Choreographer, dancer, director, pedagogue Ján Ševčík (1977, Bratislava) was born in an artistic family, and dance and theatre environment became an everyday part of his life. His mother, sister, and uncle were soloists for the Slovak State Traditional Dance Company (SĽUK) for many years. His father, Milan Ševčík, was not only an eminent soloist and later a dance pedagogue, but also the director of one of dance groups in SĽUK.
Ján Ševčík studied choreography at the Music and Dance Faculty of the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava. In 2016, he completed his doctoral study, in which he researched the theme of dance and film as two dynamic types of media – till this day a rather under-researched topic in Slovakia. Among other things, the dissertation addressed the elements and explored the potential of the creative process behind the making of dance movies, while also examining the interaction between the two media. Ševčík took an interest in the prospects of making and developing this young art form in Slovakia.
He worked as a dancer in the artistic ensemble Lúčnica, the Bratislava Dance Theatre, the New Stage Theatre, and Ján Ďurovčík’s company. Between 2001 and 2011, he worked as a soloist and choreographer at the Het Internationaal Danstheater (IDT) in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. There he also had the first opportunity to develop his talent as a choreographer. In 2002, he staged a short dance composition entitled The Road, in 2003 the production Beat (part of the RHYTMmmm programme), and in 2004 Bunkoš (part of the DANCE 4EVER programme).
In 2009, Ševčík worked with the Dutch IDT company in Amsterdam to present his Academy of Performing Arts diploma thesis entitled Bridges. In the same year, he did the choreographies for The Rite (part of the SPIRIT programme), The Mask and Adelaars/Eagles (part of the Stampende stilte programme) for the Het Internationaal Danstheater. The production Adelaars/Eagles represented IDT at the annual prestigious charity event Dans Benefiet Gala 2011 in Arnhem, the Netherlands. This showcase of dance performances regularly hosts the best dance art produced during the theatre season in the Netherlands. Adelaars/Eagles allowed Ševčík to start his artistic collaboration with the renowned Dutch ensemble Introdans which included the show in its repertory. For this unique Dutch company, Ševčík did the choreography for their production Less during the same theatre season.
In Slovakia, he worked for the SĽUK ensemble, where he staged the small dance performance called I Said You! (2009). He was one of the choreographers who participated in the creation of the programme for SĽUK’s Dance in the Shards (2012), as well as in the programme Criss-Cross (2013). In Slovakia, he did the choreography for the 2010 composition of contemporary choreography art of the Ballet of the Slovak National Theatre entitled Made in Slovakia (Jaroslav Ivanenko Birthday, Šárka Ondrišová 4MEN, Ján Ševčík Drafted!, Igor Holováč Angels above the City). In the same year, he created another choreography for SĽUK – the dance production Chorea Slovaca – Dance Etudes for SĽUK.
At present, he continues to work as a choreographer and collaborates occasionally with SĽUK, Ballet of the Slovak National Theatre, and the Dutch companies Introdans and deWereldDansFabriek. His work is marked by a strong bond with his folkloric roots, especially folk dance, which was for him a kind of gateway to the world of dance and theatre. His interest in the medium of dance film, as well as adapting dance productions for the film format, has so far been recognised by numerous awards at international festivals, dance film shows and competitions.
Since December 2011, he has held the position of the choreographer and artistic director of the dance section of the Slovak State Traditional Dance Company (SĽUK).
Ján Ševčík’s choreographic work is characteristic for its original interconnection of authentic forms of folk dances and their folklore stage representation. As a choreographer, he aims to develop original folk dance material, thanks to its interpretation by professional dancers, into a form that is also applied in contemporary dance. The stylistic purity of the processed movement material, the consistency with which the choreographer observes the character of folkloric themes in their metamorphosis into a highly contemporary form, are conditioned by a deep knowledge of folklore. The connections between music and dance movement, built on rhythmic and dynamic modules characteristic of particular regions of Slovakia, are a rich source of inspiration for Ševčík. Folklore is thus increasingly presented in his work in a fresh urban context and in its temporal universality. Ján Ševčík’s choreography, closely interconnected with the medium of the dance film, is truly unique in Slovakia. In addition to stage experience, it requires a specific perspective on the use of dance material, the possibilities and limitations that dance film offers. Ševčík is a choreographer who moves with ease and invention in these different artistic worlds. The use of theatrical magic is his own as much as creating the magic of the film frame.
