the new National Dance Theatre project – the new building will be open in the spring 2018. I am sure that it will affect the dance and cultural scene very positively.
Why is the Budapest Spring Festival such an important event on the city’s cultural calendar?
The Budapest Spring Festival is a great opportunity for talented national and international artists to introduce themselves into Budapest’s cultural scene. I think the festival has a gripping programme in which everybody can find something special and unique.
Do you have any tips for first-time visitors to Budapest?
Recently, a gastronomic revolution has started in Budapest. I love organic food and it is nice to see that there are more and more restaurants where this type of food is available – Szimpla Farmer’s Market is a must-see on Sundays. One of my favourite places in the city is Ludwig Museum. I also think that if someone likes international contemporary arts, they must visit one of Trafó’s events. Finally, no one can leave without a walk along the Danube Promenad.
What can we expect from your new production, showing at the festival on 4th April?XX_&_Fragments_ is a unique sequence of performance pieces, inspired by the unconventional whale-shaped space of Bálna and Ernest Hemingway’s classic novel The Old Man and the Sea. A new generation of artists will share this extraordinary space for their choreographies, which show off their individual views, drive and energy. Five young artists will stage their work in this exceptional venue: Milán Maurer, Kristóf Várnagy, Gábor Ivanov, Patrik Keresztes and Fanni Esterházy. The creations are performed by the debuting choreographers, with the assistance of Mira Stupek (MTE) and Robert Peták.
Are you currently working on any particularly exciting projects with Compagnie Pál Frenák?
At the moment I am working on two new projects. One is a collaboration with the Hungarian State Opera House, where I choreograph Béla Bartók’s The Wooden Prince (the premier of this piece will be in May). The other is a new version of Tricks & Tracks, which will be produced at the Trafó House of Contemporary Arts in June.
When working on choreography, what inspires you?
I always observe the people surrounding me as well as the environment. I find everything that happens around me inspirational. It can be a personal experience, a piece of art or even a movie.
What brought you back to Budapest after years living in Paris?
When I came back to Budapest, an alternative culture had just started to rise. I thought that I could add something to that culture and I wanted to be a part of that process. I love both cities, but when I arrived in Budapest and saw the beautiful buildings and the river Danube, my heart stirred. The city has a vibe that is truly unique and special to me.
When you’re not dancing, where do you spend your time in Budapest?