It was always the plan to present the finished Bolero project in each of the partner venues, having completed residencies and shared works-in-progress at all three. We premiered the show at Nottingham Playhouse with a community cast of 20 dancers as part of the neat14 festival; we performed it at Sarajevo War Theatre on the anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and subsequently toured Bosnia & Herzegovina in autumn 2014; but we never made it back to Teatri ODA in Kosovo.
It’s unusual to remount a show having not performed it for 18 months – most of us haven’t even seen one another during that time – so having caught up very quickly after flying in, we got stuck into rehearsals straight away.
We watched a recording of the Nottingham performance and ran lines (most of which have mercifully seemed to stick). Florent mentioned there has been some political unrest over the past few days surrounding the controversial presidential elections. The TV was on as we had lunch, live footage of a debate in parliament. A politician from the opposition set off tear gas inside the Assembly, disrupting the session. Gas masks were pulled on, the debate was stopped – but MPs’ voting, it seemed, would still be going ahead later.
We continued rehearsals and evaluated all things technical, taking a head count of props we need to source. Eventually we returned to the our hotel. (Note: that’s Hotel Real, not Hotel Royal… which is where the taxi took us after we landed the other night. Some pronunciation issues.)
The news channels showed that presidential voting had indeed gone ahead, and consequently the streets had become violent with protesters throwing petrol bombs at police outside parliament. We had planned to see a contemporary ballet at the National Theatre of Kosovo, but the violence was happening just outside that building. As we sat in the hotel it was impossible not to draw parallels between what was happening in the city and the content of the show. Jasenko showed us a rough edit of a film he’s making about the siege of Sarajevo: the longest siege of a city in modern history. We could hear sirens outside. Jasenko said that people from the West always find his film more emotional than people who live in Bosnia. I said I think that’s because we simply don’t understand what they went through.
As we had our evening meal, a series of explosions outside turned out to be fireworks celebrating the election of Hashim Thaci. Which is what the protesters didn’t want to happen.
The following day, after the protests had subsided, we returned to the theatre. Muscle memory seems to be playing a part in pulling the show back together. We blocked through everything and worked on smoothing some of the more complicated transitions between different sections of material. There’s an odd sense of duality about things.
In the evening we made the small walk into the centre of Pristina where there were one or two scorch marks on the ground and the smell of smoke in the air, but that was all: no other clues to what had been happening the day before.