Until now, I was connected with the Gibanica Festival as an author, dancer and choreographer and several times participated with my dance productions in some of the early festivals. My initial reaction to being invited to this year’s festival selection panel together with Iva Nerina and Marc Olivé, was cautious. I was worried that “smallness” could present a huge burden. I understand the situation of contemporary dance in Slovenia very well because I am both interested and closely follow what’s happening. I still remember the decisions, the dilemmas and the results of our predecessors – the various selection trios from previous festivals. I have also always been of the opinion that the selection of the Gibanica programme is really a “one-selector job” because this would prevent the inevitable subjectivity in a selection to be additionally aggravated by compromises having to be agreed amongst the three selectors.
However, the exchange of opinions with my co-selectors turned out to be invaluable and productive. About 50 applications were submitted, and all had distinctive approaches to contemporary dance and the artists not only vary, on the whole, in their artistic accomplishments in this field but also in terms of space, poetics and topics they use as their starting points. Our task was to select just nine works that had made the most impact in contemporary dance in Slovenia over the last two years and possibly pushed its horizon even further.
At first we engaged in our work individually and then collectively analysed each project. I personally was in favour of works distinguished by clear creative and analytical consideration, with convincing stage presence, original structure and a dose of audacity. We didn’t always share the same opinion; in fact the selection of works for this year’s Gibanica is a sum of three individual outlooks which – perhaps unexpectedly, or not – added up to a successful whole. The chosen works don’t fall under one common concept, topic or thread but they all share strong and authentic artistic positions that are pushing the form and the content of contemporary dance further from the safe zones and known strategies, whether in format, performance, timing, content, connection to sound or interaction to reality.
Some of the pieces submitted and selected were produced outside Slovenia and without any Slovenian funding, with their creators finding suitable production conditions in other European countries. One of the messages of this year’s festival programme might be that we are not only witnessing a brain drain but also a drain on creative and thinking bodies. Of course, many excellent artists are still active at home, but they work in poor conditions that, mainly due to the lack of training space and unsystematic funding, don’t allow for continuous work.
The Gibanica format only allows a limited number of performances and this made it impossible to include in the programme many artists who significantly co-create the Slovenian dance scene. Nevertheless, I hope that over the three days Gibanica will bring together the Slovenian dance scene which both needs and deserves stable working conditions and a position equal to other artistic practices.