Through artistic collaborations we are reshaping the ways of how we (can) live together

Interview with choreographer and performer Viktoria Ilioska on the occasion of the premiere of her new dance performance "I need a new body"

Confirming that FIRSTBORN GIRL is (still) here only because it has always been common - a shared place of meeting and not leaving, of getting to know each other, of sharing without hierarchies, of tenderness and care for each other, the performing program of the anniversary tenth edition of the Festival it is realized thanks to and in honor of the friends who from the very beginning loved, supported, enabled and created.

Together with LOKOMOTIVA at the 47th MOT with the audience, on 16.11. in the Hall 25 May of the MCC we will share the premiere of the new dance performance "I need a new body"* by the long-time beloved friend of PRVO PA ZENSKO - the choreographer and performer Viktoria Ilioska.

Victoria is a Macedonian choreographer and performer who lives and works between North Macedonia and Germany. Playing with different forms of provocation, her work often addresses the notions of working class labor, identity and female representation in the public sphere. Addressing the exploitation and extraction that the world we live in relies on and questioning the false image of endless resources which he offers us while draining our capacities to the limit, the performance that Victoria will perform together with Nastya Zuban will take place between the body as exposure and the body as resource, looking for the place where these two intersect.


 The wider audience will be able to share their impressions of the performance the very next day at noon, in Gallery 2 of the MKC, at the open conversation with the artists with which Lokomotiva initiates the joint discursive program for contemporary performing arts DIALALOGUE WHAT IS MISSING.

On the eve of the premiere, the editor of the performing arts program of PPZ, Kristina Lelovac, spoke with Victoria about "I need a new body", but also about the joy and challenges of creating in the field of contemporary performing arts, about the importance of friendship in the creative process, about leaving, coming home and staying in between.

 After all these years of association and cooperation at the Festival - from the first edition as part of the presentation of the independent theater "Teatra", then in 2015 as a collaborator and one of the performers of the dance performance "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown" by Ivana Kocevska and last year as one of the collaborators of the performing arts platform TESTING FEMINIST FUTURES, it seems that nothing better could have happened to the performance program of the jubilee PPZ than a premiere of your performance, Vicky. We are so happy and can't wait! How do you feel right before the premiere in Skopje?

 This year as a post-covid year, has been quite intense and with a lot of travel, so the correct answer to this question would be that I really don't know what exactly I feel because I am quite tired and realistically, there is not much time for feelings! (laughs) But of course, I'm excited and nervous, and I think you're asking me this question on purpose because you know me and you know that I have the biggest nervousness when I perform in Skopje, that is, in Macedonia in general. Because I often work outside the country, I got used to unfamiliar faces in the audience... here it's the other way around. You know, you always feel and perform differently when you see famous faces, and this time I want to take advantage of that and enjoy it to the fullest! I'm looking forward to performing for people I know and for those who haven't seen me on stage in a while. And of course, I am happy and it is an honor to present myself at the ILO and PPZ10 with a new work.

Most of my previous works never had a final scene a week before the premiere. And now, I'm still thinking about both the beginning and the ending, which means if we still don't have a clear beginning and end, you can imagine how I feel! (laughs)


Research and production stay Matka for an adult by Victoria Ilioska 

For more than 10 years, you have been actively working on programs to support and develop contemporary dance, participate in maintaining and strengthening the independent scene and cooperate with institutions. He graduated from the Department of Choreography and Performance at the Institute for Applied Theater Studies at the Justus Liebig University in Giessen, Germany. What period of your artwork does "I need a new body" mark/encapsulate?

 Definitely, this work marks the period of finishing my studies and transitioning into the "work-work-work" mode, which is the only thing that awaits me from now on. Thematically, I would say, this work is a mixture, I want to bring maybe some themes that are not so present here, and at the same time to stay specific with the influences I have from here. So I will try to stay in that state, to be a mixture. My identity is secure even though it is fluid, I come from Macedonia and I want to contribute to the ideas here, to propose something on the ground. I think that this work will be perceived and received differently in Macedonia and Germany, and that
I like it. In terms of stage as an author, I'm definitely in the quest stage. I don't believe that artists should always create some recognizable brand of themselves, a fingerprint by which they will be identified and recognized. I have seen such examples, where each subsequent work is almost the same as the previous one. This strategy is not that appealing to me as a creator. I like to create not only through different themes and methods, but sometimes also through different aesthetics. Of course, I know that I hold a certain line through my work, but I am in constant search of how to articulate it. So I can call this phase a quest and I hope to stay in it long enough.

What most challenges, excites, pleases you in that search?

