Awards 2019

Award Committee: Alja Lobnik, Nina Meško, Snježana Premuš 

DANCER / PERFORMER: Nataša Živković
SET DESIGNER: Ajda Tomazin
PRODUCER: Dragana Alfirević
PEDAGOUGE: Saša Lončar
for performance Together and participation in various projects in the last two years


Recent history of contemporary dance in Slovenia would certainly be quite different if Ksenija Hribar wouldn’t have met dancer Sinja Ožbolt somewhere between the late 1970s and early 1980s. Ksenija Hribar placed all her choreographic hopes in her dance talent, related to her ideal physical predispositions, dancing flexibility, imagination, and sense of improvisation, in her keen interest in at, her sense for the spirit of the times, and last but not least, in her pure human ethos, almost instantly transforming it into a decisive contemporary dance plan. Sinja Ožbolt was the fuel that Ksenija Hribar needed for her creative contemporary dance machine, which, by the mid‑1980s, got its name: Dance Theatre Ljubljana.

The dance biography of Sinja Ožbolt begins in the late 1970s at the Studio for Free Dance, with Živa Kraigher and her pupils. It then continues, after a short detour with her admission to AGRFT (Drama Studies) at the beginning of 1980s, where she completed her first year, at the London Contemporary Dance School, which was at one of its peaks during the time. There, she was very thoroughly acquainted with dance and composition techniques of American dance modernism, with a choreographic paradigm that had the most profound effect on her artistic self‑confidence. Upon her return to Slovenia, she is almost immediately able to dance in choreographies created by Hribar for the Mladinsko Theatre and Dance Theater Ljubljana, and handle the repertoire as a dancer. She combines her dance skills with her acting talent, characterized by her delicate sense of humor and amazing stage charisma. She has delivered some unforgettable performances in both Jaz nisem jaz (“I am not Myself”) at the Mladinsko Theatre, as well as in performances such as Bridke solze za L.M. (“Bitter Tears for L.M.”), Alpsko sanjarjenje (“Alpine Daydreaming”), Nostalgija (“Nostalgia”) and Odisejev povratnik (“The Tropic of Odysseus”) by Ksenija  Hribar; Pisma iz črnega marmorja (“Black Marble Letters”) and Metastaza – Laibach (“Metastasis – Laibach”) by Damir Zlatar Frey; Izgubljeni, opus št. 2 (“Lost, Opus No. 2”) by Maja Milenović Workman; and in Panoptikum by Brane Završan. Let’s be selective.
Her choreographic opus, which she began to gradually build at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s, is characterized by her remarkable feeling for space and consistency in composition, for inventive formal and voluminous choreographic configurations, which are able to create unusual atmospheres with their classical contemporary dance systems, as they are usually scattered with different types of visual, action or movement malfunctions and disturbances. The shapes of thing which are usually excluded by the norms and symbolic orders. Their constitutive nothing. A look at the ensembles of her performances reveals that there is always a dancer which is occupied into some form of another body; a kind of disturbance. To paraphrase Lacan’s statement that the unconscious is structured like a language, Sinja Ožbolt’s version would be: The unconscious is structured like a choreography. And for Ožbolt, it is precisely the human body and its choreography that are the media in which the architecture the human desire can inadvertently build the most picturesque, sometimes funny, but mostly barely noticeable ruins. Ne dotikaj se (“Don’t Touch”), Rdeči čeveljčki (“Red Shoes”), Zrcaljenja (“Reflections”), Čudovite ruševine (“Wonderful Ruins”), Skriti vrtovi pogleda (“Hidden Gardens of Gaze”), Prikazen – Transformacija (“Apparition – Transformation”), and so on, at least up to Nekakšen sindrom (“A Kind of Syndrome”). Practically every title speaks of this in its own way.

Despite the fact that Sinja Ožbolt received generally affirmative reviews for her performances, it seems that she has always been poorly read by the Slovenian professional public. Within different undeniable certainties, she represented a kind of disturbance in the system. It is perhaps for this reason that the Ksenija Hribar Award for lifetime achievement is – in addition to the Golden Bird Award for her dance work in 1986 – her first domestic award for her choreographic work.

In recent years, Ožbolt is primarily working as a teacher at the Secondary Preschool Education and Gimnazija Ljubljana. Her work in this field subscribes to the anarchistic principles, it doesn’t need authority or hierarchy, since she is arousing the attention and creativity of the youth mainly with open and sincere attitude and with a great deal of charisma.

