Interview with Dušan Týnek

Dušan Týnek is a choreographer and the artistic director of Dušan Týnek Dance Theatre ( Týnek is also Hope Mohr Dance’s 2012 Bridge Project artist. Hope Mohr Dance’s Bridge Project brings notable choreographers to the Bay Area. As part of its 5th home season performances March 22-24 at Z Space in San Francisco, Hope Mohr Dance will present Týnek’s company, Dušan Týnek Dance Theatre. Mohr and Týnek met in 1997 while both studying on scholarship at the Merce Cunningham studio in New York. They also performed together in the company of Lucinda Childs. Hope recently caught up with Dušan in advance of his arrival in San Francisco.

How do you begin to make a dance?

Most of the time, I begin with a tiny idea flickering somewhere on the periphery of my mind and from there I begin developing movement in my living room, while listening to a lot of different music and frantically researching anything that may pertain to the particular seed of an idea. By the time I get into the studio with my dancers, I usually know what I am striving for. It’s a long and arduous and in the end extremely gratifying process, and I imagine it does feel like giving birth sometimes.

What are some of your choreographic habits or tools?

A lot of my spatial and time related organization of movement is quite complex. It would be extremely time consuming to work those out with my dancers, so I often sketch these in the form of drawings and charts at home. In this respect, my dance notebooks resemble work of a mad scientist. I guess it’s a leftover from my previous studies as a biologist.

Your work is highly musical. How do you go about creating movement in relationship to music?

I was born into a musical family and studied music since I was a child, so it’s kind of inherent to me. Choreography is very close to writing music with the major difference that your instruments are the dancers’ bodies and the score is the movement. I believe good dance has a rhythm that does not have to be obvious but as an audience member one perceives it subconsciously. I try to be musical and create movement that works with a particular score or create my own unique score without parroting what’s already obvious in the music. I’m not interested in explaining or paraphrasing music with movement. I use music to support the dance and hopefully enhance it in some way.

How has your approach to dancemaking changed over time?

I have become definitely more efficient as a dance maker and it’s easier now for me to translate ideas into movement. Also I am much more comfortable with making choreographic decisions on the spot even though I still do a lot of preparation before a rehearsal. I do let myself be more spontaneous nowadays and usually succeed in refraining from editing my work too soon.

You worked as a member of the Merce Cunningham RUGS (Repertory Understudy Program). What did you learn from Merce and how has his work influenced you?

No kind of movement is worse or better than other. Musicality and stillness in dance are essential. 
Space is multidimensional and therefore dance can be seen/experienced from an infinite number of points. 
One should try to keep challenging oneself and not settle for the easy or the obvious. 
If you believe in what you do and do it well, the audience will eventually come to you.

You also danced with Lucinda Childs for several years. What did you learn from her work?

Beauty and power often result in simplicity.

When you watch choreography, what do you value most as an audience member?

Intelligence, logic, invention and skill.

What questions do you have right now as an artist?

What’s next?