Meet the People

28 Jun 2021, 11:34 AM

STA, 28 June 2021 - Melania Trump, former US First Lady, has not made it to the latest list of 100 most influential Slovenians even though she topped it last year. She has been unseated by Prime Minister Janez Janša, who unlike her appreciates power, says the weekly Reporter. UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin is in second place, followed by President Borut Pahor.

Reporter's latest commentary notes that Janša knows what it means to be "powerless or at least far away from levers of power" and he "will not repeat mistakes by his inexperienced predecessor Marjan Šarec", meaning he will not give up the prime minister post by taking any risks.

Soon after he took over as prime minister, Janša demonstrated that "there is likely no one in the country who can exert their influence" like him. Just for the sake of comparison, Šarec did not top the list when he was prime minister and currently he is not even the most influential opposition leader on the list.

Čeferin is meanwhile "the only person whom Janša sees as a threat, and he is not even a politician". "If he decided to enter Slovenian politics before the next election, he would most probably form the next Slovenian government."

Coming in third, Pahor remains quite influential not due to his moderate stances, but because of his senior post and political experience.

Speaker Igor Zorčič also stands out, having significantly increased his influence as a result of his defection from the coalition SMC and successful efforts to withstand attempts by the coalition to unseat him.

More than a year of the Janša government and pandemic has reduced influence of some "backstage decision makers", whereas a larger number of doctors has made it to the list in an expected turn of events, says the commentary headlined Goodbye, Melania.

The full list can be seen in the magazine, now available on newsstands

16 Jun 2021, 14:17 PM

STA, 15 June 2021 - Three Slovenian promising young women researchers specialising in gynaecological oncology, genetic toxicology and natural resources economics have won the national L'Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science scholarships for 2021.

The EUR 5,000 awards were conferred to Monika Sobočan, Martina Štampar and Tanja Šumrada by L'Oreal Adria and the Slovenian National Commission for UNESCO in Ljubljana on Tuesday.

Hailing the winners Vanya Panayatova, general manager for Adria-Balkans at L'Oréal, said the Women in Science programme had in the past 15 years supported 43 exceptional researchers in Slovenia, who would join 3,600 women researchers in 117 countries.

Addressing the award ceremony by video link, Education Minister Simona Kustec said gender equality in science would be one of the priorities in science as Slovenia holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of the year.

Gender equality would also be dealt with in a new bill on research and innovation that is to be put to parliament for discussion shortly.

The awards were conferred to the three researchers in recognition for their excellent research and vital contribution to the development of science and society's progress.

Monika Sobočan, 29, is working on a doctoral thesis at the Maribor Faculty of Medicine and the UKC Maribor medical centre studying biomarkers that could help recognise how aggressive ovarian cancer and how it responds to systemic therapy.

As part of her training at Royal London Hospital and Queen Mary University of London she is working on cancer prevention and preventive surgical procedures in women with genetic risks for gynaecological cancers.

Martina Štampar, 30, in January successfully defended her doctoral thesis where she studied and developed a new liver in-vitro 3D cell model to be used for testing genotoxic activity of xenobiotic substances.

Štampar now works as junior researcher at the genetic toxicology and cancer biology at the National Institute of Biology.

Tanja Šumrada, 29, studies the impact of farming on biodiversity and environmental protection within the Slovenian and EU agricultural policy as part of her post-graduate study.

Europe and the world have seen a sharp decline in biodiversity in recent decades, the main reasons being change in the manners of farming and use of soil, said Šumrada, who is part of a team of researchers at the Ljubljana Biotechnical Faculty who explore suitable development solutions for rural areas.

24 May 2021, 19:42 PM

STA, 24 May 2021 - The Youth 2020 survey into the youth [ed. aged 19 to 29] in Slovenia shows that, compared to ten years ago, they are noticeably more active, responsible and independent, while on the other hand they face greater housing problems and more precarious work in the labour, with their mental health also having deteriorated.

The survey, which included 1,200 young people around the country, is the latest one after the ones in 2000 and 2010, and covers some new fields, including the attitude to migration and consumerism.

Presenting the survey on Monday, Andraž Zgonc of the Government Office for Youth added that it busted a number of myths about the young that were rooted in society, including that they drank and smoked a lot.

