In January 1961, exactly 40 years ago, an idea was born which for many years did not get a precise name, a seat, a founder or any other solid background. Young Czech dancers (mostly still students) began to strongly perceive the new trends in dance art, which in the post-war years gradually influenced the entire Western dance world. New dance techniques, means of expression, staging methods, collaborations with musicians and other genres... all this provoked the emerging generation of the "golden" sixties.
The development seems to have been very spontaneous and intuitive - we have virtually no tangible evidence of the first decade of the "Modern Dance Group of the University Art Company". All we know is that around the young choreographer František Pokorný a group of enlightened and enthusiastic dancers gathered - partly former members of the VUS folk dance group and students of the Prague Conservatoire - and the first centre of contemporary dance in our country was born. Its activity and influence must have been very intense - Jiří Kylián recalled this in his speech in December 2000 when he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Academy of Performing Arts. All the more regrettable is the theft of the complete archive of the group in the early 1970s!
The next decade is clearer: Ivanka Kubicová and Jan Hartmann took advantage of the brief dawn of 1968 to make a reconnaissance trip to the West. Fortunately, they went straight to the "blacksmith" - to the London Contemporary Dance School, which for many years was the flagship of European modernism. Here Robin Howard gathered the top Americans and gave many young enthusiasts from all over Europe a fatal chance. The two Czechs did indeed return to Prague years later and since 1972, together with Jiří Rebec, have been building the new face of the group. A significant morale boost was the collaboration with Pavel Šmok and the newly formed Prague Chamber Ballet (1976). Another, this time domestic, venture was the acceptance of VUS under the wing of Charles University in 1977. The change would be mediated by a mixed choir, but paradoxically it would be the modern dance group that would later benefit from this exceptional social, professional and moral patronage. Even here we do not have many archival relics, but we do have a number of direct witnesses and contemporary collaborators. Nevertheless, we feel that to map the first half of the Centre's history in detail will make for challenging but very interesting and useful 'archaeological' research.
It was high time for 1989. The Center already had a considerable head start and many years of experience in working with the newly "discovered" West, and it was selflessly giving it away to anyone who showed serious interest. Most of the formal obstacles were removed and all energy could be directed into the rehearsal rooms and onto the stage. In fact, traditional activities are only multiplied and improved. With the support of the Ministry of Culture, the first paid employee was hired (January 1991), Charles University incorporated the Centre as an independent department directly into its statute (May 1991), and the apprenticeship was transformed into an eight-year dance conservatoire (September 1994) - the first real alternative to state conservatories. Therefore, the bitter struggle for its "inclusion in the network of schools" became an important professional and moral test for the entire dance community. The concept differed from the state model in several tricky points: the eclectic teaching of classical, modern and jazz, consistently intertwined with choreographic work, as well as the distinct emphasis on a truly high-quality general education, were still, at the end of the 1990s, an impossible or even unnecessary requirement for some dance experts. After many years of absurd tug-of-war with the Ministry of Education, the centre finally wins (August 1997) with the strong support of many personalities of the dance genre - it already has 52 full-time students in the first three years.
In addition to the winter festival and summer courses, there is also the Summer Dance Workshop (since 1994), which regularly presents selected students of Czech conservatories in works by foreign artists. The Centre also maintains a tradition of methodological and motivational events: from irregular seminars a three-year "further education of teachers" - distance learning accredited by the Ministry of Education (September 1995) is created, and educational programmes for schools "How to be a dancer" are regularly organised. The school company, which has now fully replaced the original "modern dance group", performs all over the Czech Republic and abroad, is a major participant in the Christmas Dance Show (since 1997) and the so far "non-graduate" June performances (the first full-time graduates will leave the centre in 2002). A new university law forced a legal break with Charles University in 1996 - the Vetrník campus and direct working relations remain, however. The final legal form and name were established in 1997, when "Dance Centre Prague" was registered as a "public benefit corporation".
The rich and vibrant history of the centre is to a large extent directly intertwined with the development of Czech dance. That is why we feel a special responsibility for the term "contemporary dance". On the threshold of postmodernity we should start to use really ALL sources of inspiration of dance art, but also to really control them! We must greatly expand the classical "dance craft" to include everything that the 20th century brought - modern techniques, jazz, non-European dance cultures, modern mime and acting, acrobatics , synthetic use of film, television and digital technology, etc. And these are only the technical prerequisites for the creation of a contemporary work of art: the diderot-like cold calculation of reason, the unpretentious intellect, the deep emotional range and the sincerely humanistic approach of the creators still have to come - then only then, together with our enlightened audiences, will we enter the dance art of the 21st century.
