PSR CoFestival 2021
The following discursive programme constituted the Performance Situation Room in the frame of CoFestival 2021:
– Yasen Vassilev workshop with public presentation / participants from the local environment and regional participants (entitled Impossible Actions)
- Conference on Movement Research
- Infrastructure and Working Conditions: a film screening and discussion
- Voice of Dance (2021), presentation of the new issue of Maska, the performing arts journal
Yasen Vasilev: Impossible Actions (2021), workshop and performance
Bulgarian artist Yasen Vasilev is a dramaturge, poet, playwright and choreographer whose talents present a somewhat surprising combination of artistic practices and media, which in reality happens less often than we would like. In 2020, he won the Central European Initiative Award at Vilenica, our oldest international literary festival, which aims to encourage cross-country cooperation and promotion in the field of literature for young authors from the CEI member states.
At CoFestival 2021 Vasilev participated with a portable choreographic format that involves working with local dance artists (see some of the responses of participating artists below). Impossible Actions by Yasen Vasilev is a procedural work, intended for ten performers who grapple with the procedures (structure, tasks and dramaturgy) of the dance solo Nutricula in order to activate it together in the fairly precisely measured and structured time of the work.
The work begins in extreme slow motion, continuing with a series of tasks in which the participants work separately, only to come together in a spatial merger and a change of light in the sequence entitled »Echo«, where, in the open end of the work, they leave their separate spaces, their agreed tasks and concepts, and come together in a common play with each other, with duration and with the audience. Impossible Actions is a combination of a precisely structured and open-ended work, and a task for both performers and spectators, who try to find possible solutions to the impossible stakes, to take their imaginations beyond the familiar and comfortable, and to provide the impossible with »realistic alternatives«.
The workhops took place at the Kino Šiška venue for five consecutive days and one rehearsal / premiere day. The attendance was high and international (from Slovenia and the region), and Vasilev created a performance with 15 perfomers, instead of originally intended 10 perfomers. He had the benefit of the presence and advice of Anna Pehrsson, that was attending the festival within a Dance Hub LLB residency. Cooperation between organizers, venue technicall and other staff, and the artists - considering the number of people involved - was extremely smoothly excecuted. That was due also to the precise beforehand planning, and the planning of so called ‚bubbles‘ that needed to be introduced for performers due to the covid related helath measures in Slovenia.
Movement Research (2021), a conference where the thinking moves
Movement Research practical conferencefocused on contemporary approaches and practices, artists whose work, is devoted to movement research in an experiential, analytical and methodological way. Historically, the emergence of movement research has not only generated systems that have moved away from techniques (like somatics), nor exclusively functional systems that have dealt with the health aspects of kinetics, but has produced individual and group dance practices that have fundamentally changed the idiom of contemporary dance, moving it from stylistic-formal approaches to a time in which movement is changing, transforming and evolving.
The conference was dedicated to local and regional artists who are producing dance movement in a procedural way (with tasks, agreed principles, scores, instructions and other tools) and transforming it into a responsive material through sensual kinetics.
In Slovenia, movement research lacks visibility and recognition, and is largely excluded from cultural-political and production systems, despite the fact that there is a great deal of interest in it in the Slovenian contemporary dance scene, as artists are creating their own practices on a remarkable scale. The event addressed questions of artistic, studio research as a relevant autonomous practice, and posed them in a problematic and dialogic manner. It was subjected to questions of what we do, how we do it and how others perceive it, what is choreography beyond the formalist object or the expressive production of the dance subject.
Infrastructure and Working Conditions, screening and discussion
The issue of space is very fundamentally linked to movement research, as this is only possible if the conditions for it exist in terms of time, space, temperature and hygiene. In movement research, rehearsal spaces are transformed into studios, working dance spaces that, with their specific materiality, provide the experimental, methodological and analytical parameters that can be used to translate research into results. At the same time, movement research also requires premises in which the results or processes can be shared with a public that is willing to engage with kinetic-dance research with their own gaze.
After watching a film about the Tala Dance School in Zagreb (TALA / to-gether, documentary film, authors Tamara Curić, Larisa Lipovac Navojec, Aleksandra Janeva Imfeld), which helped transform the contemporary dance landscape of Zagreb, there was a disussion held on such issues with our guests Dejan Srhoj, Mitja Bravhar, Agnieszka Jakimiak, Larisa Lipovac Navojec and moderated by Tjaša Pureber. We were interested in different examples and dynamics in the infrastructure for performing arts and the ways of managing them – in what is physical space and how can it be shaped to meet the needs of a certain way of working and a certain community.
