"I need a new body" - an account of the construction of gender and performative identity

Text by Elizabeth Kolevska

"I need a new body" is the work of the young choreographer and performer Viktorija Ilioska who lives and works between North Macedonia and Germany, where she actually holds a master's degree in the Department of Choreography and Performance at the Institute for Applied Theater Studies at the Justus Liebig University. In this work, as in her previous ones, she explores the relationships between the notions of identity, female energy, female performance and the representation of women in the public sphere. With this latest performance, he goes a step further, presenting and opening up to his home audience with topics that are not so represented, specifically in our geographical area. The performance of "I need a new body" by Viktoria Ilioska herself, together with her collaborator Nastya Zuban, began by breaking down the barrier between them as performers and the audience. Victoria and Nastya welcomed the audience, greeting the guests and making minimal conversation with them. The purpose of this act was to reach out to the audience and bring a sense of "hospitality" as a welcome and "welcome" into their world. In the beginning, several questions (tasks) were asked by them, in order to engage the audience. The questions asked were a foreshadowing of what was to come, subtly emphasizing a few key elements: breathing, directing it, and the notions of soft and solid. Audiences could identify themselves as "soft" or "solid". These two concepts were further maintained and developed throughout the action through somatic research, body positions and choreographic and dramaturgical solutions. The rest of the performance did not include direct interaction with the audience, but the performers indirectly - through a "specific look", created and requested "feedback" from it.



Considering the space where the action takes place, we should note the "bleach" in which we were visually enveloped. The stage space, the floor, the milk on the floor are elements that, with their white color, emphasized "softness and tenderness" and associated us with that "inner world" that was slowly opening up to the audience. The performing bodies began their movement in a slow, drawn-out tempo, showing simple movements and positions followed by slow or fast breathing. The milk and the cups that resembled a woman's breast emphasized the feminine energy coming from the stage and semiologically connected us with the feeling of nurturing and care. The bodies on stage in themselves spoke of the specificity of gender identity, which is separate, individual, personal, which also gives it the freedom to remain so, without the need to be rhetorical or mimetic. At the same time, keeping the slow minimalist movement, the female performers, through their individualized yet similar bodies, presented images of external behavioral content. The transformativeness went through bodies that resembled ancient figures or certain historical characters, ballet and dance poses and images, to contemporary and conceptualized characters from reality sharing their intimate moment of contactless fusion and ecstasy. Milk and external bleach have changed their context. The bleach lost its purity, becoming dirty from the previously white and pure milk, which now took on the role of bodily fluid spilled over that same exterior. Sexuality was woven throughout the action, but at no point were the bodies in physical contact. The dynamic changes of breathing talked about how the breath can be transformed, that is, be individual, synchronized or represent action-reaction.

Two bodies in the stage space and two energies that differed from each other, but at the same time complemented each other. Victoria represented a strong and dominant figure, possessing power in her bodily expression and pronounced muscular and athletic build, while Nastya felt changes of "in and out", presence and demand, femininity and exit from it. This part is completed by using different poses and smile shapes. The smile on the faces of the performers was mimetic, mirrored, hyperbolized, uncertain, modest, muted. Every single pose or form of smile was aimed at the audience, not a communication or a dialogue, but rather an external display of something to be seen from the outside, but the same is variable not because of the internal rhythm, but because of the externally accepted norms.



The change occurs with the stationing of the performing bodies and the development of their mutual discussion. The discussion was verbal, but the speech was in the form of lip-sync (playback). From a practical point of view, the recorded sound facilitates the performance, but at the same time it gives it a new meaning, it brings the role towards replay. The use of voices that are not the voices of the performers themselves, amplifies this feeling even more. From a performative aspect, the challenge comes when trying to present this speech through body gestures and facial expressions, that is, to re-experience and take over an already ready existing content. The speech mentions the words "pumping" and "sucking" which show a diverse range of their understanding and application, as well as contextual or physical use.

After this dialogue, Victoria and Nastya dress up in costumes of two bodybuilder bodies. They present their new external form on revolving platforms, showing their body as a body exposed for external admiration. Showing her finally obtained new body, the performance takes on a new dimension with a fun, playful character, where the two performers finally establish physical contact with each other. Dancing to the beat of popular dance music that has the same chorus as the title of the work, they create a scene in which they express the happiness gained from an externally constructed reality.

At the end of this performance, the new bodies slowly "exhale" and start to interfere. Latency resurfaces.


 In its entirety, the work talks about gender identities, their transformative nature in the everyday, artistic and performance world. The exposure of bodies and the constant pursuit of "perfection" models the ideal of the physical body, but through pumping and extracting, we are actually draining our own individuality. Dance and ballet art also require an aestheticized form and certain norms. The real body does not always manage to be inscribed, so there is a constant search to change it. The body is the object of biopolitics and the politicization of gender in relation to the strategies of power and the human species becomes the object of political strategies, which have power over the disciplining of the body in relation to its reproductive practice, sexuality and overall human existence. In fact, all the transformations experienced by the body on stage are tied to the era, understandings and traditions that time brings. The tradition through the classical repertoire is maintained for lovers of the traditional story form. For experimentalists and unconventionalists, contemporary society and the scene offer strategies and tactics for performing and constituting dance – hetero, homo, bi, polysexual, androgynous, racialized, masculine, feminized, feminist, white, black, European, western, natural, prosthetic and queer. body. This replication is visible in general on the dance scene more and more, but the fight to completely reject any type of discrimination continues. In performativity and dance theory these performance categories are not treated as purely artistic, aesthetic categories. The bodies, willy-nilly, address the issues of micropolitics and their systems of art representation. Physicality begins to be treated as an individual and autonomous right of the individual, with which she would act and express herself through a certain everyday and artistic prism. Cultural studies in the past several decades have contributed to this treatment of bodies, with which the body is institutionalized and, apart from being an individual, can also be presented as a subjective body. The social-historical-political-cultural context influences the building of the expressiveness of the bodies on stage. In the focus of the interest of dance as an actuality, the technique or the traditional world of ballet against the modernist world of dance is no longer treated, but the problems of representation and representation of cultural procedures through the dance body. Moreover, dance is no longer just a physical expression and display of a system with a certain expected expression. The dance bodies explore, become engaged for their existence, perform conceptualized bodily states and processes, and at the same time the bodies of the performers are subject to the work of formal-syntactic conceptual analyses, thereby acquiring different statuses. The audience, as a direct or casual observer, has the opportunity to identify, find, identify, distinguish, demarcate, sublimate, deny, deny, but mainly with the task of reacting to what is seen, and even becoming part of it, finding its own cultural identity. So, "I need a new body" is a work that vividly talks about such transitions, changes, struggles with the physical body, diversity, the internal, the external, presenting and reflecting a long evolutionary gender and performative process.


Elizabeth Kolevska has a master's degree in ballet pedagogy - contemporary dance. He works as a teacher at DMBUC Ilija Nikolovski Luj, heads the private ballet school "Arabesque" and is a part-time professor of stage movements at Europa Prima University. He participates in conferences and symposia in the country and abroad, where he presents his written works.