Chronological development of "VUS - CHARLES UNIVERSITY - TCP"
Building the centre 1948 - 2005
9/1948 founding of the University Art Ensemble (VUS) - a folk dance group
1/1961 change of artistic concept to "VUS Modern Dance Group" - founder, artistic director and choreographer František Pokorný
9/1969 Ales Koudelka - artistic director
9/1971 Jiří Rebec - artistic director
9/1972 start of cooperation with Jan Hartmann - artistic direction and introduction of new concept of teaching modern dance and jazz
9/1973 beginning of cooperation with Ivanka Kubicova - beginning of new artistic and methodological
Kubicová - Hartmann" - graduates of the London Contemporary Dance Trust
5/1974 collaboration with LCDT - Tamara Mc Lorg
2/1976 beginning of cooperation with Pavel Šmok and Prague Chamber Ballet
3/1977 change of the founder of VUS from the "union of education workers at the kindergarten" to Charles University - "VUS UK Modern Dance Group"
9/1980 new management of the centre - Vlasta Schneiderová (school) and Antonín Schneider (company)
change of concept - building a "dance centre"
10/1981 start of cooperation with Nyon Institute - choreographic competition (Switzerland)
10/1982 start of cooperation with LCDT - Kent University (V.Britanie)
5/1983 start of cooperation with St. Barbara University (USA)
6/1984 construction works in the "Spartakiada canteen" of the Větrník canteen on the premises of Charles University - 1st stage
9/1984 reorganization of VUS UK - official establishment of the "Dance Centre of Charles University"
9/1984 reorganisation of the preparatory departments of the Centre into an independent "dance school", not included in the network of schools and without state subsidy, start of cooperation with the Faculty of Arts of Charles University and the Faculty of Television and Theatre Studies of Charles University
10/1984 start of cooperation with Caserta Danse Inst. (France)
3/1985 start of cooperation with Columbia University (USA),
9/1985 permanent allocation of space in the Větrník Canteen - 1st study for final reconstruction
3/1986 start of cooperation with Brooklyn College (USA),
4/1987 founding of the festival "International Dance Week" ( MTT ) - under the auspices of the Rector of Charles University
8/1987 start of cooperation with Temple University and Alvin Ailey Dance Center (USA)
8/1988 establishment of the "Summer Dance School"
2/1990 beginning of cooperation with the National Theatre Ballet in Prague - five-year dramaturgical concept
3/1990 start of cooperation with Nederlands Dans Theater - NDT 2 tour to Czechoslovakia
4/1990 patronage of the Minister of Education over MTT 90 - first direct subsidy for the festival
1/1991 patronage of the Minister of Culture over MTT 91 - allocation of an office and the first two production spaces in the Czech Art Studio
11/1991 allocation of 1.5 posts within the UK Rectorate (director + secretary)
1/1992 start of cooperation with Limón Institute (USA) - tour and seminars in Prague
1/1992 approval of the statute of the UK + an amendment on TC UK - a special purpose facility of the UK with legal personality
2/1992 allocation of an office and classroom in UK - Opletalova 26, gym according to the CTV schedule
2/1992 approval of the TC UK organizational regulations by the Rector and the Academic Senate of UK
3/1992 project of reconstruction of the test rooms in Větrník, loan from the Academic Senate of Charles University
8/12/1992 reconstruction of the eastern part of the canteen at Větrník into the headquarters of TCP - II. stage
9/1993 launch of integrated dance studies with the Gymnasium Evropská - Prague 6
1/1994 reorganization - dissolution of CUS - termination of the TC UK production office
6/1994 appointment of the "TC UK Board of Directors" by the Rector of the Charles University and the start of its activities, Professor Pavel Šmok - the first Chairman of the Board of Directors
7/1994 opening of the Summer Festivals and Workshops "Valtice 94" - with the World Monument Fund
9/1994 launch of integrated dance studies with the Primary School Petřiny - jih, Prague 6
1/1995 "Prix Volinine Prague" - choreographic competition, UNESCO seminar
2/1995 extension of dance education - specialization for universities/TV departments
8/1995 start of cooperation with Aberdeen Youth Festival - TC UK tour
8/1995 Establishment of the TCP Foundation, endowment assistance to all events and students of the Centre
9/1995 start of the distance study of dance pedagogy - six semesters of "further education of teachers" - preparation for studying at university and college
11/1995 founding of the International Dance Centre - a civic association of students - school agency - assistance in the production, marketing and promotion of TCP events
12/1995 transformation of TC UK from a "special-purpose UK facility" to a new TCP founder - TCP Foundation
2/1996 premiere of the educational performance for schools "How to be a dancer"
12/1996 "experimental verification" of the activities of the TCP Conservatoire within the framework of the Ministry of Education's instruction
2/1997 founding of "Dance Centre Prague, a charitable company"
8/1997 inclusion of TCP - Conservatoire in the network of schools with 1st - 4th year (working since 9/1994)
8/2000 founding of the festival "Dance Open-air Lichtenstein" (+ PKB - until 2001)
10/1999 - 3/2001 dramaturgical, production and economic assistance to TCP "Prague Chamber Ballet"
8/2000 change of the "underground" Dance Theatre Prague into a school company of the Conservatoire of TCP: "Ballet Prague Junior" (6th - 8th grade)
6/2002 first graduates and graduates of full-time studies of the TCP Conservatoire
8/2002 start of cooperation with International Visegrád Fund - Summer dance workshop with representatives of Central European conservatories
5/2003 first comprehensive evaluation by the Czech School Inspectorate (excellent results = 90% subsidy)
9/2003 commencement of full-time conservatoire studies with differentiated curriculum + dance pedagogy
1/2004 founding of the school company "Baby Ballet Prague" (2nd - 4th year)
9/2004 cooperation within the "European Dance Academy" - cooperation with 7 prestigious European academies (Barcelona, Budapest, London, Paris, Rotterdam, Rome and Prague)
3/2005 start of cooperation with Prague Chamber Philharmonic (Rudolfinum)
6/2005 termination of activities in the Větrník Canteen + termination of cooperation with Charles University
9/2005 commencement of activities at the Žvahov campus (Prague 5)
11/2007 start of cooperation with FOK (Smetana Hall of the Municipal House)
6/2008 start of cooperation with TV festival and competition "Golden Prague"
6/2009 renewal of the festival "Dance Open-air Lichtenstein" - cooperation with HAMU
5/2010 establishment of the children's dance show "Dance Teachers of the Year" (Prague City Library)