Voice of Dance (2021), presentation of the new issue of Maska, the performing arts journal
The latest issue of Maska, the performing arts journal, was focusing on the use of voice in contemporary dance with its central theme, Voice of Dance. Last year’s CoFestival edition, entitled The Amplifiers of Voices, which was presented to the local audience partly online and partly live, focused on this very topic. CoFestival co-curator Jasmina Založnik approached the editors of Maska with the desire to give a stronger voice to choreo-vocal practices through a thematic section on the voice in dance, so that these practices could find their own, lasting forms of transmission and resonance through the medium of writing.
The presentation of this issue of Maska was held by its co-editors: Jasmina Založnik, Pia Brezavšček and Rok Bozovičar. As seen with the evening perfomance attendanes, this presentation was attended to the maximum capacity of the Kino Šiška venue as per the health restrictions in place at the time.
Feedback of guests to the discursive programmes of CoFestival 2021
„Despite the precariousness that the Pandemic still inflicts on all of us, and perhaps in particular the Performing Arts, I was met by a caring, warm, and highly professional curatorial team and a strong programming of national and international artists. I was stunned and very inspired by the integrity, drive, and uncompromising will to inscribe contemporary dance as a valid art form in Slovenia, shared by the curatorial team and supported by a loyal audience. In fact, each performance in the festival was sold out. Through my attendance at COFESTIVAL and its programming, I was again struck by Dance’s capacity to create communities, to offer spaces of intimacy and touch upon the unspeakable. I was relieved to finally share moods, environments, and atmospheres as a body among other bodies within the frame of a theatre space. Indeed, COFESTIVAL danced me into the new. Into proposals for change.“ - Anna Phersson, dance artists from Sweden
„I participated in two public talks-around movement research and infrastructure, where we also showed our movie “Tala/to-gether”. As the programmation I took part in was happening in the afternoon, I had the opportunity to be part of the audience each evening during a few days.I was very astonished. To see such a movement around this festival-to see how many different formats there are for different audiences or participants and that the festival during all these years has created new audience that is not just people from the dance scene but new young and different age faces that are just curious about such a from of expression (which even more during the pandemic has proven that has a lot of benefit for anyone who is close to it. There have been many participants in the workshops/discussions and visiting the shows and had many levels of exchange among all of us coming from different backgrounds and interests. CoFestival has become a real festive moment in the city of Ljubljana that starts attracting audiences from different corners of Europe and meets their expectations as the program is a non-linear particular high quality selection of four people with different aesthetics,but common interest in dance and movement created around it. What it offers is a place of togetherness.
To see the exposition with photos integrated so well in nature and city of Ljubljana accessible to any passenger and a possible meeting point for a conversation with a stranger like it happened to me or just to come across very different opinions in the room of different cultural workers and artist and yet in a space that is taken such a good care of in order to make a conversation very productive and taking at the same time a great and unexpected directions or just to sit in a few very different performances and exchange the excitement, disagreements or pure joy about something everyone witnessed together. In that sense the festival gives the audience and participants also a chance and an opportunity to see the work of international, regional and local artists.
CoFestival became a festival on a level of any large European festival where the audience, artists, workers, passengers have a place/space to get inspired and believe in their always underestimated art form more.
CoFestival is a co-existing moment that offers a different quality of life and a reminder that dance moves people in different ways without which this reality would just not be the same.
I left it inspired, touched, full filled and grateful to have been so close to it and feel so welcome during the whole time.“ - Aleksandra Janeva Imfeld, choreographer and dancer from Brussel
„In 2021 I was invited as part of the program of CoFestival with my research project IMPOSSIBLE ACTIONS. It’s been an intense experience with a week-long workshop with 18 local participants and a final presentation at Kino Siska. My impression of the festival is one of high professionalism, combined with a down-to-earth communication model with artists and audiences, ambitious programming and a strong community and activist spirit, rooted in strong networks and connections both locally and internationally. The amount of audience is impressive with most of the shows being sold out when many contemporary dance venues are struggling with audience numbers. The festival inspired me for my own community-building work back in my country and was a breath of fresh air in a year of restrictions, lockdowns and social distancing.“ - Yasen Vasilev, dramaturge from Sofia
„CoFestival is a unique event that stands out on the festival map in Europe - it is not only collectively run and organised, but it generates a feeling of mutual understanding between the artists and its audience. Its egalitarian character, its openness and accessibility makes it one of most valuable artistic platforms that enables sharing of experiences and practices. Originality and distinctiveness of CoFestival has also been noticed by international forums, such as Contemporary Theatre Review - academic journal oriented on contemporary theatre, dance, performance art, activist and applied performance that is preparing an article on CoFestival. International recognition and significance are not in conflict with CoFestival’s greatest asset - its ability to contribute to creation of common good which remains accessible to anyone willing to participate.“ - Agnieszka Jakimiak, dramaturge from Warsaw
„Dear Rok, Jasmina, Dragan and Mitja in Ljubljana,
First of all, thank you for making room for me and making your projects and contexts available to me on very short notice when I swept through Zagreb and hung around in Ljubljana for a few days.
