Photо: Andrej Pavićević
Photо: Andrej Pavićević

Jelena Šantić: an ongoing inspiration

The fist book which was presented at this year’s Bitef Library, A Life Without Compromise for Art and Peace. Jelena Šantić: Essays, Records, Comments, prepared by Amra Latifić, brings interviews, essays and theoretical texts about ballet and contemporary dance, plans and reports on humanitarian and peace projects, the biography and bibliography of ballerina, ballet historian and peace activist, Jelena Šantić. The presentation, which gathered Milena Dragićević Šešić, Gordana Nikić, Marija Janković Šehović, Marijana Cvetković, and Ratko Božović, was an homage to the artist and activist who did a lot not only for the local art scene but for the community in general. Together with the speakers, the large audience, who gathered a lot of Jelena’s colleagues and friends, went through an emotional journey of remembering the person who combined art and struggle in everything she did.  Her renaissance personality is maybe best described by herself, in a quote singled out by the author of the book:

Humanitarian activity is the other side of my personality. My life has always somehow linked and entwined the intuitive and the rational, the stable and the unstable, the calm and the turbulent. And then, at one point, I felt the need to help people affected by the war. That humanitarian side of me is, in a way, linked to art, because both serve as links between different worlds.

Talking about the book, Amra Latifić, said that Jelena’s manuscripts are fresh and relevant even now, decades after they were written. They represent a unique form of art, activism, sociology, culture, philosophy, and the way of life typical for the eighties and the nineties, not only in the region but wider than that.

“Jelena’s greatness lies not only in the fact that she is unquestionably one of the biggest experts on ballet in our region ever, but that she could define the problems in art and the society both locally and universally”, said the author and added:

“This book can, in my opinion, serve not only as an excellent history of ballet, but also as an instruction for writing good ballet critique, for stating arguments about art and community, and as a fantastic historical evidence of peace activism during the nineties. Still, it is mostly intended for the widest audience, since all the people who are ethically, spiritually and intellectually awake and concerned about the future of the society and art, will find many answers, but also questions that Jelena poses”, Latifić concluded.


Collection of mini essays

The other book presented at Bitef Library was The Routledge Dictionary of Performance and Contemporary Theatre, by Patrice Pavis, published by Clio and Bitef. The book was discussed by the professor of the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb and the member of this year’s Bitef jury, Agata Juniku, the professor emerita at the University of Arts in Belgrade, Milena Dragićević Šešić, and Bitef artistic director, and the book reviewer, Ivan Medenica. The talk was moderated by the professor Marina Milivojević Mađarev.

The book is a lexicon of contemporary performance and theatre but, as emphasized, actually a collection of mini essays in which the author gives his own interpretations of the notions which, unlike the previous Dictionary of the Theatre: Terms, Concepts, and Analysis, refers not only to West European cultural region, but includes terms linked to performing arts all over the world, and also what Pavis calls secondary performing forms, such as pantomime, circus, contemporary dance. Moreover, professor Dragićević Šešić said, this book goes beyond performing arts and enters the realm of cultural studies, the contextualization of performance as a cultural and artistic phenomenon. The importance of this book i.e., its translation, done by Milica Šešić, lies in offering a standardisation of theatre terms in Serbian, necessary for our theatre experts but also wider audience, who are invited by Ivan Medenica to respect the efforts made to clarify dilemmas and create a glossary which will be universal, and facilitate communication in contemporary theatre and performing art.

The Routledge Dictionary of Performance and Contemporary Theatre should bring better understanding and evaluation of contemporary theatre works, which makes it a book recommended for anyone who is in a way involved in theatre art.