For the second half of our Summer Dance Intensive our dancers participated in CoTeaching- Space for Collaborative Dance Production and Exchange of Dance Knowledge taught by Dragana Alfirevic, Dejan Srhoj, and Gregor Kamnikar of Nomad Dance Academy in Ljubljana, Slovenia. The dancers and faculty members worked together to explore and create by having an equal exchange of knowledge and information with one another.
Dragana Alfirevic is a cultural worker in the field of dance. She is curator, teacher, performer and writer. She is co-founder of Nomad Dance Academy and curator and producer of Cofestival in Ljubljana.
Dejan Srhoj works in the field of contemporary dance. He researches the topic of co-existance through teaching, curating a festival and working on his art works. He runs an education group for improvisers, curates a performing arts festival CoFestival.si in Ljubljana and is creating programs for Nomad Dance Academy. In previous years he has performed and choreographed intensively with various dance and theater companies and has toured more than 30 countries. He has danced main roles in a ballet company in Ljubljana and he has worked with contemporary dance choreographers and theatre directors from Slovenia and abroad. He is a co-founder of Fičo Balet and Nomad Dance Academy.
Gregor Kamnikar researches playfulness as a dancer, choreographer, performer, clown, teacher, writer, producer, among many; in formats like performance, dance, play, game, event, choreography, (social) experiment, installation, lecture, workshop, class, publication, (clown) act, video, score, among many. Since 2011 he is playing Name Game where he mutually exchanges with other players their artistic names to be used for a diverse range of artistic acts, just for the fun of it.
Is there a focal point of your intensive or a main concept that you hope the students take away?
DRAGANA: Co teaching is for us, the methodology of teaching, of how we not only transfer the knowledge that each one of us has individually but also intentionally create space where new knowledge can be produced or arise. Related to co-teaching I hope the students will go away from here with the understanding that dance knowledge is not only a package of certain techniques or way to move or way to relate, but also that many many new ways can be found in the space in between. Other than that, other than the pedagogical methodology, we were working on several different levels. One of them is how we can move from the known to the unknown, how can you appreciate and embrace your knowledge, your habits, your background that you came with, and also at the same time try to drive away from it and back to it again. Another level is working with the space between research and performing. How do you deal with a situation which is only dedicated to your research and then what do you make of it when you perform for others or when you have to show it to someone.
DEJAN: For me, for this specific workshop of co teaching it was somehow as if we were dancing around the topic of time. What Dragana was saying connects to giving time to each other, to yourself, to listening, to the space, to impulses that arise. Having time to recognize what is there. As Gregor before has put it, listening to what is needed. So this was one of the main issues, even though it was not directly decided upon by us as co teachers. With giving time I guess new knowledge can arise, new ways of creating, dancing, performing. The unknown might arise.
GREGOR: Everything that we are saying or I am saying in class as an instruction or comment to the students I am also applying on what I do. If I say “breathe” I’m also saying to myself as a teacher “breather”. Whatever it is, it’s being applied and tested and researched also by me.
In returning to the ADA this summer you are a different group of coteachers. Last summer you had Rok Vevar with you and this summer you have Gregor. How did you prepare differently for this new co-teaching group?
DEJAN: We are closely related, we also work together in Ljubljana, we do know each other, and we do co-teach. Rok is much more interested in theory, theory in the sense of reading and writing, and we are more interested in theory through practice or understanding theory through choreography and dancing and teaching. For me it was clear that with Gregor we would go into more practice based work. I’ve never had a chance to co-teach with him for so long, so I was also very interested in what I can learn from him as a teacher, I think that’s one of the things about co-teaching, in a way it’s knowledge sharing with students but also within the co-teaching team.
GREGOR: What Dejan said is similar to what I think. We are learning from each other because we’ve been in co-teaching situations, but never this way teaching two by two. I enjoyed a lot giving a proposal to the class and then seeing it go somewhere else and then we end up in another place. I noticed this strongly. As you go along all this happens and I’m learning from the other teachers and we’re exchanging.
DEJAN: Not to mention we have two kids with us, and each third day we switched off taking care of the kids, which was super amazing and I’m happy it is possible.
GREGOR: Also it could be a way to work even if we don’t have kids with us, to have this day off. What we were doing was intense so I needed the time to digest in the sense that I go and do something else. So it was nice to have a day away and then you come back and the group is somewhere else in the work and you left but the group is not where you left it when you see them again.
DEJAN: It was really nice, like when the two of you were teaching, for me to come and teach and see them in the afternoon and I wondered, “how did you get them there?”, you know like wondering what were the tools and words because it was so beautiful, I thought, wow six hours and this can happen. This gave me a wish like, yeah tomorrow I want to get on board again. It’s cool.
GREGOR: We were acknowledging that we would work in couples, so when I teach with Dragana we have a certain practice and with Dejan we have other common experience and they have other common experiences or work. That was interesting to observe and where it goes. Just yesterday I proposed throwing a stick to get everyone awake in the afternoon, and it turned out that it led to what Dragana had wanted to get to, I had no idea it would lead there.
In what ways do you hope to challenge the students or changes the way they think about learning dance?
DEJAN: I really hope they go back into their home schools and universities with critical eyes towards what they are doing, and that they question the ways of creating and choreographing that they are used to.
GREGOR: Yes the same. To critically approach it and also to know that they already have knowledge and it is useful what they already have. To kind of emancipate what they are, and how they understand dance or how they understand movement, that’s why we gave them so many approaches, to light them up. Also to give other approaches, to ignite what’s already here, it’s nice to go out and search for other things, but to critically view something is to go back to what I have already, what I am already. Or to reverse it also for example, improvisation is a technique or working with attention is a technique, as it is a technique to do a physical thing like a plié or tondu it’s a technique, you build on it. In this sense it’s a technique, you work on it, you practice it of course it’s connected to inspiration, but the same way I’m inspired to do a plié, it’s great that your inspired, but let’s work on it, and it’ is okay whatever you think is dance is okay.
What is dance to you?
DRAGANA: A colleague of ours said about contemporary dance that if we think about contemporary dance, I mean contemporary dance is obviously anything that we dance today in the contemporary world, but if we think about contemporary dance as a set of preordered movements that we just have to fulfill then it’s as though we are like the dixie music orchestra or something like this. How do you always actualize it and how do you always approach it in order to make it have a lot to do, not only something to do, but a lot to do with who we are, how we see the world, how we perceive the world, also how we want to change the world, how we want to influence the world. Specifically because it has to do with our bodies, which are our first homes or first houses, also the collective body that appears when more than one person stands together. Contemporary dance for me frames our view of the world and also gives us the tools to change the world if we don’t like it.
GREGOR: I had a friend in mind who says, dance is a way to behave. In this work, for example, I’m thinking what is dance for me now, today, when you asked me this question, and I thought the attention or how you notice things is a dance. We work on the idea that dance is in the beholder’s eye or beholder’s being, and that dance happens by his or her understanding of it. What I am also discovering is that all this is an excuse for us to be together. It’s a nice way, fun way, playful way, but maybe it’s just my need to be with you.
DEJAN: Perhaps dance is movement of soul, made visible.
When you return next summer what do you hope to work on?
DRAGANA: We are working on a new kind of frame or a little bit different frame for next year in which we will collaborate with other art academies and dance academies and universities in Europe. So we hope to be able to bring students from London, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Berlin, Ljubljana, from all over. Also teachers from different other contexts not only from the context of the NOMAD Dance Academy, other kinds of knowledge and other kinds of teachers, so to make something a little more ambitious or bigger.