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Award and reflections 2011

AFTER GIBANICA

Yesterday, on the evening of 27 February, marked the conclusion of the 5th Gibanica. Upon the conclusion, we have bestowed the audience choice award (the audience took a vote after each performance, assessing performances from 1 to 5). With the average assessment 4.6, the best rated performance was DUET 012 by Rosana Hribar and Gregor Luštek, produced by the Ljubljana Dance Theatre. The performance is an emotional duet in which, after the introductory dance film, Rosana and Gregor intertwine dance styles and techniques, conveying their common artistic and intimate story through contemporary dance. The award was symbolic; a gibanica.

 

Gibanica is rated successful by the organisers working within the framework of the Contemporary Dance Association of Slovenia. The performances had a large audience, namely 1600 viewers. Including the exhibition, video installation, both discussions and evening parties, there were over 2000 viewers. The performance Utopia 1 was cancelled due to health issues.

 

Gibanica was visited by almost 40 foreign selectors or programme advisors, who, according to their first reactions, are satisfied with the Slovenian contemporary dance performance selection of the past two years. Some guest appearances have already been promised, but a more accurate take on the matter will be known after a while.

 

This year, Gibanica was focused on the following three objectives:

– presenting the Slovenian contemporary dance production to foreign programmers,

– presenting contemporary dance to the home audience, popularisation of contemporary dance and raising a new audience,

– opening a space for structural solutions in order to improve working conditions in the field of contemporary dance.

 

The first two objectives have been met, good results are attested by the high number of foreign selectors, sold-out halls and invitations for guest appearances. We tried to achieve the third goal by organising two discussions. The discussion on the institutionalisation of contemporary dance held at the Ministry of Culture was very polemical. Minister Majda Širca and state secretary Stojan Pelko ensured us that the Ministry has earmarked 1.5 million Euros in 2011 and 2012 for the institutionalisation of contemporary dance and formed an expert group a while ago to develop guidelines, to wit, a proposal for the activities of a new public institute. The opiniong on the nature and activity of such an institute are divided, therefore the discussion held within the framework of Gibanica was a welcome confrontation of opinions and the dialogue must go on. The discussion on the contemporary dance network was dedicated to the presentation of a new network designed to focus above all on the establishment of a guest-appearance network and decentralisation of Slovenian contemporary dance. The participants in the discussion presented their suggestions and advice on the network functioning and also pointed out the previous unsuccessful attempts, as well as the existence of a network already partly covering contemporary dance: JSKD.

 

After the bestowal of awards, Gibanica ended with a dance party featuring DJ Checkman. The next Gibanica will be held in the spring of 2013 and we announce it to be held in a different form than the previous five events. It will, above all, follow the desire for decentralisation and will therefore turn into a travelling dance caravan.

The artistic board address accompanying Gibanica 2011

Dear audience of the Gibanica festival, dear admirers of contemporary dance, dear festival partners,
Since 2003, the February of every other year has been dedicated to the festival assortment of the contemporary dance production in Slovenia, this year showcasing the 5th Gibanica. Out of all the eastern European cultural contexts, contemporary dance has had the longest history precisely in Slovenia. Meanwhile, its production grew especially rapidly, despite the qualitative ups and downs, during the past four decades. And it is still growing. Despite oscillations in the satisfaction of its viewers and creators, we have to establish that contemporary dance in Slovenia in the past eight decades, as a series of coincidences and plans, as secrecy and persistence, managed to develop out of the modernity, avant-garde and contemporary character of artistic contexts and can therefore also be identified as a sort of impulsive response to the time periods it adheres to. When we look at contemporary dance production in 2011, we cannot ignore the fact that contemporary dance in Slovenia is a selection of an extraordinarily wide spectre of diverse aesthetic views and as such in no way simply a monolithic aesthetic phenomenon. It is being created by artists with different stories, view-points and convictions, so much so that it is sometimes hard to present it as a selection of stories from a unique field. At this point, the artistic committee would like to thank the selectors Andreja Podrzavnik, Blaž Lukan and Virve Sutinen, who we believe have accomplished their hard work with quality and responsibility.