Maja Delak

Maja Delak first established herself as a successful dancer, who eventually developed the need for independent choreographic and authorial work. At the heart of what builds her integrity and choreographic signature are maturation and organic improvement through different education, as well as sensing the right moment for the next step. Maja Delak’s ability to listen to her own impulses in a given timeframe also applies to her work with other artists. Her authorship and field of choreography consist of more than just the display of the virtuosity and signature of the author. Her work reminds us that this field is also an intersection of the creative force of everyone involved. Maja Delak definitely excels in her elegant ability to navigate among a large number of people, to not jump the gun, to listen, and yet to pull the lines of force in the right moment and direct them. For her, every performance means discovering a new world, and her work always reflects a certain courage to join forces with demanding and well‑established performers from different fields. In Maja Šorli’s words, her building of cooperation is simply a reparative tactics that defies the devastating conditions on the contemporary dance scene. It is therefore both an aesthetic decision and a political act at the same time. In her latest performance, Just for Today, she’s returning to where she started as a dancer – to movement – except there is now an abundance of experiences discovered along the way, making this movement open‑source and daring in her search for coincidences. She returns to the movement with the ability to think over the essential fact of the contemporary dance reality – every body ages. And we are not talking of just any body, but especially of female body which is all the more fiercely subjected to norms. The travesties of femininity and masculinity are the central part of the collective project Image Snatchers, for which Maja Delak created perhaps one of her most iconic characters, Mad Jakala. For her, stage is always a place of facing the intimate and broader social issues that affect our reality. And just like ephemerality in written into the ontology of life, dance as a living matter cannot escape transience. Maja Delak understands this very well, which is why her work extends onto projects containing the aspect of advocacy for the contemporary dance scene. She’s outlining the map of contemporary dance with several projects in cooperation with the Emanat Institute, such as Slovenian choreographic directoryRecording Methods, and newly‑published volume Community of emancipated thoughts and bodies. She was the main initiator for perhaps the most important affirmation of contemporary dance, inclusion in secondary education.

Nataša Živković

In her artistic work, Nataša Živković is remarkable in fluctuating between different performing contexts, which she imbues with her own authorial mark and generously contributes to the collective stage expression. She moves across different fields – form contemporary dance to theatre and performance – and she sees each format as a creative terrain where she engages in powerful metamorphoses. She has a remarkable power of transformation and the ability to sustain such heterogeneous choreographic and performing approaches. She regularly cooperates with contemporary dance scene, working with choreographers (Irena Tomažin, Kaja Lorenci, Maja Delak, Mala Kline, Sanja Nešković Peršin, Mateja Bučar) and with directors and ensembles (Via Negativa, Betontanc, etc.) of different backgrounds, thereby providing her body with procedures that establish various qualities and presences of her corporality . She is developing sensitivity to the materiality of voice, exploring inter‑body relations and negotiations, and pursuing the questions of extimacy, meaning that which cannot be easily represented on stage. Either this means the swarming inside of the body or what is easily excluded. In 365falls, she deconstructs the character of the mother, she travestizes gender binaries as Tristan Bargeld in the technoburlesque Image Snatchers, and does the same in Sonny by delving into the fate of the individual women – virginas. Her thematic focus is on the issue of gender and gender differences, which places her creation in the register of feminist practices, which are capable of being both activist and artistically sensible at the same time. As a trained ballerina, technical sophistication is inscribed in her body, which through the years of artistic creation gradually became softer and looser in form. She became an artist, a performer, a dancer and, last but not least, an author with an exceptional presence and ability to transform herself. She successfully combines sensitivity to body matter and composition with a confessional attitude which is capable of changing into a wider social one. Her work opus is a nice a nice intersection of these features, with Nataša Živković literally moving across the Oedipal triangle of the psychoanalytic arsenal. She perceives the artistic landscape as a changeful place where it is still possible to negotiate about the state of affairs.

