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Opening speech 2019

Pia Brezavscek
Photo: personal archive

Two years have passed since the then Minister of Culture Tone Peršak – in a similar circumstances, after the opening address at Gibanica – promised in front of the eyes and ears of the gathered audience and the general public to re-establish the Centre of Contemporary Dance Arts after its abolishment in 2012. Instead, in the short period of two years, contemporary dance got another slap in the face: many non‑governmental organizations that specialize in contemporary dance, not only at the level of production but also in terms of responsibility for the reproduction of the field with publishing and education programme, have not received even programme co‑financing. In this way, we have moved even further away from the remnants of relatively stable working conditions and from the inflow of fresh content and new professionals in the broadest sense. And stable basic working conditions – which not only enable to keep the field alive, but also to give it meaning time and again, depending on the contexts, which inevitably change it – are the very reason for our commitment to the institutionalization of contemporary dance.


Political will, which can substantially promote the affirmation of the field, either exists or doesn’t exist. Even at this point, contemporary dance often ran into problems – perhaps because it is not a mass spectacle, because it is tied to a myth of inscrutability, and because it is not even bound to Slovenian language. Moreover, for many years now, contemporary dance – with it devout, though often waning advocacy, has proved to be very much alive. Even under poor circumstances, it succeeds in creating ever new meanings, in opening other spaces and possible worlds. In the short run, it is clearly easier and less expensive to drain the field and then blame it for having nothing to offer, even though the quantity and quality accomplished here is hard to deny. It is harder, however, to recognize and nurture the potential, although one can usually only reap benefits from this after some delay. It takes, above all – a decision. A vision.


This year, on May 3, to be exact, the Contemporary Dance Association Slovenia celebrates its 25th anniversary. A quarter of a century after the establishment of this umbrella professional organization, we have not yet achieved all of the goals set at the beginning, which would ensure basic conditions for the field to thrive, or at least for the professionals to be able to engage mainly in their profession, and not with all other pressing problems. On more than one occasion, the Association, founded by Ksenija Hribar with her colleagues, many of whom are still active choreographers, was close to being shut down due to precarious conditions of management, which was – and still is – done for the most part on a voluntary basis. However, the fact that it was never really abolished speaks for itself – the sense of a sort of community and confidence in one’s own activity prevailed. On its 25th anniversary, my first and foremost wish as the president of the Association is for the competitive relations not to undermine the foundations of the sense of belonging to the same field, and for this art to inspire at least a decision or two, if not a vision.
The Association celebrates today – with the anniversary issue of Maska magazine and with the opening screening by Andreja Podrzavnik, created with a community in mind. Everyone who wants to establish and to nurture this bond, the basic solidarity between the protagonists, knows that this is no easy task under the circumstances. Perhaps it’s also time we stop fetishizing the community. Even though I wish for this anniversary year to be charged with a vision that will give us the reason for all further celebrations, and I wish for this year’s Gibanica to take place in this festive spirit, I have to bring my expectations down to earth to avoid further disappointments. In the words of Jean‑Luc Nancy, we may not necessarily need some sort of totalities to bring us together. Perhaps our ordinary common coexistence is more than enough, a banality that we have found ourselves side by side. The visions and the construction should finally be left to politics, as we can no longer bang our heads against the wall. And in the meantime, we should simply – continue working. Side by side.


Pia Brezavšček