 

The present artistic board was elected for the organisation and reform of the Gibanica festival two years ago. We started our work with responsibility and ambition. We have assessed that the contemporary dance artists in Slovenia need more understanding and recognition even in the cultural context of their own country. Not that their guest appearances abroad would be unimportant for the home contemporary dance productions, but it seems unacceptable that our most recognised choreographic names are so to speak unknown in the home cultural environment. We have decided to change that. Another reason for that is that more and more of the contemporary dance production is created outside Ljubljana, which remains its centre of production. Therefore, we have dedicated the same amount of attention, in addition to the festival platform, to “Slovenian Dance Network”, which will, starting with 2013, see to it that the home contemporary dance performances will be seen by the viewers outside Ljubljana and likewise, that Ljubljana gets an overview of the contemporary dance production of other cities. For founding such a network, we have also drawn funds in the fall of 2010 from the Ministry of Public Administration (European Social Fund), thus truly establishing the conditions for the festival reform. The Gibanica artistic committee believes that the format of festival platforms in the field of performance arts is becoming less interesting for the international production and programme networks and that contemporary dance promotion within the international context calls for different strategies. We believe we could create a different type of a fair-festival with the aid of a successful model of “Slovenian Dance Network”. In the days of this year’s Gibanica and, of course, in the months after it, we would like to consider all these ideas and suggestions together with you, dear partners.

 

We wish you to share our delight in our common dance festivity!

Virve Sutinen, selector of Gibanica 2011, on this year’s selection

What should a platform present? What and who is it dedicated to? What is it good for? Some of the questions I had to ask myself lately.
I love reading books, and tend to read at least four books at the same time. So when thinking about the concept of a platform or a showcase, I am like the reader I tend to be, driven by curiosity more than discipline or good taste. My task also differs from a curator’s, or programmers’, and more resembles that of an impulsive reader. In fact, a platform is neither a festival nor a season, given that it has preconditions, regionally or nationally defined.

 

I remember the very first Estonian dance platform in 1998, which presented everything and everyone as a political act. Although the programme introduced me to many artists whose work I have been able to follow up till today, the most memorable thing was the atmosphere of trying to define, formulate and express the enormous change in society and capture the feeling, the momentum, the freedom through dance.

 

This time diving into the piles of DVDs was nearly as overwhelming for the sheer volume of creativity and engagement in dance. There were shared concerns, or issues, and often re-occurring themes like sex and gender, identity, commodification, and human relations. No matter how aware one is of cultural differences, it is not easy to understand artistic choices coming from very different realities. In end, who cares if I do or don’t understand all of it or it does not speak to me, as long as I can recognize the sense of urgency in performance and dance culture.

 

One thing is certain: the performance scene in the Slovenia is not fully commodified. There is a lot of interesting things, which might not have the production value needed to break into the international market, but which none the less stand for other important values. I especially enjoyed the sense of underground or alternative, which is pretty much wiped out of the scenes elsewhere. Also, most of the performances are truly interdisciplinary, and have more to do with contemporary performance than with choreography in an academic sense. There were also a lot of naked women, often used as a marker to other things, which challenged the feminist in me. I enjoyed the music and visuality of many performances.

 

If it were possible, I would like a platform to present all of the received proposals. Since this is hardly possible, a selection has to be made, knowing that it can never live up to the real diversity or the reality. It is just one take on it. It is as if those four books waiting for me on my night table should stand for an entire library.

Blaž Lukan, selector of Gibanica 2011 on this year’s selection

On Gibanica 2011 in four quotes
Upon the completion of selection for this years’ platform and its presentation at the Španski borci cultural centre, I wrote the following: “As regards their contents, the selection reflects the diversity of the Slovenian dance scene rather than any type of homogeneity. Each project mostly speaks for itself. Through the phases in our selection, we the selectors have dedicated special attention to watching the performances of young or younger authors, performances that favoured contents, ideas, stories, messages above form or technique, and performances in which (contemporary) dance enters interaction with other arts. Personally, I see the Slovenian dance scene as remarkably alive, vital in spite of the well-known (and constant) problems, and in most cases, it even inspires me more than the scene I am otherwise inclined to monitor in a more continuous and systematic manner, namely the contemporary performance arts or theatre.”
However, my perception of Slovenian contemporary dance in the past two seasons underwent several phases. The first was less encouraging. When I started to watch dance productions, I was quite disappointed after seeing five or six performances. Let me quote from my imaginary selector’s diary: “Small productions with a small target range. Poorly outlined and developed ideas. Even the dance technique is entirely unnoticeable, seemingly ‘upgraded’ with a performer’s interpretation or simply ‘presence’, but in reality, provisional, ineffective. Ideas: where are they? The problem isn’t so much in the dance dramaturgy as it is in the formulation of the original idea, not yet articulated, but intensely present as an emotion, instinct, will. Even the creative procedures, often presented by the dance artists as being the contents of the (announced) productions are entirely unsurprising. The quest for novelties at any price is not the issue here so much as the clear formulation of the initiative core of the future staging. The task in question is evidently not as simple as it seems. Namely, the core comprises more than just an ‘idea’, it harbours the attitude towards the world, a viewpoint, a ‘conviction’, an engagement, elementary responsiveness to time, world, others, oneself. If I were (overly) radical, I could say I have no idea what Slovenian dance artists reflect upon, what they think – and if they do think at all…”

