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Jiří Bubeníček, his wife Nadina Cojocaru and his brother Otto Bubeníček. Photo Cristian Hillbom

Jiří Bubeníček: Nicholas Le Riche accepted with open arms to do The Trial

STOCKHOLM: Special guests at the meeting with Operans Balettklubb in Stockholm were choreographer Jiří Bubeníček, his wife Nadina Cojocaru, creator of the costumes–and his twin brother Otto Bubeníček, creator of the scenography for the ballet Processen.

The ballet is based on the novel The Trial written by Franz Kafka–published in 1925, one year after Kafka’s death.

”This is not my first visit to Stockholm,” says Jiří. ”I was here many times–even as a kid. When I was around 20 years and visited Stockholm, someone in the Royal Swedish Ballet company got sick and I was asked to jump in as Lysander in A Midsommer Night’s Dream.”

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Jiří Bubeníček. Photo Cristian Hillbom

The Bubeníček brothers come from a Czech circus family and they were born in Lubin, Poland, where the circus was on tour. They grew up in Prague, where they also got their ballet schooling at the Prague Conservatory for Music and Dance.

After their graduation in 1993 they both joined the Hamburg Ballett where they stayed a number of years as two of John Neumeier’s most favoured soloists, dancing and creating leading roles in many of his epic ballets.

After about ten years Jiří left Hamburg and joined the Semperoper Ballett in Dresden and stayed there for 13 years as Principal dancer.

The two brothers continued to work together in many projects and when Otto left Hamburg their collaborations took form in a touring company, ”Les Ballets Bubeníček,” engaging dancers among their friends for each project.

They toured around Europe and also in Japan performing Jiri’s choreographic works and Otto stage or costume designs. This continued for ten years until last summer with their final performances in Prague, when Jiří choreographed a ballet after Bedřich Smetana’s 6 musical poems called My Father Land.

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Otto Bubeníček. Photo Cristian Hillbom

Otto stayed on in Hamburg about 10 years before he started to work more regularly with Jiří, composing music and designing scenography. “I have always been creative and interested in stage design and music.” he says.

”It started already in school. If I had some free moment, I always did some creative things with leather, playing the piano, composing music, stage design in 3D, making some movie on the computer and so on.

When Jiří asked me to compose for him, to do some design and other things, I liked to do these things and gradually became a stage designer. I am very happy now, that I can do all the things I love–and get payed for it!”

When did they get interested in Kafka and The Trial?

“When you grow up in Prague, says Jiří, Kafka is part of your life. You walk on the same streets. We grew up in the same quarters in Prague. I went to the same school as Kafka,”

“When I was asked by Nicholas Le Riche to do a new piece here, I remembered Kafka’s The Trial and suggested it to him and he accepted it with open arms. I believe the Swedish people know about Kafka and his work. Together with Nadina we have been preparing the dramaturgy for this new piece during the last year.” says Jiří.

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Nadina Cojocaru with Jiřís and her daughter Blanka. Photo Cristian Hillbom

Nadina has been working with the costumes for some time, and says ”my role as a costume designer for this piece was to enhance the weirdness of the characters and to bring up some symbols and details that are very important and would help the choreographer to better tell the story”.

How has Kafka and his writings influenced the Czech people?

“I can only give my own experience so I can’t talk about the feelings of the Czech people” says Jiří.

Kafka is a symbol of Prague. Wherever you walk you see portraits of him. In my opinion the image of Kafka was stronger before Prague became ‘rich’ and full of tourists.”

Otto remarks, that when they were in school it was during the communist era and Kafka’s books were forbidden, so now he is glad he can read and discuss his works and express his own thoughts and feelings as he pleases.

To the question if they had any doubts about working with such a dark theme, Nadina smiles and remarks that in her opinion their ballet Processen is not such a dark piece, such a dystopia.

“If you read about Kafka’s work, The Trial may seem dark, and in fact Kafka asked his friend Max Brod to burn all his writings after Kafka’s death, he did not want anyone to read them,” says Jiří. Brod didn’t obey Kafka’s wish. Instead he edited and arranged the chapters in the present order–which Kafka had not done–and let publish The Trial.

“Brod also said that when reading these chapters together with Kafka, they actually had laughed. Our Processen is more about the ridiculous, the grotesque, the eccentricities, the absurdities in situations from life. In my opinion it is a story that asks the question what life is about. Man’s inability to understand the meaning of his own existence. One can feel that this is Kafka’s theme in all his books,” says Jiří Bubeníček.

Marie Louise Waldenström/Anders Jörlén
17 May 2019

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