The Co-Festival surprised me multiple times, not just with the fine tuned Ion, Figured, and Roni Chadash’s piece but also the explorations of movement research, group dynamics, non-heirarchical space use, and co-curation through performances and discussions. Great to meet Dejan, Nina, Ivan, Yasen, Tjaša and others.
Fond regards from the Old Town Square“ - Ewan McLaren , theatre director from Prague
„Being a part of the workshop and performance Impossible Actions was a unique experience in many ways. A new approach to movement, artistic process suddenly turned into a social experiment, empowerment through decision maling. It provided a safe and clear structure, where every person could find space for a solo within the group, and it brought to me warmth and belonging to the group.“ - Petra Peček, dancer from Slovenia
„Thank you for having me at the workshop and Impossible actions performance. It was such a profound experience, taking me to the core of my performance. It was a pleasure to explore movement together with such an amazing group of people with whom I felt held and supported. I am carrying many impressions from the previous week that are very intense, but in a rewarding, fresh way. Thank you for being so open and warm throughout the whole process, it means a lot.
Looking forward to future workshops and collaborations. If there will be anything like this happening in the future, please let me know.“ - Eva Mulej, dancer
„The experience of Yasen Vasilev‘s worshop brought artstic fulfillment, hope and enthusiasm after a long time. It resonates still. You are creating and sharing beautiful art that extends and expands into the community and brings us together research, thought, experiment and reflection. And in an inclusive and open way, too. Thank you for your work and creativity in Slovenian dance scene! It is an inspiration to me personally, and I do hope our paths cross in the future.“ - Ema Križič, dancer
„Workshop with Yasen was for me interesting in different aspects. What made it specially unique was for me working as a community. Already on the first day, we received a list of "Values" prepared by Yasen. We had to choose one, that we'd like to represent during the workshop. You could also suggest a value off list, in case you felt it suits you better. Now that everybody had selected his "value card", it was participant's responsibility to take care of this value inside of the group (for example - care, pleasure, curiosity, creativity, stability, health, empathy...). It was really interesting for me to see how a specific group dinamics established after this process, how everybody aproached "the tasks" of his value, while we were working.
What we worked on from the artistic point was a "group of solos", sequence proposed by Yasen. The structure was quite rigid, but still leaving some space for each individual to find his own way to it. It consisted of tasks chalenging performers body and mind limits, starting with extreme slow motion, continueing with exploration of body mobility, traveling movement, "imposible actions", tangue inside and outside of body and "headbanging". After all this tasks acomplished, there was a free last part called "echo". Echo was supposed to be anything we, as a group, felt doing after all that happened before. It could last as long as we wanted, but was finished when somebody started to talk.
So this was the structure made to be performed on the last day of workshop, while the group worked on it with principles of community.
Since Yasen did't want expose himself as a leader but rather equal member of the group, but meanwhile still asking us to follow his idea for the performance (as I said, quite a rigid structure, which he didn't wanted to change), there were some confusion/problems/conflicts appearing. There were moments of "waiting", because nobody took initiative to continue, people getting nervous because of feeling like wasting time, getting frustrated, using their "values" to expose these problems, communicating in community, communicating among them selves, some people seeing this as unaccaptable within a group, people leaving, people coming back, people separating themselves, stepping together... To sum up, for me - quite a boring performance, but a very fascinating social experiment.“ - April Veselko, dancer and choreographer
“Every year Cofestival provides a very interesting programme ranging from performances and presentations to workshops and discussions. This year the team of Cofestival curators surprised with an open call for a 5 day workshop and a paid performance/showing at the festival in the end of the workshop, a unique opportunity for freelance performers in Slovenia. I was very happy when I found out that everyone of us who applied for the call will be a part of the process. A unique opportunity resulted in a unique group of people/performers who created a special bond in these few days. The concept of the process was very interesting and I think it accelerated this bonding. Each of us had to choose one value (from the list of values) and with it took the responsibility to maintain this value through the whole working process. To me this represented an interesting experiment in group work and dynamic where each of us had a chance to observe how the chosen value is correlated with specific character and how this character determinated the persistence in maintaining the task – maintaining the value through the process. Furthermore the workshop gave us an insight in the connection between choreography and dramaturgy and how these two areas can exchange and intertwine. It also gave an idea of how our mentor Jasen Vasilev plays with these notions and how you can use dramaturgical structure as a choreographic structure and experience how this can be applied through different workshops. This group workshop very much soothed after more than a year of social distancing and Cofestival provided a beautiful working space, delicious cooked meals and a free pass to all performances which made everything even more homey and special. I am very grateful for this experience and would like to thank everyone that made this event and the festival possible.” Tajda Podobnik, dancer
„My dearest friends of Impossible actions and Co-festival.