 

In a while – of course, I did not design my schedule of performances, instead, the logic was more or less coincidental -, this impression was improved, even more, after a few performances, it completely altered its course. I quote (from the same source): “If the Slovenian stage production has stagnated for these past few years, it is largely rescued by the production arising within the framework of contemporary dance but nonetheless surpassing the narrow limits of ‘dance’ or ‘movement’. It is simply stage production manifesting in the field of performance and finding within that field – perhaps because it is not concerned with neither the traditional notion of contemporary dance (hm, a sort of paradox …) nor the (sadly already) binding tradition of contemporary performance practices (after all, the performative turn has long since taken place) – new, original, entirely unusual possibilities, Yes, new forms, indicating a way out of the above-mentioned blind alley. I shall not mention any names, perhaps some other time, but some of them are showcased in the selection and for me, they represent the peak of last year’s stage production in general. In them, I find energy, not simply the energy that the dancers constantly speak of due to lack of rationality, but energy as a response to the world, as its wild and deformed reflex, which finds its aesthetic form in the body of the performer (also his movement, dance, if you wish, and the words and images he incorporates before me), not just an aesthetic form (even though -for me – it is a condition for a sort of eroticism, ‘obscenity’, that the ‘scene’ must emanate), but also social and political, albeit (almost) never direct, manifestative, but constantly in the middle of a turn, a blow, a thrust into space with an exalted gesture, with sharpness that is not necessarily tumultuous and destructive, but precise, compact, abrupt. Dance as movement and movement as gesture and gesture as an action in space which cuts, severs the body from space, but simultaneously ties it to space, sucks it to the skin, flesh, with a new bond, a new stitch. It will not be said for the first time that this kind of dance originates in thought, may it be expressed as a word, gesture, move, body position, image, story.”

 

Luckily – luckily because at this time, it would be hard for me to convincingly advocate both extreme view-points, in spite of them both being results of my authentic response – the situation became more real to me after seeing all the performances competing at this year’s Gibanica and after talking to both colleagues, co-selectors, and distancing myself from the viewings. Now, I quote the writings I am presently composing: “The truth is not in between, because in between contains only empty space, but closer to one particular extreme at a time, it is therefore dynamic, pulsating, constantly moving. The truth of Slovenian contemporary dance is thus elusive, which is good and healthy. It is not good – let this quotation also move – when it is moved by the absence of thought and an imaginary dance intuition, drawing from poorly perceptible/perceived energy currents. It is not good, when it does not produce any original, moving, penetrating image, a performance of moves, but simply exhausts itself in enhancing a moving desire for dance. I get my dance satisfaction in performances that realise they are performances, organisms, machines, devices – and simultaneously just fragments of closeness to another (body or inanimate world) and to oneself. I know how hard it is to create a performance, I know the situation and working conditions of dancers and groups, I can even (at least partly) influence some of them directly (by working as a member of the expert commission at the Ministry of Culture) and sometimes a series of non-possibilities actually gives birth to a possibility such as it is: I welcome it and admire it. More often, a performance brings along parts, fragments, bodies, organs, which suffice for my (therefore the viewer’s) experience: they satisfy me, but I desire more, more! But when a performance leaves behind only desire – not for more, but for the thing itself -, then the phenomenon before me is not something I call non-dance, which exercises its homeland right in the field of contemporary dance (and performance arts), even though it does not dance (anymore), but something else for which I do not have a name, even though I know its effects.”

