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A Postcard from ArtBark International on their Slovenian Residency

A Postcard from ArtBark International on their Slovenian Residency

Published on July 22, 2015
Photo: Tone Stojko

The progressive, grassroots art collective ArtBark International’s three-year creative process culminated with a residency in Celje, Slovenia followed by two performances of Alma.Sama at the country's premiere opera house, the Cankarjev Dom.

ArtBark dancers rehearsing during their creative residency in Celje and Ljubljana, Slovenia

While in Slovenia, ArtBark built on research conducted by artists during previous residencies, drawing inspiration from the life and writings of beloved Slovenian cultural figure Alma Karlin (1889-1950). The polyglot, painter, and author of numerous books sacrificed comfort and convention in favor of an often subsistence-level life with the people of South America, India, Japan, and the South Pacific in the years after the First World War. Karlin is celebrated for saying, “an eagle must mate in the air or fly alone.” 

Counterclockwise: Artbarkers enjoy the streets of Ljubljana, dancer Cecily Stewart at Alma Karlin's former home and Artbarkers with the Mayor of Celje, Slovenia 

Alma.Alone was conceived and by Marijan Pušavec, who was also responsible for the work's dramaturgy; costuming and props were designed by Misa Kelly; and the original music was composed by Stephen Kelly. Choreographers engaged in the project included Misa and Stephen Kelly, and Trina Mannino, with movement ideas derived from the work of artists affiliated with the "ArtBark Community Company," a group of creatives -- from ages 8 to 80 -- who participate in rehearsals and workshops with the group. Featured dancers were: Mojca Majcen, Trina Mannino, Cecily Stewart, and Misa Kelly.

Stephen Kelley, Co-Director and Co-Founder, flanked by dancers in flight
Stephen Kelly with dancers

Co-directors and founders, Misa and Stephen Kelly, share their thoughts on the collaborative and cross-cultural experience.

Misa Kelly: The richest reward was how deeply we as a community touched the lives of the audience. This was made possible by the incredible collaborations with our Slovene co-producers, the great job of the press, and the generous patrons that supported the journey.

If there is one moment I will treasure most, it might be the moment when I gave our lighting designer Bobbie a gift.  A roll of red gaffers tape that had journeyed with me from Vienna, Paris, Brooklyn, and Santa Barbara for use in projects - when he asked me to autograph it - that just made my decade.  Unspoken respect for each others artistry. Profound moments that shift a heart even deeper into knowing oneself.

Misa in a passionate gesture with mouth agape during a performance of Alma.Sama.
Misa Kelly in Alma.Sama. Photo: Tone Stojko

Stephen Kelly: My own body barred me from returning to Slovenia for the final stage of rehearsals and premiere. The happy paradox of helping to create a dance dedicated to Alma is that in celebrating her solitary tenacity and integrity, our artistic journeys have drawn even more loving and close.  

Cecily Stewart makes a gesture above her ahead smiling at the audience while Misa Kelly gives a disgruntled look
Cecily Stewart (in green) and Misa Kelly (in red) in Alma.Sama. Photo: Tone Stojko

Her own ability to make her readers chuckle in the midst of some devastating scenes transferred to the dance, and remembering the capacity of humans to live fine, difficult lives makes me more eager to meet, honor, and celebrate the members of the audience...whether or not they also love burek (baked-filled pastries found in the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire).

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