Inspirations and Traces in the Works of Pál Frenák
1. Frenák’s Somatic Style and the Influence of Sign Language
“Even as a child, I understood the language of the body, because otherwise I would have been unable to communicate with my mother and her environment, who used their entire bodies in a very refined and sensitive manner.” (Halász 2001) “The sign language used by the deaf and the hard of hearing will accompany me throughout my entire life, as a type of mother tongue paired to the language I use to express myself verbally.”
“I continued the use of a tiny movement involving the back of the hand to involve the shoulder, the arm, the upper body, and then the hip, the knee, and the feet, and this gave it an entirely new meaning. For example, when someone indicates tomorrow, they point forward with their fingers, making a sort of spiral movement—I expanded this movement of the hand to include the upper arm, and then the entire arm, which is integrated into the upper body and which draws with it the hip and the feet, finally using the participation of the entire body, and I even rotate it. I rotate it peripherally: the sign language used by the deaf involves frontal communication, so you can’t move your head or move around while talking. So, I basically used various dance techniques to develop this very reduced, minimalistic organic structure into a peripheral communication system that involves the entire body.”
“The structure of the piece is a little like the movement of the galaxies. Everything is there, revolving in the dancer, and I cannot restrain it. I do not consider it necessary to ‘say’ something, but that does not mean that what we do does not have anything to say. Everyone has to phrase the message for themselves. […] my pieces have neither a beginning nor an end. It is not as if I create a piece that is about something and then another piece that is about something else: rather, the entire thing is a process, and I, we, generally always talk about the same thing.”
“I live a ‘foraging’ lifestyle: I store information and inspirations in my soul in the form of fragments, and then I make use of them: words, ideas, snippets of sound, portraits, or the profile of a face: sometimes it takes 30 years for them to come together. Divine sparks and breaths that touch people. That requires me to have a peripheral way of seeing things, assisted by my mother’s sign language and even confinement as one starts paying attention to the outside world. Looking back, the manner in which I try to chew my way through the bars spiritually, mentally, and intellectually is also important.”
“my own experiences have affected me profoundly and made me much more sensitive. […] The choreographies help me live through the tough times and rise above myself, expand the emotions. Perhaps they even help me see the universal weight of things. I have been through deep pain and have learned to cope with it. As an artist, I make my living from it. When looking at a piece from a certain distance, I feel like it wasn’t me who created it; it’s not my work. I can tell there is some kind of pain coming from it, but it doesn’t feel like mine anymore. I have disappeared.”
6. The Japanese Culture and Aesthetics as Inspiration
“Before Tricks & Tracks, I spent almost a year and a half in Japan as a form of retreat. During this time, I did not create anything until after I met the world-famous Japanese dancer Kazuo Ohno. I frequented various traditional theatrical performances, visited isolated little villages in the mountains to observe the people, and all the meanwhile I learned to pay attention to what is inside myself. This helped me in many ways, and I needed it spiritually too. […] Even the volcano bubbles for a long time before it erupts.”
“Tricks & Tracks […] did not directly feed from Butoh, though it did open a door for me, maybe precisely by way of Kazuo Ohno. For example, somebody said that the solo at the end of the piece was reminiscent of Kazuo’s state, death. And this solo is about continuous change, about transformation.”
“He was very old,8 he sat motionless, lost within himself, rarely moving. Many hours later, during which he looked over me with his gaze once but never spoke to me, he pushed his bowl of rice toward me. I could not imagine getting a stronger gesture from him: he used this motion to tell me that I should not try to learn, but to go and do what I understand. And so I came.”(Gát 2012)
“I […] believe in self-identity. A credible creator does not create according to changing trends, but explores what is important to him, immerses himself in what is productive for him and works on his own distinctive way of speaking and his own stage world.”
“They often say that people repeat themselves… Well, of course they do! If an artist is interested in something, they spend their entire life studying and trying to solve that one thing.”10
“Until I feel that I have something to say about a certain topic—and I am able to do so with the greatest level of honesty—[…] the whole world can tell me that I am repeating myself. So what?”11
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
Dancer Halász Gábor’s comment, in Nóra HORVÁTH: “Érző figyelem és folyamatos újraértékelés. Interjú Frenák Pállal és táncművészeivel a 2020-as Spider bemutatója kapcsán” [“Emotional Attention and Constant Re-evaluation. Interview with Pál Frenák and His Dancers Regarding the 2020 Première of Spider”], Ambroozia online publication, No. 1 (2021), accessed on 29 March 2021, https://www.ambroozia.hu/A202101/interj%C3%BA/%C3%A9rz%C5%91-figyelem-%C3%A9s-folyamatos-%C3%BAjra%C3%A9rt%C3%A9kel%C3%A9s.
Tamás Erdős was Pina Bausch’s manager.
Frenák’s frequently used words.
Trailer of the performance Cage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRDXODBojMA (accessed on 11 January 2021).
Trailer to Fiúk, accessed on 12 March 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vN1lIe4DvLk.
https://kultura.hu/frenak-pal-tarsulat-fiuk-130122/, accessed on 13 January 2022.
See: Nóra Teszári’s interview with Pál Frenák, Kikötő, 26 February 2008, Duna TV.
Kazuo OHNO passed away in 2010 at the age of 103.
For more details, see FRALEIGH, Butoh. Metamorphic Dance and Global Alchemy, 44–49.
Dóra JUHÁSZ’s Interview with Pál Frenák, “Juste—Pont annyi, nem több, nem kevesebb” [Juste—Exactly This much, No More, No Less], criticailapok.hu, 2015/7–8., accessed: 9 December 2021, https://www.criticailapok.hu/archivum?id=30197.
Nóra TESZÁRI’S interview with Pál Frenák, Kikötő, Duna TV, 9 December 2009.
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Horváth, N. Inspirations and Traces in the Works of Pál Frenák. Arts 2023, 12, 34. https://doi.org/10.3390/arts12010034
Horváth N. Inspirations and Traces in the Works of Pál Frenák. Arts. 2023; 12(1):34. https://doi.org/10.3390/arts12010034Chicago/Turabian Style
Horváth, Nóra. 2023. "Inspirations and Traces in the Works of Pál Frenák" Arts 12, no. 1: 34. https://doi.org/10.3390/arts12010034