Jan Rozman

Despite his youth, Jan Rozman is one of the creators for whom it can be said that he found something of their own; very early on, he planted seeds of original poetry with his approach and reasoning. He began his artistic career at KD Qulenium Kranj under the mentorship of Saša Lončar. Even before completing elementary school, he recreated the iconic speech by Charlie Chaplin from the cult film The Great Dictator, making a name for himself once and for all. Since then, dealing with complex topics, questioning stereotypes, taboos and (non)senses of everyday life, and searching for ways to convert them have been key characteristics of this curious explorer of the stage expression. He even dares to say that art – like certain other things – is simply useless, and this is exactly what amuses him. It is in this uselessness that a space opens up for him, from which something new can emerge. Imagination has a special place in his artistic practice. He incorporates it into his body and performance, which is most obvious in his latest performances. Instead of wasting his time with stylistic categorizations, he is addressing different fields with his practice. His interdisciplinary approach to creation is evident In his latest original performance Thinging, he is using his eclectic mixture of movement, speech and witty improvisation to address the saturation of our everyday life with objects and look for the ways in which things can develop relationships themselves, communicate, and coexist. His source of movement thus remains highly heterogeneous. There is no doubt that Jan Rozman – by interweaving artistic and theoretical discourse – brings a lot of freshness into the sphere of dance art, especially in the context of unique aesthetic decisions perfected by continuous training.

Ajda Tomazin

Ajda Tomazin came across dance as a creative expression very early on, but parallel to her passion for dance, she has always cultivated sensibility to visual expression. Her creative work is multifaceted, ranging from design, costume and set design, installation, photography and animation, to intermedia and conceptual art, which gives her a certain quality of interdisciplinary enabling her to create spaces. Her scenographic landscape is subtle, unpretentious, and extremely precise. It is characterized by a clear logic and clarity, in which she is introducing a certain antithesis. She plants elements of the intimate, organic and physical in her poetic minimalism, as though the space now occupied the position of a body to enter into relations with another one, to meet it, negotiate and create situations with it. She builds space in an entirely choreographic manner with which she dares to play. Her work underlines the heterogeneity of her practices, in which different sensories communicate. She often engages in projects as set and costume designer, simultaneously creating multiple bodies. She understands extremely well the physical sculptures and formations, which results in the selection of quality materials and in the spatial landscapes that allow bodies to emerge and disappear in a somewhat different way. The fog that she proposes in Just for Today enables the body to be organic and sufficiently flexible to be able to encounter coincidences. In There. Nearby, the wires begin to bend in spiral structures which delineate curves with their bodies. In the last year, Ajda Tomazin has proven to be a highly subtle and innovative space designer, author of various dance project by Maja Delak, Magdalena Reiter, Matevž Dobaj and Neus Barcons Roca.

Jaka Šimenc

Jaka Šimenc has been present on the Slovenian contemporary dance scene for many years and is an exceptional master of light. He collaborated with various authors – visual artists, directors and choreographers. As an author, he engages in object theatre practise, exploring the expressive possibilities of supporting elements in the theatre. His opus is impressive and diverse in terms of genre, encompassing performances for children, contemporary dance, installations and workshops, where he studies the relationships between light and shadow, between the blackness of stage and the light. He is attentive to the way the meaning of images transforms depending on the way they are revealed or concealed by light and shadow. In his performances and artistic collaborations Šimenc explores what seems the most obvious with incredible depth and in a very sophisticated way. Are we even aware of the importance of light in the theatre? For Jaka Šimenc, this is certainly not a self‑evident question, but rather a creative problem that stands out as an independent dimensions of stage art and carries its own poetic charge. His work and approach towards lighting design are come closest to the definition of Vittorio Storaro: “The job of a cineaste is to design and write the story, starting from the beginning, which has its own development and its own ending. My profession is in fact to be a writer of light.” One could easily argue that Jaka Šimenc is a writer of light. His works “write” a wide spectrum of light procedures, which are deeply connected to the content of an individual stage creation, from the brutal sharpness Feng Shui in the Theatrewithout an Actor, to the intimate contours, to a play shadow and fields of light in What Remains or Thursday at. Here he takes his study of shadow and light a step further, blurring the spatial boundaries and creating empty matters, where light acts as the reason for darkness or as the basis for emptiness. The latter expands into the infinite space, in which dancers keep disappearing and reappearing once again. He is therefore creating spaces that layer inside the black cube, giving physicality a certain special time dimension. Jaka Šimenc is definitely an exceptional sound designer, characterized by his modesty and exceptional breadth of creative spirit, who has been present on local stages for many year and certainly cannot be overlooked. In recent years, he has also been developing his knowledge and skills by cooperating with Opera and Ballet Ljubljana, proving that he is ready for any challenge.

