For their second week of Intensives, the dancers worked with Dragana Alfirevic, Dejan Srhoj, and Rok Vevar from the Nomad Dance Academy in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
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 throughteaching, 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.
Rok Vevar is a writer, dramaturge, theoretician and historian of contemporary dance andtheatre, living and working in Ljubljana (Slovenia). He’s been publishing articles on dance and theatre in different newspapers and magazines as well as in scientific periodicals. Founder of The Slovene Temporary Archives (presentated at Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA in 2014). As dramaturge, he collaborated with choreographers Sinja Ožbolt, Jana Menger, Goran Bogdanovski, Andreja Rauch Pozdravnik, Snježana Premuš, Kaja Lorenci among others. In recent years he’s collaborated with Oliver Frljić, Ana Vujanović, Saša Aasentić at Mladinsko Theatre.
Between 2013-2015 he held the position of Assistant Professor at Academy For Theatre (Theatre Critisism) in Ljubljana and Academy for Dance Ljubljana (Dance History – 20th Century, Dance Analysis, Dance Dramaturgy). Since 2009, he’s been a member of Nomad Dance Academy and co-curator of CoFestival (NDA SLO, Kino Šiška Ljubljana).
Books: Deadline – Selected Articles and Essays (2011), 500 dramskih zgodb (Mladinska knjiga, 1997).
While they’re in the midst of preparing for this week’s working demonstration to be performed at the end of the intensive, we sat down with Dragana, Dejan, and Rok to hear about their perspective on teaching dance, and their reflections on their time at the ADA.
What is something that has surprised you about working with the students, thus far?
DEJAN: What surprised me was the range of physical and body practices that the dancers had from previous training. I could sense that they’ve been through a lot. On the other side it surprised me that they know so little about american dance history. Another surprise for me was the fact that they had such a big change in how they are present and how they take the information in. A big change happened in just a few days.
ROK: That is for me basically the same. It surprised me me that even the most mainstream names that we presented they are not familiar with. It makes me ask questions about the type of academic system that they went through in the American dance world and at their home institutions. We also needed some time to convince them that they are invited to propose things of their own as opposed to just listening to us. It took some time. The questions that you have after this experience are about the system they went through.
DRAGANA: I was surprised yesterday when we gave the space to them to articulate in their own words or to extract out some notions or tools we’ve been working with and I was surprised with the level of articulation because we hadn’t given so much specific feedback and the way they produced these things or how deep they went was surprising and I didn’t expect that.
In your discussion you talked about 3 principles that you abide by in your company, Nomad Dance Academy, the principle of balance, principle of open space, and the principle of invitation. How do these principles influence your work in a program like this?
DRAGANA: Since the beginning of Nomad the principles are already well integrated into what we do, so we don’t even have to think about them or rationally integrate them or remind ourselves. The Principle of balance is a very general principle where we take care that there is a certain balance between regional, international and local, the production side and artistic side. It can be a balance between many different aspects. In the workshop this week I think we manage to keep the balance of attention, somehow among the group. There were no parts of the group dropping out, but somehow really taking care of this division of attention, so that everybody is present equally.
ROK: Perhaps something that was present all the time in the workshop, and the most overt of the principles is the principle of open space.We did everything in accordance with how things developed and the whole time we were open for things that we couldn’t have planned in advance.
DEJAN: The principle of invitation, in the workshop, I would say that the basic starting point is that the people are invited into the proposals, but the way they do them or execute them or approach them or relate to them is very individual. There is not one possible answer or one aesthetic. Also at any moment you have a chance to observe or step out and not force something from yourself that’s not there.
How does co-teaching the course between the three of you benefit the work?
DRAGANA: This is the egalitarian approach that is nurtured in Nomad. Shifting and fluid hierarchies. This doesn’t mean that there are no authorities, we are trying to conceive a world where authority is never fixed. In this experience when one of us is proposing something the others are students, this is the biggest shift in perception of students. You cannot as a teacher put yourself outside of authority or knowledge, we don’t fake it, but we take the position of somebody learning and doing instead of proposing. This opens the possibility that the students can propose something, and maybe this is one of our goals. The wish is that we all mature so much in the group that we can each take over or jump in or contribute.
ROK: For me the most valuable and what I think we are really good at is providing this kind of environment that’s relaxed learning so that both teachers and students, if there is a division, can feel somehow safe, so we can enter the areas of unknown. It’s an ecosystem of teaching and learning experiences. Sometimes one has to go through a certain process. If we had another week we would provide a basis for that and maybe students would become more like teachers and this exchange would be even more fluid.
What has been your favorite thing about working and living here at the ADA?
DEJAN: I enjoyed the simple logistics of sleeping, working, and eating. I feel that everyone from the staff to the cooks are a part of the whole ecosystem. It doesn’t feel like there are different worlds but somehow everything works for the same cause. The schedule of eating together creates an important moment of coming back to the whole community and sharing the day.
DRAGANA: I feel supported on many levels.
ROK: The conditions for work here are extremely good. It’s beautiful. It’s spacious, there’s a lot of light. The spaces outside, the exteriors are really nice and inspiring.