In my mind and body there are still pleasant echoes of our Impossible actions which reverberate in me. Such fantastic memories and so many crazy pictures and videos. It was unforgettable feeling of being again accepted, creative and curious. It felt like home surrounded by a big family. I received a special gift from my dear friends. It was being with you on a journey to create some magnificent collective/individual actions and reactions. We were a part of something unique in this crazy, twisted covid influenced world and reality.
I thank you for your friendship and an experience to work with you, deep from my heart. I thank you for your collective energy and to many of you who showed me amazing possibilities for how I for better myself as an individual and as an artist. I am grateful and humble as well as very privileged to get to know you and for the opportunity to play with you. It was a collective, pleasant psychotherapy which ended with a big bang of emotions and satisfaction. Absolutely fabulous.
Last but NOT least BIIIIG congrats and thanks to CoFestival crew and associates for making this fantastic event happen. I thank you for everything that made us feel cosy, fed, not thirsty, hot and cold, well taken care of. It is a result of the hard work of very gifted and special people. With each year they manifest an event that can move our perception of what dance, concept and moving body in space and time represents. Without your dedication, creative friendship, stubbornness and focus this could not be possible. I cheer for more Co-festival events. RESPECT!
My dear friends, looking forward to new adventures with you in the future.“ - Igor Sviderski on Impossible Actions workshop and CoFestival 2021
Feedback from Movement research dialogue between Matej Kejzar and Aleksandra Janeva Imfeld:
“Matej: My entrance to participate on one of the Co-Festival events were considering questions in the line of Eleanor’s explicit end of her text along with Dragana’s notion about Movement Research as a practice in a very particular part of the world. In those 45 years Movement Research, though it was set up to challenge the existing forms of power on both levels, the intimate dancers’s and larger socio-political scope, paradoxically became part of institutionalised western driven form of “dancing”. Improvisations, contact-improvisation, instant composition, various somatic practices and so on, are all due to recognised yet modern dance techniques. What further challenges the assumption is that in the time of the Digital, physical presence is challenged and is challenging the Digital itself. So how do we stress at Movement Research in 2021 and along with that, how do we, as participants of the festival in the pick of Neo-liberal capitalism address at the individual agency from that particular part of the world such as Slovenia is? What is the role of curator, dance teacher, or dance practitioner regarding Movement Research’s assumption undermining existing forms of power, particularly in the event of CoFestival, the international contemporary dance festival from Slovenia?
Movement Research did spread far East. Or was it already there? My entrance at the debate was to stress towards the not merely western dance practitioners, the individual dancers practicing in the domain of Movement Research but coming from different socio-political backdrop and within different contextualisation of the cultural heritage. Actually, is there something about the Movement Research in relation to de-colonialism?
Aleksandra: After receiving the invitation, we met short on zoom, where we agreed to share the questions and answers during our one hour session in Ljubljana and agreed as well, we would like to have non-verbal-moving parts of our discussion.. So=we send each other a mail with possible questions that are here under, but as arriving to the place realized that after two first discussions that were very frontal=we wanted to reorganize (or invite others to reorganize the space with us) the space where we would move/talk>>and so we did… The conversation from there on has moved from our questions to each other/to the questions that have been raised in previous discussions..
Passing from Aleksandra to Matej:
In the aftermath of our conversation what resonated most, was how we use the term Dance to stress at particular practice at the place. What Aleksandra addresses at as don’t just dance, in terms of “čaga” as in private enclosed party, I would stress it is not about therapy. And then at the debate Aleksandra said:”… of course it is about the work and not necessarily merely feel good!” I found it very interesting that what we are both addressing at, as the work, she is using the term not-dancing, while I would say, at the same instance, it is all about dancing; choreography is already there, we are already in. That is quite Movement Researchy!
Should over the time the way we address at the topic, object, thing, individual, entity, and so on, change by the way of changing the name, then I would call Movement Research today Dancepose (Dance+expose). In terms of selection process or ways of presentation, Dancepose enables me to expose particular topics, which as such, and due to choreography demands (time/space) would be cut out, like ambiguity, in vain, or compost for instance, are all part of present physical presence. In that respect Dancepose is not about the solutions, but rather the questions, and rather than illustrations, it is about the movements of dwelling into. Instead of answering the question through movement or translating the concept, the Dance becomes the question or this state of wondering. The momentum just before knowing. This tiny moment of pure floating. It is a radical shift. To not enable dance merely through the discursive space. To fully engage with the presence and exactly create this in-between space that is the tension field between the now and the known and the after/unknown.”
- Matej Kejzar and Aleksandra Janeva Imfeld, dancers, choreographers
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Gallery pics © NDA Slovenia
25.11.21 - 01.12.21