In the project called I Said YOU!, created by Ján Ševčík for the dancers of SĽUK, he incorporates the choreographically and interpretationally polished motifs of male folkloric dance into the language of contemporary dance. The dance space of the performers was delineated by cuts of light – the motif of the contrasting black and white looked very vivid and artistic. The play of shadows, the dynamics of the alternation of the contrast of darkness and exposing light contributed to the accumulation of stage tension. The dancers lost themselves in the darkness as they danced, literally being swallowed by the darkness, only to re-emerge into the harsh light at unexpected moments. Unifying the appearance of the performers through the use of uniform white face and hair makeup, the use of duct tape over their mouths in the opening section of the choreography, and the application of identical costumes created an illusion of mirror-like sameness.
The sharp lines of the dancers’ silhouettes on the stage corresponded with the precise movement of the dance motifs and the technically perfect synchronisation of the demanding movement sequences. The industrial sound in the music gradually overlapped the folkloric motifs, the distinctive beat found its reflection, but also metamorphoses, in the precisely placed accents of the movements. The smooth transfer of rhythmization from the floor to body parts, down to jumps and flips, introduced to the audience the multidimensional possibilities of simple elements of folkloric dance, which become virtuosic with small shifts in movement pattern or variations in the rhythmic module. The production is an homage to male dancing, its athletic power, and the poetic strength of male expressivity.
Ševčík pays a tribute to women and femininity in his work Adelaars/Eagles (premiere on 29 October 2011 in Arnhem, the Netherlands). After the staging of this production, the work encouraged the translation of its choreography into film. In 2013, the movie version, directed by Andrea Sudorová, quickly became internationally successful. The choreographer has found inspiration in Mongolian ritual dance, whose central motif derives from a celebration of the magnificence, power, and beauty of the eagle (“adelaar” means eagle in Dutch). Its birth, the spreading of its wings, and its flight symbolise the cyclical nature, and laws of change in our lives. The ritual urgency and repetition of melodic and dance elements and the cadence of musical and movement themes create a magical dreamlike atmosphere, evoking the mystery of life. From what was originally a male ritual dance, Ševčík has choreographed a female trio. In his choreography, the woman is the principal personification of power, mystery, life-giving and, above all, beauty.
The illumination of the naked torsos of ethereal dancers, draped only in oversized long black skirts, standing on tall, narrow pedestals, evokes the play of twilight in Renaissance cathedrals. The dancing movements of arms, hands and shoulders create ornaments in the air and gradually dominate the space. The music works with a simple melodic motif at first, which gradually develops rhythmically into a multi-layered melody. The equivalent of this principle of working with a theme can also be found in the symbolism-saturated choreography, in the modulation of movement patterns or expansion. In the second part of the piece, the dancers descended from their high pedestals and continued their magical ritual dance on stage, spatially developing dominant movements with an emphasis on arms, back and pelvic work. The compactness of the stage picture, and its captivating dreamlike atmosphere, were achieved by the creator through perfectly coordinated choreography, music, lighting design, costumes, and stage design.
Drafted! is the title of the third presentation of contemporary choreography art in the feature evening programme Made in Slovakia. The programme consists of four parts and premiered on 25 June 2011 at the Slovak National Theatre. Ján Ševčík created the dance performance Drafted! in an effort to connect to his own past, which is related to the folklore culture of his homeland. The starting theme he chose to do this is the departure of a young man for war and the ensuing loss of loved ones. This helps him hint at his own departure from Slovakia and the resulting personal losses. The choreographer’s strong link to his roots is apparent not only in the stage representation but also in the chosen means of expression which draw on the elements of Slovak folklore.
The theme Ševčík chose corresponds, among other things, to his original inclination to folk dance. In Slovak folklore, the theme of young men’s enlistment for the war was mainly reflected in a very particular style of recruitment and balladic forms. The departure of a man for war, relationship, and emotional difficulties, often growing into personal tragedies, are often treated using a rich variety of forms. The author of the libretto, dramaturgy, direction, sets, and costumes kept to the simple and pure form of the story, without trying to create new connotations. The music was a collage of works by Slovak and Moravian musical groups, drawing on folk music in their work. The musicians enriched the used folklore motifs by elements of world music (the band Ghymes), ethno beat (as performed by the band Jej družina), and the rock-based transfer of folk musical motifs (the Czech music band Čechomor). The nature of the music corresponded closely with the choreographer's vocabulary of movement and expression, giving the production a refreshing dynamic variety and diversity of character. The performers were members of a ballet company, who easily mastered the technical aspects of the choreography and the rhythmic and dynamic nature of the demanding movement vocabulary, which is also unusual for ballet artists.