As many as 70% youths are non-smokers, which is 15 percentage points more than in 2010, while 20% of the respondents do not drink alcoholic beverages, which is nine percentage points more than in the previous survey.

Miran Lavrič of the University of Maribor added that two-thirds of the respondents performed a sport activity every week, which was slightly more than ten years ago.

According to Lavrič, young people are also quicker to move away from their parents, as in 2019 the average age was 27.7 years, two years earlier than in 2010.

Results are, meanwhile, less encouraging when it comes to mental health, as the number of respondents who feel stress doubled compared to 2010, while loneliness is a serious problem for three times more respondents than ten years ago.

The youth in Slovenia are also more worried about solving their housing issue - while a third of the respondents had such worries ten years ago, the share is now up to 45%.

For this reason, more of them are ready to move to another European country if this means better life opportunities, with the share of such respondents standing at three-quarters.

Furthermore, the survey shows a high level of consumer awareness, as more than half of the respondents buy only what they really need, said Tomaž Deželan of the University of Ljubljana.

He noted that there was still little interest in politics among Slovenian youths.

Education Minister Simona Kustec said that the project provided insight into the issue at various levels and was the main starting point for the future national programme for youth.

According to her, the relevant ministries will refer to the survey in creating measures to address the problems pointed out by the survey.

All the results, in Slovene

30 Mar 2021, 13:05 PM

STA, 30 March 2021 - Natalija Spark, an interpreter of the Slovenian sign language and a psychotherapist, has become the Slovenian Woman of the Year 2020, a title conferred by the women's magazine Jana/Zarja and its readers.

 Having a connection with the hearing world is particularly important for the deaf during the coronavirus epidemic, the organisers said in a press release last evening.

Spark was born to deaf parents, which played a major part when she was choosing her vocation - helping others, the organisers said.

She also takes part in Theatre Interpreter, a project launched a few years ago to bring theatre productions closer to the deaf.

Thanking for the title, Spark said that she saw all the 12 candidates as winners.

"For me this unforgettable gift confirms that I am doing the right thing, although it is often unpleasant," she was quoted as saying.

The list of women whom the magazine and its readers shortlisted as outstanding and inspiring features a group as diverse as an art historian, farmer, boxing champion, retired teacher, volunteer, athlete, doctor, journalist, humanitarian workers, and nurses as a group.

22 Feb 2021, 12:13 PM

STA, 22 February 2021 - Film and theatre actor Danilo Benedičič has died, aged 87, the Ljubljana SNG Drama theatre has said. Benedičič, a winner of Borštnik Ring, Slovenia's top accolade for lifetime achievement in theatre acting, was a member of the SNG Drama ensemble for almost 40 years.

Benedičič performed almost 150 roles in his career, spanning five decades, and was known and celebrated for his "extraordinary artistic heritage and kind, mindful personality", the theatre said in a press release issued on Friday.

He was born in the village of Pristava near the northern town of Tržič in 1933 and graduated from the Ljubljana Academy of Theatre, Radio, Film and Television (AGRFT) in 1970.

Benedičič won many awards, including the 1980 Prešeren Fund Prize for his SNG Drama performances, the 1989 Borštnik Ring, and the 1997 Župančič Award for lifetime achievements, bestowed by the city of Ljubljana.

He was described by theatre critic Jernej Novak as "a character, precise and cultivated actor, a great master of detail with a wide range of expression, who based his without fail original stage performances on in-depth research". The Borštnik Ring jury lauded him as an actor with distinctive features and one-of-a-kind artistic expression.

Benedičič was famous for his interpretations of Shakespeare's characters as well as takes on grotesque or comical roles. At the beginning of his career, he made a name for himself as a participant of the experimental Oder 57 student theatre movement.

15 Feb 2021, 13:55 PM

STA, 15 February 2021 - Nevenka Koprivšek, a major player on the Slovenian scene of performing arts, has died while expressions of condolences are pouring in from around Slovenia and abroad.

She died suddenly at the age of 61 on Sunday, Bunker, a non-profit production company behind the Young Lions international performing arts festival, said on Sunday.

Koprivšek was an actress and theatre producer. In 1989 she became the first woman artistic director of Glej, an alternative Ljubljana theatre group.

She was credited with opening it up to international audiences with the production You the City the very next year.

"It was the international character that distinguished her stint as artistic director at the time of the break-up of Yugoslavia and the rise of nationalism," Glej said.

