Movement can be immensely expressive. No words. No voice. Aja Jung analyses the longevity of the Belgrade Dance Festival and its importance for the Belgrade cultural scene. Looking forward to another edition of this favourite and renowned theatrical event, Aja Jung, founder and director of the Belgrade Dance Festival speaks about the true power of this art form as well as of the programming concept of the festival and its faithful audience.
After gaining such immense experience and knowledge, what do you see as the primeval power of the dance? How would you describe it?
The power lies in a word unspoken, yet clear and true. In freedom, unpredictability, uniqueness, endlessness… I believe that at the beginning of all things, always and forever, lies – movement.
What is the programming concept of the upcoming Belgrade Dance Festival?
Fifteen fantastic troupes, for the fifteen years of the festival. We open with a new piece by the wizard Dimitris Papaioannou, followed by the Israeli troupe Vertigo, the ballets of Hong Kong and Sydney, Norwegian Zero Visibility… there is also an exciting solo piece of the new star of the British scene, Aakash Odedra, with choreography by Akram Khan, as well as a piece called “Boys” by Roy Assaf. We are looking forward to the comeback of the Ballet Trocadero from New York, the Company of Kristjan Ingimarsson from Copenhagen and the Peeping Tom company from Brussels. We are also eager to see the piece by Silvia Gribaudi, inspired by the nineteen-eighties and the cult of Jane Fonda, the intriguing “Garden of Earthly Pleasures” of the Marie Chouinard Company from Montreal, or the piece “Forty” by the Norvegian Jo Stromgen, performed by the Polish Dance Theatre… The concept is grounded in new, most interesting productions as well as in the opportunity to focus all the attention of the global cultural scene to Belgrade in the spring.
When you are designing, year in, year out, the festival’s program, what is your guiding principle? Modern tendencies? How do you manage to surprise the audience?
I take my guidance from good advice of the experienced experts from around the world, recommendations from the artists, I try to be the first to discover the plans of different troupes and choreographers, to discover new and young authors… I am happy when I can see the shows before they come to Belgrade, but it is even more of a challenge when the first performances happen exactly in Serbia…
From your experience so far, what does the Belgrade audience respond to the best?
It depends on the audience. I am proud of the fact that we have managed to create different festival audiences over these years. You have people who choose the work of Wim Vandekeybus or people who look forward to pieces by Mourad Merzouki. That’s exactly what the great success of today’s contemporary dance and our festival is all about. Program diversity, diverging choreographic signatures, courage to present the unbelievable synergy of art disciplines… If you take a better look at the biographies of the choreographers coming to Belgrade for this year’s edition of the festival, you will see that among them are film makers, painters, former hockey players, former pilots, professional soldiers… and they all create once-in-a-lifetime theatre events.
Compared to the international scene, how do you see the domestic production in this field?
Sadly, we are still not capable of holding our own when compared to the world, and all this is due to decades of poor management and not due to a lack of good dancers. Sometimes, something happens that is a step outside the ordinary, mostly in the choreographies of the artists that the Belgrade Dance Festival presented and who have since wanted to come back. These were Paul Lightfoot, Jiri Kylian, Jasmin Vardimon, Paolo Mangiola, Guy Weissman, Edward Clug… However, each good production sparks a flash, at the level of a small incident, and never becomes practice. I believe we have wonderful artists, many young and experienced dancers, and all the necessary conditions for our ballet and contemporary dance to achieve a good ranking in the region. In just a few gentle, but wisely planned steps, we could have good, functional and representative troupes. I am rooting for that!