In his work, Ján Ševčík increasingly enriches the expressive movement vocabulary with elements of contemporary dance, which he combines in his choreographies with stylized movements of Slovak folk dance. In this way he creates his own, original movement signature, which can be described as a fusion of contemporary dance with folkloric elements. Such dominance of folkloric material and its stage stylization, combined with the choreographic expression of a bold and inventive choreographer, is an outstanding feature in the diverse portfolio of Slovak contemporary dance creators.
- 2001 – With Hands and Feet, The International Dance Theater for Youth, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Doelenzaal, Amsterdam
- 2002 – Rhythmmm/part: Beat, The International Dance Theater for Youth, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Doelenzaal, Amsterdam
- 2002 – Christmas with Internationaal Danstheater, Het International Danstheater, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Theater de Veste, Delft
- 2003 – Own Work & n Goud van uod, Het International Danstheater, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Doelenzaal, Amsterdam
- 2006 – End of the season, Het International Danstheater, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Doelenzaal, Amsterdam
- 2004 – Young and New, The International Dance Theater for Youth, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Doelenzaal, Amsterdam
- 2004 – Dance4ever/part: Bunkoš, The International Dance Theater for Youth, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Theater de Veste, Delft
- 2005 – Benefit presentation for tsunami victims, Het International Danstheater, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Doelenzaal, Amsterdam
- 2005 – Eleven dance tour in the Doelenzaal, The International Dance Theater for Youth, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Doelenzaal, Amsterdam
- 2005 – Spring fever in the Doelenzaal, Het International Danstheater, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Doelenzaal, Amsterdam
- 2005 – Hemelsblauw/Sky blue (Dance in Doelenzaal), The International Dance Theater for Youth, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Doelenzaal, Amsterdam
- 2005 – Snow white (Dance in Doelenzaal), The International Dance Theater for Youth, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Doelenzaal, Amsterdam
- 2006 – Apple green, The International Dance Theater for Youth, directed by: Maurits van Geel, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Doelenzaal, Amsterdam
- 2006 – Maize Yellow, The International Dance Theater, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Doelenzaal, Amsterdam
- 2007 – Love2dance, The International Dance Theater for Youth, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Doelenzaal, Amsterdam
- 2008 – Proud2B, The International Dance Theater for Youth, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Doelenzaal, Amsterdam
- 2009 – Spirit/part: The Rite, The International Dance Theater for Youth, directed by: Brigitta Hauer, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: The Flint NV. Theater & Congress Center, Amersfoort
- 2009 – Spirit/part: The Mask, The International Dance Theater for Youth, directed by: Brigitta Hauer, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: The Flint NV. Theater & Congress Center, Amersfoort
- 2009 – Pouding Silence, Het International Danstheater, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Lucent Danstheater/Dr. Anton Philipszaal, The Hague
- 2009 – Bridges / Mosty, Het International Danstheater, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Doelenzaal, Amsterdam
- 2009 – I Said YOU!! SĽUK, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: SĽUK Theatre
- 2010 – Drafted! /Made in Slovakia, Slovak National Theatre, choreography: (Jaroslav Ivanenko The Birthday, Šárka Ondrišová 4MEN, Ján Ševčík Drafted!, Igor Holováč Angels above the City). Premiere: Slovak National Theatre, Bratislava
- 2010 – Chorea Slovaca – Dance Etudes for SĽUK, SĽUK, choreography: Ladislav Cmorej, Simona Machovičová, Stanislav Marišler, Barbora Morongová, Vladimír Michalko, Ján Ševčík. Premiere: SĽUK
- 2011 – Eagles/Adelaars, Introdans Ensemble for Youth, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Theater Schouwburg, Arnhem
- 2012 – Less (Funny Faces), Introdans Ensemble for Youth, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: Theater Schouwburg, Arnhem
- 2012 – Dance in the Shards, SĽUK, conceived, written, and directed by: Marek Ťapák,
- choreography: Ervín Varga, Stanislav Marišler, Ján Ševčík, Bibiana Lanczová, Adriana Pinková. Premiere: SĽUK
- 2013 – Criss-Cross, SĽUK, choreography: Ján Ševčík. Premiere: SĽUK and Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav City Theatre, Bratislava