IN MEMORIAM: NEVENKA KOPRIVŠEK We were immeasurably saddened to learn of the demise of Nevenka Koprivšek, one of Glej’s...

Posted by Gledališče Glej on Sunday, 14 February 2021

In 1997, she founded Bunker because she felt Slovenia was not familiar enough with contemporary trends in performing arts abroad.

She was also the director of the Young Lions (Mladi Levi) festival, and founder or co-founder of several international and local networks.

Koprivšek was born in 1959 in Ljubljana and graduated from the Ecole Jacques Lecoq in Paris in 1983, acting in various groups in Paris and New York after graduating.

In 2003 she was rewarded for her work by the city of Ljubljana with the Župančič Award for outstanding achievements.

She also received two French honours for promoting French culture, one in 2011 and the other in 2016.

Glej, Bunker and the city of Ljubljana praised her as "the first Slovenian independent theatre producer" and "the driving force behind Ljubljana's alternative culture".

More than 300 cultural figures from Slovenia and abroad expressed their pain at her death and the praise of her dedication, hard work and her personality on Bunker's Facebook profile.

Ellen Walraven, artistic director of a theatre in Rotterdam, wrote that Koprivšek was one of the first and important players in the field of international theatre exchange. "She was generous, she thought strategically, she was practical and always full of ideas."

14 Feb 2021, 15:35 PM

How did you come to live in Slovenia?

I moved to Slovenia in March 2018 to be with my fiancée, now wife, Anita, who’s a Slovenian national. I first met her via Couchsurfing in 2015. She asked me many questions about travelling around India. Unfortunately, we never met up at that time as I was out of Delhi on a tour, however we remained in contact. At the end of 2016 we arranged to do a month-long yoga teaching course in Rishikesh together and from there on it was a bit like a Bollywood movie … love at first sight!

After the course we did some motorbike touring up into Nepal before Anita returned to Prague. In 2017 she returned to India again for six months, during which time she lived with my family. Eventually, I joined her in Slovenia in March 2018 and we got married in India a year later, then came back to Slovenia in April to make our lives here.

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What work have you been doing here?

Before COVID I was driving tourists around Slovenia, teaching yoga, Indian food cooking and Ajurvedic massages. I got into the first business in India, where my family has a travel agency, Adventure Holiday Tours in Delhi, India. Back home my work was to show visitors around the India organize their tours with our private English-speaking drivers. Our company has a great team of drivers, and a very good reputation online because we made sure that everyone enjoyed their tour with us. So when I came to Slovenia I started a similar company after I received my work permit – Adventure Holiday Tours, Tarun Sharma.

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How was your business affected by the pandemic?

Since April last year we’ve only had three to five of giving tours in total for Slovenia. Luckily I was able to get the COVID support from the government since October, and I’ve been giving online yoga classes. However, this has badly affected our family business in India, as since April last year the country stopped tourist visas and nobody’s been coming to visit. And so no work for the drivers who’ve been working for my fathers company in Delhi, India.

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Yes, you now have a project to help the drivers – can you tell us about that?

Sure, I’m trying to help the drivers and their families who’ve been working for my dad’s company over 10 years in India. They’ve been great to all the tourists visiting India and making sure they enjoyed their stay. Now since April last year they haven’t had any work. My dad helped them, but he also doesn't have any work now and so I want to raise some funds for them so that we can help them to open some other business and make a living until tourism starts again.

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How can people learn more?

Here’s a link where people can read more, and also make a donation or just share the link to spread the message. Even just €10 provides a lot of help. https://www.ketto.org/fundraiser/families-in-need-due-to-no-foreign-tourism-in-india

 

08 Feb 2021, 12:12 PM

STA, 7 February 2021 - Marko Mušič, one of the most distinguished Slovenian architects, comes from a long line of architects. He will receive the Prešeren Prize for lifetime-achievement, the country's top accolade for artistic accomplishments, after leaving a notable mark with his work in Slovenia and throughout the former Yugoslavia.

Five of Mušič's ancestors were architects, including his father Marjan Mušič, which he sees as a privilege. He told the STA in an interview that he "simply worshipped" his father, who was a "refined art connoisseur, a profound architectural theorist and historian, an excellent project manager, a classic of the Slovenian architectural drawing and of course a prolific and extraordinary writer".

