Dora and Slava, a ballet homage to two great ladies of Croatian art

Dora and Slava, a ballet homage to two great ladies of Croatian art

The Croatian National Theatre Split Ballet will premiere the ballet performance "Dora and Slava" choreographed by Martin Chaix, featuring the music of Dora Pejačević, on the new stage of the Split Summer Festival at Bena in Split on Friday, July 21, at 9 p.m. This choreographic tribute is dedicated to the first woman composer of Croatia, the renowned Dora Pejačević, and pays homage to the genius of the prime Croatian watercolorist, Slava Raškaj, through the costumes designed by Aleksandar Noshpal. The premiere was presented at a press conference at the Split National Theatre. 

Dora and Slava, a ballet homage to two great ladies of Croatian art

The Split Ballet will perform the ballet "Dora and Slava" accompanied by Dora Pejačević's Symphony in F-sharp minor, the first Croatian modern symphony, which premiered in 1920 in Dresden under the composer's signature "D." to prevent the audience from realizing that she was a woman. The emotional, dynamic, and expressive nature of this orchestral composition, representing one of the most important works of female composers in the first half of the 20th century, forms the foundation of Martin Chaix's choreography. The authentic, expressionistic, and emotionally charged watercolors of Slava Raškaj, which depict the soul's essence locked in the silence of deaf-muteness, serve as inspiration for costume designer Aleksandar Noshpal. 

Vicko Bilandžić, the director of the 69th Split Summer Festival, emphasized his joy in the fact that the choreographer of the main part of the performance, "Dora and Slava," has created a completely new work as a challenge to the imagination and creativity of the dancers. He also expressed his excitement about the opening of the stage at Bene, located in the Marjan Forest: "The Bene stage is huge, larger than one we have in theatre, and the surroundings are truly enchanting, like a surreal world, a place of contemplation that will come to life even more thanks to the magnificent performances on our program. We hope to permanently maintain and preserve this wonderful stage," said Bilandžić. The new director of the Split National Theatre Ballet, Pedro Carneiro, highlighted the strength of the ensemble, stating, "I have been here for only a week, and I have dedicated every moment to preparing for the new season. I have found a dynamic ensemble with a strong work ethic and exceptional abilities. I am delighted to work with such talented individuals." 

Martin Chaix found inspiration in Croatian culture: "I tried to merge the work of the ensemble with what is inherently Croatian, with what is local and interesting. As I have been studying female composers for several years, I came across the work of Dora Pejačević and was immediately captivated by her symphony's power and vitality, unaware of how significant her presence was in the Croatian art scene. When Vicko and I first visited the location at Bena, I saw how well the spirit of the music aligned with the spirit of the place and the dancers with whom I started working on the choreography," said Chaix, a choreographer familiar to the Split audience. 

Costume designer Aleksandar Noshpal beautifully complemented this narrative by finding inspiration in another great Croatian artist, watercolorist Slava Raškaj, creating an organic and logical extension to this artistic creation. He explained, "This is a homage to the great ladies of Croatian art, Dora Pejačević, whom I consider the Tchaikovsky of Croatian music, and Slava Raškaj, who is like the Croatian Monet. The atmosphere, along with the romantic location, led me to Slava's water lilies as inspiration, to colors and creations that I believe will fit perfectly into the choreographic story. Since Martin and I recently collaborated on a project at the Paris Opera, and this is our seventh joint work, a fantastic energy has been created around 'Dora and Slava.'" 

As part of the pre-program of the ballet premiere at Bena, the Split National Theatre Ballet will present choreographies by fellow ensemble members: Arise Hirono, who choreographed "Serenity of Light" to the music of Arvo Pärt, and Aaron Kok, whose piece "A Dinner for Rose" finds musical inspiration in the works of Shostakovich, Monti, and Vivaldi. 

Arisa Hirono expressed her gratitude for the opportunity to try herself as a choreographer and found her inspiration in the music of Arvo Pärt. She said, "The piece is called 'Fratres,' which I believe is a brilliant title for what I feel within this ensemble – brotherhood, connection, and mutual support, which are crucial in the work of dancers. Therefore, I wanted to dedicate my choreography to exploring this relationship." 

Aaron Kok has been a member of the Split Ballet for seven years, and for his piece "A Dinner for Rose," he approached it as a story: "It's a story about a wealthy old woman whose will disappoints her family and guests at her dinner, and she ends up dead. I tried to create an entertaining, yet somewhat creepy choreography set to well-known classical music from 'The Addams Family' film. There are many strong characters in the story, so I sought to express their individuality." 

Eva Karpilovska, the principal dancer of the Split National Theatre Ballet, particularly highlighted Martin Chaix's way of working: "It's a great pleasure to watch choreographers like Martin who instantly incorporate the music and start choreographing on the spot. It's truly a rare talent. I am delighted to be involved in all three parts of the performance, and even more so because our dancers have demonstrated that they are talented choreographers themselves," said Eva. Jake Milston, a new addition to the ensemble from the United Kingdom, found a common thread in the three different pieces: "There are three compositions with different structures and energies, but they work together excellently. From Arise, which portrays our togetherness, to Aaron's piece, which is genuinely fun, and Martin's piece, which is like painting in dance, with precise artistic vision." 

In the three movements of the symphony, the pairs dancing are Imogen Moss and Jake Milston, Irina Čaban Bilandžić and Danyil Podhrushko, and Eva Karpilovska and Aaron Kok, accompanied by the ballet ensemble. In "Serenity of Light," ten dancers perform, while in the horror ballet "Dinner for Rose," twelve principals, soloists, and members of the Split Ballet ensemble take the stage. 

The reprisal performances are scheduled for July 24 and 25. A bus for the audience will depart 30 minutes before the performance, at 8:30 p.m., in front of the Church of St. Frane, Trg Franje Tuđmana 1. The transportation is free of charge for all ticket holders. It is also possible to reach Bena by using the regular line of the Split Promet bus number 12 (Sveti Frane - Bene), which runs daily at 8:00 p.m. and 8:15 p.m.