 

Let the quotes speak for themselves – and let the 2011 Gibanica show what Slovenian contemporary dance has to show at the moment, let it show what the organisers of the festival think of it and let it also show what it could transform to in the future!

Andreja Podrzavnik, selector of Gibanica 2011 on this year’s selection

Gibanica is a festival of Slovenian contemporary dance, showcasing works of diverse generations, from the promising and convincing young artists to the mature and sophisticated expressions by older authors. All of them originate from movement as a means of expression – indirectly or directly. In some of them, movement has replaced another medium, gradually and logically.

 

Movement has been placed inside us since the beginning of all life and, as an expression, offers potential for communication, acceptance and compassion that is very different from the expression and comprehension of a word. Oftentimes, it slips when faced with wrong expectations. What results from that slip is often dissatisfaction of the viewer as well as the artist, because we expect dance to communicate in the same way a word does, we try to “translate” the scope of the word with the scope of movement. Over and over, we compare dance to text, theatre to contemporary dance art. The expressions we use indicate that the comparison is perhaps even more present than we can imagine. We talk about dance addressing the viewer. No, let it dance to the viewer and let that be it.

 

In Slovenia, the situation in the field of contemporary dance is, on one hand, very promising and enrapturing, but on the other hand lacks mutuality. We have a lot of new production; however, it is not upgraded enough through repetitions and is too quickly replaced by new performances. At the same time, we lack adequate production infrastructure that could provide the artist with a stable foundation for the development of his own artistic expression as well as launch him into a wider social context. Thus, the artist is forced to mostly deal with the non-creative part and spends an enormous amount of energy and time (non-paid, of course) in order to set up a practical framework for his creative process.
Having said this, I come to my selector’s role in which I became acquainted with some more problems that could, in the future festival editions, serve as a starting point for the upgrade of the festival structure. The first and most obvious problem I faced was that all the applied works had to be arranged into a single programme, its size designed in advance as a sort of selection framework. It is problematic, at times even impossible to take into account unified criteria for all the performances, which in my opinion indicates the need for the upgrade of the festival in its future editions and its division into several equally important chapters (younger, older, larger, smaller productions, etc.).

 

In addition, I personally am against an overfilled programme. I believe every attempt at getting ahead of time can cause great damage to the presented works, which triggers my question as to what Gibanica is and who is it for.
Let me use this occasion to briefly honour the Slovenian contemporary dance artists. Dance artists are a type of artists I dare say are the most capable of confident action in the complex, experimental phases of the creative process and possess an incredible perseverance, not only physically, but in terms of survival, as well. The performers and artists (mostly the same person) possess very high technical knowledge, however, it is in some cases mistaken for content instead of understood as a medium serving simply as an expressive channel.

 

The performance works falling under the umbrella of contemporary dance art are indispensable, because they move the viewer, reach out and touch him in a special way, thus deepening the possibilities of human communication and understanding. They demand the viewer’s utmost openness towards the content as well as the medium that conveys it. And, given that today one almost could not find a performance with only one medium, because they are all multimedia, the pre-conceived expectations and the haste conclusions in definitions can cause the viewer to be robbed of the experience at hand.

 

I agree with the thought of my long-term colleague in that a competition in arts or objective decisions on who is better, who is chosen, who is the best and who second-best, is absurd. Here and there, things are clear, but more often the decision is very difficult. Oftentimes, I have heard this flowery phrase – “it was a difficult decision” – and I thought it worn-out and far-fetched. But now, when the experience of selecting this year’s programme of the Gibanica has brought me to the same flowery phrase, I understand it on a totally new level.

 

It would be hard to say whether our selection objectively shows the best Slovenia can offer in the field of contemporary dance, I would sooner say it was a subjective choice of the three selectors. Let this not come as an apology, but rather an encouragement and an invitation to the viewer to go see and experience other performances of younger as well as older authors in addition to the excellent programme of this year’s Gibanica.

Gibanica pred Gibanico

 December event announced Gibanica 2011: Blaž Lukan has presented the selection of performances for Gibanica 2011. Young dances have presented dance miniatures, impro jamm session has proved that the youngest are also the most courageous; and on the party we were nibbling gibanica and danced to the beat and to the video impulses.