Mušič (1941) graduated in 1966 under the mentorship of professor Edvard Ravnikar, who just like Mušič's father was a student of the great architect Jože Plečnik (1872-1957). He continued his studies in Denmark and the US, where he cooperated with architect and archaeologist Ejnar Dyggve and with US architect Louis Kahn, respectively.

Kahn left a deep impression on Mušič. "I was drawn to his philosophy of architecture and in particular his honouring of tradition and the culture of architectural history," he told the STA.

"The clarity of his architectural composition and the sense of symbolism have always stood out. He was unlike anybody else and his architectural designs were such as well. He designed few buildings, but they were all in line with his motto that you must give each building a soul."

Mušič considered staying in the US, where opportunities for architects were immense, but Kahn "convinced me to go to Skopje immediately and continue and finish my great and important work there," he said in a reference to his work in the Macedonian capital.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Mušič left his mark in former Yugoslavian cities from Zagreb through Belgrade to Skopje and Bitola. "That was a period of enthusiasm, faith in the architecture, youthful zeal, new opportunities and of course competitiveness," he told the STA, saying Slovenian architects had been particularly esteemed in the former Yugoslavia.

He said architecture had had full political support at the time. "Interestingly, I was never asked why I'm not a member of the League of Communists or persuaded that this was needed if I were to be the chief architect."

In the 1980s, he started focussing on Slovenia. This was a time when Postmodernism radically ended the period of Modernism and Jože Plečnik was "rehabilitated". Mušič was strongly affected by this and his architectural language started containing elements of classical architecture although using modern material and showing his own personal style.

He has a strong connection to Plečnik. "My relationship with Plečnik has in particular a creative charge. Every one of his works, designs or sketches spontaneously reveals creative saturation, which is an inexhaustible source of interest, admiration and also new creative encouragement."

Mušič's most important projects in Ljubljana are the Ljubljana railway station, the Incarnation Church in the Dravlje borough, and the New Žale Cemetery. He is also the author of the Teharje memorial park dedicated to the victims of post-war killings.

Three of his projects, including the New National and University Library, Apostolic Nunciature in Ljubljana, and the Ljubljana passenger terminal have not be realised, which he said "left a slightly bitter aftertaste".

He feels particularly close to memorial architecture, which he focussed on in the 1990s. "When designing such projects we must be aware of Wittgenstein's belief that the meaning of ethics and aesthetics is to reveal the inexpressible ... We must be aware that every part of this space has its symbolic and ritual function."

Mušič is lauded by the jury conferring the Prešeren Prize for his unique architectural path, his "particular, at times controversial perspective standing against the 'flow of the time' and architectural trends, and which still aspires to 'architecture for all times'", something Plečnik had set high standards for.

Active in architecture in Slovenia and the broader Balkan region for almost 60 years, Mušič has a special place in this space and has been considered a wunderkind, the Prešeren Prize jury said. He has received several awards, including the Prešeren Fund Prize for outstanding achievements, and the Plečnik and Valvasor awards.

The latest international recognition of his work was the inclusion of his works in the big exhibition of Yugoslavian architecture in MoMA in New York in 2018.

He is a full member of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts (SAZU) and the European Academy of Sciences and Arts (EASA) and a corresponding member of the academies of sciences and arts of Republika Srpska, Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"All awards are pleasant companions, but the Prešeren Prize of course has a special significance and ring to it. On the one hand it is a recognition for past achievements, but it is also an encouragement for the future, as even those of us who have walked a long way already are optimistic about the future and new challenges," he said.

08 Feb 2021, 12:06 PM

STA, 7 February 2021 - Feri Lainšček, a writer, poet, playwright and screenwriter from north-eastern Slovenia, who will receive the Prešeren Prize for lifetime-achievement, sees his work not as a job but as a way of life. He believes literary heroes are spiritual beings with lives of their own. 

Born in the hilly part of the Prekmurje region near the Hungarian border in 1959, Lainšček spoke and listened to nothing but dialect until primary school. In his first book from a trilogy about his life, Kurji Pastir (The Chicken Shepherd), which was published last year, he writes about the poverty he was born into and the immense love of his parents.