Dragana Alfirević

Dragana Alfirević is exceptionally propulsive in all elementary segments of cultural production: (re)organization, fundraising, production, postproduction, curating, advocacy, inter‑sectoral work, networking, combining production elements, etc. Her production work builds itself through different roles in the ecosystem of an art institution – she is a choreographer, dancer/performer, curator, and cultural activist – and contributes significantly to the proliferation of the paradigm of curating and production. Namely, at a certain point, contemporary dance, extremely fragile and precarious in nature, requires creators to begin combining different skills and to retrain themselves to other profession to a certain extent. With Dragana Alfirević, this reflects in her understanding of production as a creative and substantive work. She understands choreography in a broader sense, making her sensitive to reflections on the collective, composed of bodies in relations which are constantly negotiating. Her work is highly interconnected. Her production practice contains the awareness that material conditions and production can easily result in the erosion of both interpersonal relations and artistic content, making human relations the priority of her “relational” production, in order to try to change the material conditions in which the organization and production of content takes place. In the conditions provided by Dragana Alfirević, human work has its dignity, and her products remain part of her workers, creators. Such conception of production prevents segmentation, immunization and privatization of cultural and artistic activities, stimulates cooperation and transparency, and strengthens the attitude towards art, which is never separated from its contexts. Her production CV is exceptional, and a large amount of European funds are received by the local scene thanks to her knowledge (Life’s Long Burning, Dance On Pass On dream On), with exceptional benefits to the local cultural context (CoFestival, DSPS, NDA Slovenia, Cinema Šiška). Due to her work, the project of fundamental importance to the local environment become possible once again. Dragana Alfirević succeeds in detecting the most deficient places within the contemporary dance landscape, she engages in them with passion of activism, the lucidity of conceptual thoughts and the sensibility of interpersonal relationships, while being strongly marked by her internal‑external nature of involvement in the state of things. Her biography is pervaded with a certain dichotomy between different geo‑cultural and political contexts, which fundamentally informs her work in contemporary dance. Dragana Alfirević is not socially blinded by her allegiance to the local environments.

Rok Vevar

Slovenian contemporary dance would likely be less imaginative, sensible, conceptually thought out and politically engaged if it were not for Rok Vevar, a publicist, theorist, historian, archivist and contemporary performing arts teacher, who entered the scene in the early 1990s. As a high school student in 1990s, he began to visit the pedagogical centre of the time, GILŠ Kodum, where he realised that he is simply captivated by dance. His sharp reflexive apparatus and his passion for this line of work fuel the contemporary dance scene. He is introducing in his work a reflection on the working methods and artistic procedures which are also capable of stabilizing a collective social body. For Rok Vevar, contemporary dance landscape still represents a potential of public which is still capable of producing a common thing or two through negotiating about differences. It is as if the contemporary dance scene and it artistic power represented a training ground for methods of cooperation and coexistence. Perhaps his best virtue is the constant concern for sharing and as free as possible flow of knowledge acquired through years and in precarious working conditions, where Rok Vevar underpins the contemporary dance scene as an inexhaustible source of knowledge. It is therefore not surprising that on the one hand, he developed permanent cooperation – either as a co‑author or as a dramaturge – as a partner in dialogue with certain artists: Simona Semenič, Jana Menger, Sinja Ožbolt, Andreja Podrzavnik, Snježana Premuš, Kaja Lorenci and others, and on the other hand, inspired with enthusiasm entire generations of future writers as a pedagogue. He contributed fundamentally to the broader discourse and recognisability of the contemporary dance scene through his political engagement with decision makers and as the initiator of various self‑initiated initiatives. At the same time, Rok Vevar is very well aware of the fact that nationality a too narrow and stifling concept for the breadth of artistic creation. In his view, forming of once so lively bonds in the area of the former Yugoslavia is a necessity, without which one cannot imagine future. As a member of Nomad Dance Academy Slovenia, he is doing just that. But above all, he contributed to the affirmation of contemporary dance through journalism, having published in a variety of local daily newspapers for years, inventing and mastering language simultaneously with contemporary dance production and managing to provide it with some theatre sensibility and affectedness. It was this lack of dance writings that made him return to dancing. His reflection on dance compositions is delicate and accurate, and his theoretical tools are imaginative due to his close connection with artistic practice. Even when involved in co‑curating (Cofestival), his programming method is precise, led by concern for adequate language, capable of building contexts into which performances are inserted. In recent years, he is focusing on the historization of the ephemeral dance practice, providing the contemporary dance scene with its own memory trail. Through years of patient work and thorough systematization, his passion for archiving has grown into the Temporary Slovenian Dance Archives, which finally found its place in The Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova. His latest project is the publication of Day, Night + Man = Rhythm: Anthology of Slovene Contemporary Dance Criticism 1918–1960 (published by Maska Institute), which reveals the hidden history of the vividness of journalism and dance practice. With his endless contextual work, Rok Vevar represents a binding force for the contemporary dance scene, which is hard to imagine without it.

