Nataša Tovirac is a dancer, choreographer, dance pedagogue and yoga instructor. She joined Intakt Dance Studio 27 years ago and became its sole Artistic and Programme Director in 2007. Under her professional guidance Intakt continues its mission of quality dance education and openness to the broader public, while managing to remain an elite contemporary dance institution in Slovenia.
Nataša, who can join your dance studio and what kind of classes are currently taught at Intakt?
Since our inception in 1988, Intakt has been an open organisation. Throughout the years of our existence, we managed to develop an entire vertical of education for children and adolescents from 4 to 16 years of age. This came in addition to the contemporary dance classes for young dancers and enthusiasts at different levels of their dance experience, as well as ballet classes for adults and contemporary dance class for older generations of dancers who have only begun to dance.
As I’m also interested in personal growth, we expanded our programme with Kundalini Yoga and Shakti Dance® - the Yoga of Dance classes about a decade ago.
I think it is safe to say that we are open to pretty much everyone who wants to join, since we cover the entire range of ages and backgrounds with our classes.
I guess you don’t teach all these courses by yourself, so who are the teachers?
As far as teaching is concerned, I originally started with contemporary dance classes for adults. Then I explored methods of teaching contemporary dance to children of various age and added those classes to our programme as well. I’m currently teaching mostly Kundalini yoga and Shakti Dance®- the Yoga of Dance classes, while our team of trusted colleagues are teaching other contemporary dance classes.
One of these is Igor Sviderski, who fell for contemporary dance at about the same time I did, in 1989. Like most of our generation of dancers, Igor studied dance abroad as well as at home, and has like most of our team members received several awards for his work as a dancer, choreographer and dance pedagogue. Igor currently teaches our Thursday Challenge class for adult beginners and Contemporary Dance I.
Another established member of our group is Sabina Schwenner, an award-winning dancer, choreographer and dance pedagogue from Novo mesto with a long repertoire of performances that begins in 1992. Sabina currently teaches the youth groups of Modrini (8-10 years) and Friksi (10-12 years).
There are, however, also younger members of our team, such as the talented Veronika Valdes, who started dancing at the age of four and soon after moved to perform at various local and international stages. In addition to the many awards Veronika earned in her time as a professional dancer, she has also proved indispensable as a teacher of our teen group Indigo (13-16 year olds) and Contemporary dance II.
There are many more teachers who have collaborated with Intakt and still do, among which I should not forget to mention Kristina Aleksova Zavašnik, our teacher for the youngest group Bube I (4-6 years), and also at the other end our older ballet learners (Ballet for Adults). After completion of her secondary education, Kristina joined the Opera and Ballet Ljubljana ensemble in 2002, where she also created several original performances. In 2017 she left the institutional milieu and began devoting herself to performance and contemporary dance.
What kind of a dance is contemporary dance?
Sometimes contemporary dance is misunderstood as the dance which is popular at a certain time, such as hip-hop now, for example. Contemporary dance, however, is an artistic practice with about a century old tradition, technique and aesthetics, which rather than into the fields of sport or entertainment belongs to the category of art. When we talk about contemporary dance we talk about dance as an art form.
If the main concern of sport and entertainment dances, even classical ballet, lays in the display of virtuosity within a certain prescribed sequence of body moves, contemporary dance in contrast focuses on the creation of the unexpected and novel. It presents an artistic tool that can create and communicate socially and emotionally engaged content. It can be critical and daring, as it allows us to go places nobody wants to go.
For these reasons contemporary dance is sometimes prone to taking itself too seriously, forgetting that being playful and cheerful are also worthwhile expressions of life. We dance barefoot, touch each other and play with gravitational forces.
My understanding of contemporary dance as an underlying concept behind the way I have been running the studio is that contemporary dance is a very democratic art form, which needs to remain open to everyone. And this especially important in today’s world of crisis and uncertainty.
We have therefore been placing a special emphasis on the dance education of children, since it is not only important for a child to receive early education in cooperation and mindfulness, as well as become more aware of their body through cheerful play, but it is also of a great importance to enabling future generations to enjoy this art and culture.
You joined Intakt Dance Studio about 27 years ago. How did your involvement progress to where you are now?
My first experience with Intakt was in 1989, when I took a course. Then I left to study at the Flemish Dance Academy in Bruges, and when I returned in 1992 Intakt had already lost some of its initial strength. I was with a group of young, enthusiastic dancers, and together we assumed a much more proactive role. We set up the entire adult education programme and started with our own productions and tours. Between the years 1992 and 1996 the public interest in contemporary dance courses was remarkable, and Intakt experienced a real boom.
We were a group of young dancers and choreographers who also developed as dance educators and created a vivid atmosphere in the courses with the fresh knowledge that we acquired at dance academies abroad. Later, in 1996–2003, Tanja Skok carried out a successful reorganisation and founded the PS Intakt study repertoire group, in which talented and dedicated dancers engaged in a creative process with renowned domestic and foreign choreographers. Many dancers from this period then continued their professional dance journey.
As already mentioned, in 2000 Intakt also acquired a quality creative dance programme for children and teens, which I designed with a group of experienced dance pedagogues.
Then in 2003 Intakt became an independent legal person, The Intakt Dance Studio Society – The Association of Contemporary Dance Artists. Until 2007 the society had been directed jointly by Tanja Skok and me, and since I’ve continued managing the studio on my own.
How can one join, and can adults and children with poor Slovenian skills take classes, too?
We have no language limitations. All the teachers speak English as well and I believe that so do most of our students.
We are also approaching the open-door week starting September 7 - 11, when you can come and try out a class free of charge. Since the number of places is limited due to Covid19 measures, applications are required for these classes as well.
Nataša, thank you very much for talking to us.