"I've always thought my mother and father have managed to build a kind of invisible bridge that I used to get out of that and somehow made it into a normal life," Lainšček told the STA. "While writing this novel, I finally realised this bridge was actually made of love."

He believes he has had "a kind of different childhood which taught me early on how to defy despair". After finishing secondary school in Murska Sobota, he wanted to study art in Ljubljana but failed to get accepted at the Academy of Fine Arts, so he opted for what is today the Faculty of Social Sciences.

He came to the capital "with nothing, like many others probably, at the time" and "had to start from scratch". "I had no acquaintances, relatives, godfathers. I actually got the most help from older writers I slowly got to know and started spending time with."

He described this period of his life in the novel Peronarji, with which he entered the literary world in 1982. During that time, he worked for Radio Ljubljana, and wrote poems and novels in his spare time.

He has written more than 100 books, including 30 novels. Many of his works have been translated into several foreign languages, and some have been also made into films. As author, Lainšček also cooperates with Slovenian musicians, most notably with young singer-songwriter Ditka.

"I must admit that things have just happened for me and Ditka and we never wondered whom we should thank for that ... No matter what it was, it is important that, spontaneously, we were on the same page, got closer in a creative way but also gave each other all the freedom. I believe the listeners sense that."

Lainšček has received many awards for his work, including the Prešeren Fund Prize for his novel Ki Jo Je Megla Prinesla (She Who Was Brought by Fog) and the Kresnik award for the best novel of the year for Namesto Koga Roža Cveti (Instead of Whom Does the Flower Bloom).

Six of his books were made into films, including the 2007 blockbuster Petelinji Zajtrk (Rooster's Breakfast), directed by Marko Naberšnik. "Luckily I learned early enough that the literary and film languages are very different. I realised that directors do not come to me because they wish to 'translate' my work but because they want to create something of their own."

He also publishes his poems on social media, so he did not have to move online when the epidemic started. "I have been there all the time. I've always been interested in new media and different carriers of message. I've been among the first ones to try a lot of things and I sometimes also used them conceptually, so I must say I don't see this as an emergency exit."

Lainšček receives the Prešeren Prize for his novels, poetry collections, short stories, books for children and youth, screenplays and radio plays. "Lainšček's literary achievements with their high artistic value have been significantly enriching the treasury of Slovenian culture for almost 40 years," the jury said.

He is lauded as the "leading poet and writer of Panonian Slovenia, whose works portray the lives of ordinary people from the margins of society in a very sensitive manner". By showing the "lyrical Gypsy soul", he is expressing respect to those who are different, the jury said.

His poetry is described as a mixture of Panonian melancholy and a personal vision of love. His works in Prekmurje dialect have significantly contributed to the building of bridges between Slovenia and the Slovenian community living in Hungary.

Lainšček is known to empathise deeply with his literary characters. "I hope this doesn't sound too mystical but I believe that literary heroes are in fact spiritual beings. We the writers create them and then they live their own lives, often outside their books. For example, Martin Krpan has never lived, he was created by (Fran) Levstik, yet he is still around and we all know him."

He sees the whole creative process as a dialogue where literary heroes have free will, "so I usually don't know until the end how the story will unfold".

In the case of Muriša, a young woman who is the main character of Lainšček's namesake book, the author says he tried very hard to save her but in the end she died anyway because she followed her beliefs and ideals blindly.

"I remember winning Kresnik for that novel. The award ceremony was at Rožnik Hill more than a year after I finished the novel but a single thought occurred to me there. Muriša did not die in vain after all. Everyone expected me to be happy about the prize, but I was so moved I nearly cried."

The Prešeren Prize will, however, be different. "I am very happy to win it and I accept it with respect. I have won it for the work that I have been devoted to with my body and soul since youth. It has become my way of life and in a way affected everything I have ever done."

11 Oct 2020, 16:42 PM

Goran Vojnović came to prominence with his first novel, Čefurji raus! (2008), translated as Southern Scum Go Home!, which explores the lives of immigrants from the former Yugoslavia and those of their children in Ljubljana’s Fužine, a group commonly known as čefurji. It’s a work that essential reading for anyone interested in Slovenia and wanting to lift the lid on the chocolate box images that dominate foreign representations of the country.

