Conversation Pieces

Contemporary Dance Studio / HR /
Zavod Mirabelka / Zagreb Dance Center

'Standing off to one side. Seeing only the world in fragments, there won’t be any other one. Moments, crumbs, fleeting configurations – no sooner have they come into existence than they fall to pieces. Life? There’s no such thing; I see lines, planes and bodies, and their transformations in time.'
Olga Tokarczuk, Bieguni (Flights)

John Berger once said that the way we look at a piece of art is determined by a series of assumptions: about beauty, truth, civilisation, form, status, and taste.

With this in mind, the matter of modern dance seems even more volatile, evasive, incomprehensible, especially if it does not rely on description, on an imaginative framework to mould and shape the body, but on the body itself and its own possibilities of interpretation.

This is why Magdalena Reiter calls her new performance Conversation pieces. She does not rely on any predefined conversation subject – whether it takes place between the choreographer and the dancer or between the dancer and the audience. Her primary focus is on (female) bodies and their own monologues. Their exhaustion, limitations, spatial relations, one isolated body in a group of bodies as well as in space and time.

And even more importantly, the structure of her choreographic expression creates visual references to the perceptions of the female body that always evade clear interpretation. These references stem from the collective memory of the history of art, sculpture in particular, of the complexity and refinement of the body. Yet these references disintegrate all too quickly, before they develop. They provoke with their fluidity and unmet expectations about how a female body should move and behave on stage. Body is approached in a laboratory-like fashion. It's all about anatomy, about the basic elements. A movement that at one moment seems sensual disintegrates into a skeleton, flesh, and skin. On stage, the bodies often move without one of the extremities, which is hidden or immobilised. The movement becomes funny and painful at the same time. Its flow saturated and blocked by repetitiveness. The cracks opening up through destruction, analysis, and redefinition of body as imperfect and unexpected provide a glimpse of criticism of how we perceive female body on stage, but also of self-perception, of self-awareness and the resulting behaviour. Through these cracks we are given the chance to change our understanding of the body as best as each of us can.

Magdalena Reiter is a Polish choreographer, dancer, and teacher, who works and lives in Slovenia. She graduated from the National School of Ballet in Gdansk, Poland, and the contemporary dance school Performing Arts Research and Training Studios. She choreographed over 15 shows in her own production or as commissioned pieces (for the Polish dance theatre Poznan Ballet, Bodhi Project SEAD dance ensemble, Anton Podbevšek Theatre, and Plesna Izba Maribor). She has received an international jury award for the best performance on the 2nd Slovene Dance Festival and an award for the best performance at the 8th Sarajevo Teaterfest. Her performances have been staged in several European countries.
She choreographed a number of plays (with Mateja Koležnik, De Tijd, Janez Burger, Matjaž Berger, etc.) and opera productions (Flemish opera with Joachim Brackx, Flying Dutchman in Cankarjev Dom, Ljubljana, Slovenia) and collaborated as a movement consultant in films (Tiha sonata and VAN by Janez Burger).

Magdalena has performed in her own and other peoples' choreographies and worked with other directors (Dada von Bzdülöw, Johanne Saunier, Mateja Bučar, Matjaž Farič, Matjaž Berger, etc.).

She gives workshops and lectures, and mentors. She has taught in Slovenia, Austria (SEAD), France, Poland, Belgium and Croatia, to name a few places.

Magdalena has also founded and has been the art director of VIBRA – The International Summer Dance Workshops in Ljubljana, as well as of Mirabelka Productions.

Contemporary Dance Studio was established in Zagreb in the season of 1962/63 as the first contemporary dance company in Croatia and the region.

Its art directors – Ana and Vera Maletić (from 1962), Tihana Škrinjarić (from 1968), Zaga Živković (from 1979), and Bosiljka Vujović-Mažuran (from 1997 to this day) have shaped and reshaped the company through countless productions, co-productions, and collaborations with a variety of artists (non-dance included) and encouraged it to gather new knowledge and innovations in the expression of contemporary dance.

In over 55 years of continued activity in Croatia and abroad, the company produced an impressive number of dance projects that shaped generations of outstanding dancers, teachers, and choreographers. Always open to new forms and challenges of collaboration with non-dance artists on projects and co-productions, Contemporary Dance Studio has managed to remain uncompromising, unpredictable, and fresh.

Of the many awards it received, the dearest to them are those by the Croatian Association of Drama Artists and the 2012 award by the Croatian Dancers Association for their 50 years of work.