I am always excited when new scenes and ideas materialize in the creative process. I think that the moment when an idea is expressed in any way, in a conversation, or while listening to someone or reading something, are the most beautiful moments. What is most important for me while working on stage or in the studio is to stay in touch with these imaginations, to keep them alive and to avoid reproducing ideas "by heart". I believe that a state of expression and a lively interest in what is happening in the present moment should be constantly present. Otherwise, no matter how technically virtuosic the movement or performance, it will not be attractive to me if there is not a certain state inside, some particular determined performativity.


 Summit Nomad. Photo: Zorica Zafirovska

 Before you left for your studies in Giessen, we saw you regularly on the home independent scene, certainly as regularly as possible in the conditions in which it exists here - in the limited resources, in the spaces that are scarce and impossible to sustain, in the lack of recognition by the insufficiently or inappropriately critical professional and general public. Now you try to work there, but also not to lose continuity with/on the home scene. What do you gain and what do you lose by working between Macedonia and Germany?

I am definitely losing continuity, rootedness and engagement. At the same time, I get fluidity, information(s), culture(s), inputs. Sometimes I lose connections with people, but at the same time I gain and build new ones. I miss my friends, colleagues...I miss the independent scene in Macedonia. I try to follow what's going on through social media as much as possible, but it's not the same. I also miss a certain freedom that at least I remember there being when you create here, although now I experience not enough space, and many productions and the need to present them. This is a problem everywhere, especially after almost three years
from the covid pandemic. I can notice some changes here, but I still think that the institutions should provide more spaces on the independent scene. There is still a struggle to be waged in that field and ways of cooperation should be found.

On the other hand, in Germany, things work differently when you have a production company, which is specifically conceived, made and programmed to be for independent artists. I don't know how much the scene here needs to change in that direction, but I definitely think that Macedonia lacks another institution that would be dedicated to the performing arts. When you're working on a production here, you also have to build a scene and a context for it, whereas there you don't have to because it's already been created, and many of the theaters operate as production houses by providing a service. Sometimes I feel that our community here is much stronger than what I experience there precisely because of the need for self-organization and self-contextualization. And that's exactly what I miss... locality, that's why I said rootedness and grounding, building something in continuity. Ultimately, what I'm trying to do is bridge the gap between losing and winning. To create an exchange, to ensure greater communication between Macedonia and Germany, to bring artists from there, to bring artists from here to there, which is a little more difficult.


 Connective tissue. Photo: Alexandra Janeva Imfeld

 Hannah Arendt wrote that some friendships are what make life worth living. FEMALE FIRST affirms that female companionship is the only reason we survived the ten years behind us and conspires that it is the only way to survive the tens of years ahead, including the end of the world. How important are conversations, collaborations, friendship to you in the creative process?

I would say, conversations, collaborations, friendships in the creative process are the most important! Through the exchange of ideas, processing, challenging, thinking together, and ultimately spending time creating something shared and intangible - is essential in any creative process. I think that we, as artists and creators, grow through conversations and collaborations, thereby also offering different forms of work and reshaping ways of how we (can) live together.

On the other hand, more specifically in my work, the creation of movement and images requires a certain kind of articulations, and these are most interesting to me when I am in a relationship with someone else. I think that in general it is an interesting phenomenon to try to explain to someone else something that is very clear in your head, and it becomes even more complex when you have to explain a movement and a state. It is very easy to have a rush of ideas, thoughts and images, but
as soon as you need to transfer all that to another body - then the work begins and the craft should be involved. That's the challenge. Not only is it necessary to create different methods of work, at the same time you also need to convey composition, dramaturgy, idea. In general, I think that choreography is a medium that exists only in relationship and proportion with someone/something. In the end, it doesn't matter if it is in relation to a human or non-human body, an object, a plant, a sound...

Me and Nastya started collaborating in 2018, for the first time on my solo "Figure it out!" where Nastya appeared in the role of dramaturgical support, and after that we worked on many different works in different positions. I don't know if "I need a new body" was ever supposed to be a solo, such a decision was made mainly by the circumstances, the small budget and the short time.. But here, thanks to several factors and agents like Lokomotiva, PPZ and MOT, we reached a duet. In fact, I wish this work to grow and would like to one day be bigger than a duet. My plan is to continue working next year - to have at least four women on stage.


*The dance performance "I need a new body" was realized in a co-production between LOKOMOTIVA - Center for a new initiative in art and culture Skopje/Choreographed bodies program, Life Long Burning (LLB)/Performance Situation Room program, Nomad Dance Academy Slovenia and Viktorija Ilioska, and the premiere is part of the "Choreographed Bodies" program of LOKOMOTIVA. The implementation program of PPŽ10 is realized in cooperation with
LOKOMOTIVA - Center for new initiatives in art and culture and the International Theater Festival YOUNG OPEN THEATER (MOT). The tenth edition of the Festival is supported by Sweden and The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund, Sigrid Rausing Trust and Ministry of Culture of RS Macedonia.