Saša Lončar

Saša Lončar is a dance teacher who works with dedication, commitment and passion. Due to her research in dance pedagogy she discovered the primal nature of movement, which remains the main them of her pedagogical work. The main features characteristic of her pedagogical work are body awareness, activation of creativity, communication and the ability to relate to the world of others and react to it, understanding, encouraging and establishing genuine human relationships. Under her own conditions and in her own way, she created KD Qulenium in 1991, where she works as president, organizer, coordinator, mentor, choreographer, teacher, artistic director, and producer. For almost two decades now, Sanja Lončar has been actively and passionately nurturing the creativity of children along with their personal and artistic development. She is a pedagogue who embodies the Platonic idea of a pedagogue: a focused and attentive motivator who opens up, monitors, develops and co‑creates the development of a student. She is a mentor who does not follow any predetermined system but rather creates schematized frameworks and points of reference, based on which she develops the potentialities of the processes. In her dance creation process, she demands a shift from systematic and mechanized modes to the area of imagination. The latter materializes either in a dance miniature, in a relationship and group relations, or in the organization of a community. Dance stories of her pupils develop slowly, because good production requires precision, clarity and consideration of the smallest gestures within a stage situation. Dance miniatures and performances by dancers of KD Qulenium inspire hope for the Slovenian professional contemporary dance scene, with Saša Lončar being responsible for a remarkable part of the new generation of promising dance artists, such as Jan Rozman, Ben Novak and Ana Roma. In each one of them, an image of Saša reflects in a slightly different way.

for performance Together and participation in various projects in the last two years
Leja Jurišić

Leja Jurišić is a comprehensive stage artist who has already established herself on the Slovenian scene in the artistic duo with Teja Reba, and before that with her original debut piece. She gradually evolved from a young and promising artist, already the recipient of the Ksenija Hribar Award in 2013, into a mature artist who insist on physicality and explores its limits. She leaves her creative signature both in her projects and in cooperation with other authors and co‑workers. She feels at home in artistic duos, such as with Teja Reba, Petra Veber and Marko Mandić, with whom she has been establishing the necessary atmosphere of dialogue both on and behind the stage. She is autonomous, independent and uncompromising. We believe that she is the right person for the Ksenija Hribar Award, because she has developed in the course of her creative career physical presences with which she is persistently revealing physical images that permeate the local archive repertoire. Perhaps one of the key questions emerging from her engagement directly or indirectly is where and how a performer communicates with their audience and where does the private space begin. Today, contemporary dance keep testing the limits of the public and the private, defining new boundaries. Leja Jurišić found a field where she feels comfortable, and it seems that her “studio” for exploring physicality is performance itself. Even though the latter began in fine arts and only later transferred to dance, it is a field in which Leja Jurišić can maintain, research, live, express herself with all intensity and dedication. In today’s world of flatness, her commitment to exploring authenticity and presence is more than just a display of physicality. It represent a reminder that we can be in our bodies in a different way. That such bodies exist and remind us themselves of our boundaries, limitations, and abilities. Her prominent duo Together is an example of a project where she successfully test her own positions and transforms them with her colleagues into experimental zest. This is what a comprehensive stage ambient represents: an experience of duration, based on the unpredictability of the meeting of two performers and the audience, above all a field of negotiations, situations and conditions, which represent a sort of materialization of persisting together. Contrary to the formats which respond to a specific situation, such as the installation in the duo with Petra Veber: “The most beautiful moments are also the shortest. They appear shortly after the pain ends, and just before it reappears. And yet they are mine.” For Leja Jurišić, body is always honest, so we need to listen to it and hear it. In the silence of the gallery, the body is left hanging, leaving behind its memory ­– a reminder.

Opening address