In both works, don’t look for Tantehorse’s eerie dreamscapes to take precisely the same shape each night. The dances have a firm outline, but Cechova and Vizvary try to let the audience inform how they perform within those contours.
“The movements are more based on the present moment,” Cechova said. “We know actually what the audience should have, what kind of impact they should get.”
In this spontaneous, responsive approach, Cechova said she finds “spiritual release.” But she doesn’t offer any further details about the emotions it unleashes.
“I think we have to somehow keep secrets within ourselves to bring something to the stage that is important,” Cechova said.
‘The deepest state, the deepest emotions’
Cechova’s artistic background is plainly visible in her proclivities as a dancer and her sensibilities as a performer.
She first came to dance through ballet, studying at a conservatory in Prague beginning at age 11. But by the time she was 19, she had grown bored with ballet’s formality and immersed herself in other performing arts. She trained as a classical mime in the style of Marcel Marceau, and she took up butoh, the Japanese style of modern dance in which performers’ faces and bodies are often painted white and which is typified by grotesque imagery and motifs of desolation and loss.
All of these genres informed Cechova’s dancing, but it was butoh that particularly shaped her approach to choreography and character development.
In butoh, Cechova said, “The performer is getting himself or herself into a state of being that is somehow not led by rational existence. . . . Butoh actually touches, I would say, the deepest state, the deepest emotions.”
Even before Cechova learned to dance, she studied classical piano. Though that instruction instilled a deep sensitivity to classical music, Cechova has found impetus for physical mime in a broad range of musical styles.
The sound score for the “Dark Trilogy” pieces, for example, includes Bach compositions, bird calls, choral songs and throbbing electronica.
“I love to work with contrasts,” Cechova said.
‘Only way to survive in the world is to express my art’
Though it is Tantehorse’s first time performing in Washington, Cechova said the city already holds special significance for her. In 2011, she came to American University on a Fulbright scholarship for lecturing and research and performed as a guest artist with Arlington-based Synetic Theater.
During that time in Washington, “I transformed from artist who knows what she wants to an artist who is totally convinced that the only way to survive in the world is to express my art,” Cechova said.
The work that she created during that period, a solo titled “S/He Is Nancy Joe,” was performed at Flashpoint last year.
Cechova was deeply touched by the reaction to that piece, which explored the experiences of a transgendered individual.
“It was, for me, the most important thing in my life when people are coming after performance to me and saying, ‘This was my story,’ ” Cechova said.
While the “Dark Trilogy” works are topically and aesthetically different from “S/He Is Nancy Joe,” they share a common ambition.
“I want what is happening on the stage [to be] always authentic,” Cechova said. “No masks, no pretending.”
May 31-June 2 at Atlas Performing Arts Center. Call 202-399-7993 or visit www.atlasarts.org.