He followed this up with Jugoslavija, moja dežela(2011) (Yugoslavia, My Fatherland), a work that deals more directly with the disintegration of Yugoslavia. His most recent novel is Figa (2016), which on 20 October is released in its English version by Istros Books (and translated by Olivia Hellewell) as The Fig Tree. We’ll have something more about that next weekend, but for now here’s an interview with the man himself…

How doe The Fig Tree stand in relation to your first two books?

I once said that my first two novels were two screams, while The Fig Tree is a silent exhale. It is a different, gentler novel, I think. With first two novels I addressed two things that define me most as a person. Growing up as čefur and Balkan war. I think I just had to cry it out so I can become a real writer, to be able to put literature in pole position while I am writing. The Fig Tree is dealing with topics of my first two novels – I will probably stick to them to the very end - but in a different way.

The Fig Tree is set on the coast, in Istria, is that an area that you have a personal connection with?

My mother is from Pula and I've spent a big part of my childhood there. Istria is therefore inseparable part of my homeland, my novel The Fig Tree is not just set there but is actually made from my memories of Istria and my family, it is born out of feelings Istria awakens in me. There are also many places in Slovenia where I feel at home, but it is difficult to say where I am happiest. Happiness is not about places for me. In Ljubljana I was probably happiest, but I had also my worst time there.

Our readers are interested in Slovenia, but usually can’t understand Slovenian to a high level yet. What are some of the culture products you’d suggest they pay attention to as they learn more about the country?

Slovenia is not so easy to understand and one should never underestimate its diversity and its paradoxes. It is a ridiculously small country but one with extraordinarily rich cultural influences. We lie on a great crossroad of Roman, German and Slavic world, with gorgeously rich Hungarian culture in the east. On top of that, we were on the frontier between socialist East and capitalist West for almost half a century. To be honest, I think that we are still searching for our own identity, trying to figure out who we are, so be patient with us, please.

With all that said, you should read Prišleki (1984) (Newcomers: Book Two) our greatest novel by great Lojze Kovačič, which is by far the best take on our complex contemporary history.

The novels of Andrej E. Skubic [such as Fužine Blues] and films from Damjan Kozole [Slovenka (Slovenian Girl); Rezervni deli (Spare Parts)] successfully deal with transition and its consequences, one topic that is in my opinion proved to be the most difficult to deal with.

The whole film, with subtitles and in better quality than the trailer, is on YouTube here

But if you are here for the art, then search out the books of Dušan Šarotar or Matjaž Ivanišin's films. Or poetry from Esad Babačić, Katja Perat, Anja Golob and many other great Slovenian poets. I love how late Metka Krašovec paints silence or sublime sculptures of Jakov Brdar. I love Severa Gjurin's magical voice and Pannonian melancholy of Vlado Kreslin's music. And once you master the Slovenia language you should definitely listen to Iztok Mlakar, our greatest storyteller. And yes, Špela Čadež's short animations are also a must.

I could go on or write completely different list, of course, but let's stop at that.

You're also a very well-respected screenwriter and director. To ask a question that was going around Twitter: Netflix called, offered a huge budget and gave you creative freedom for a limited series about Slovenia, set in any time – what period would you focus on?

Well, if they offered me a really huge budget I would definitely shot Lojze Kovačič's Prišleki. It would be a great TV series. And I would cast the best Slovenian actors which in my opinion are as good as any in this world.

How would you like to see Slovenia change over the next decade or two, and do you have any optimism this will happen?

I am not optimistic person but judging from your last two questions you really want me to imagine unimaginable so I could say that I would like Slovenia to calm down its own adolescent political hysteria and I would love if our professional environment would become professional indeed. I would also love if we would finally get a proper public transport so people could start using it daily when travelling between cities. I also hope that our everyday life stays as relaxed as it is and that we will continue to cherish our free time as we do now.

What are you working on now?

As always, I am working on many things. I am preparing the release of my new feature film Once Were Humans, while also working on a documentary about Eurobasket 2017. I am finishing my new novel too.

You can pre-order a copy of The Fig Tree from Istros Books, and find Vojnović's other titles in bookstores or online

03 Sep 2020, 14:43 PM

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.

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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.

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All photos by Intakt Dance Studio
 

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.

Details on classes, the schedule and so on can be found in Slovenian on our website. Inquiries in English can also be made on our Facebook page. If someone wants to join a class, then they just need to fill in an application form or contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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.

You’re welcome.

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