Bodies don’t take place in discourse or in matter. They don’t inhabit ‘’mind’’ nor ‘’body’’. They take place at the limit, qua limit: limit – external border, the fracture and intersection of anything foreign in a continuum of sense, a continuum of matter. An opening, discretness.

– Jean-Luc Nancy, Corpus

A shot from “Corpus”, concept and implementation Iskra Ivanovа

Iskra Ivanova is a choreographer whose professional career began by creating two screen dance works in 2013 – Corpus and Positive Negativity. Iskra is strongly influenced by her local environment – her hometown Varna, where the visual arts have deep roots, developed over the years in a variety of events and/or key venues of national importance. Among them, we can mention and point out: the complex of art studios Vulcan (90s of the 20th century); the Biennial of Visual Arts “August in Art” (2000-2012); the International Festival of Contemporary Art contempo (2009-2016 ); International Video Art Festival Videoholica (2008-2014); Bulart Gallery; Contemporary Space Gallery and many others. Unlike visual arts in this period, contemporary forms of the performing arts are still very little known and do not have their own recognizable platforms and locations. In this historical segment, the two screen dance works are a “natural” form of artistic self-expression, a mirror and a connection with the circle of like-minded people and fellow artists from whom Iskra evolves; they are somehow in their right place.

Looking at the local contexts and searching for their significance in the creation of the two works, we cannot but recall what 2013 itself looked like for Bulgaria and what landscape it depicted. The first images that emerge, and mark the beginning of the year, are the protests that unfolded in more than 30 cities in the country. Initially, they were caused by the high electricity prices and were directed against electricity distribution companies, which are monopolists in the state-regulated electricity market. Afterward, however, they became much more general in nature and grew into protests against the political system in Bulgaria as a whole. An exceptional symbolic act of selflessness in support of the protesters’ demands was the self-immolation of several Bulgarian citizens in various cities across  the country, including a photographer from Varna, Plamen Goranov. Our society underwent a deep crisis, the lack of trust in the institutions was the absolute reality. We needed to rearrange the relations in the existing systems and to remind ourselves of the basic codes of ethics. 

An interesting fact is that during this period the 2019 European Capital of Culture competition was held. Its main mission was to prioritize cultural processes and policies in a city, promising long-term sustainable changes that would improve the well-being of its citizens and the establishment of its positive image in the country and Europe. 

And although we only briefly touched upon these events, without carrying out an in-depth political and socio-cultural analysis, we can conclude that 2013 was the year of both the protesting individual body and the self-asserting collective body.

In the same year, Iskra Ivanova’s professional career began with a film focusing entirely on the body – Corpus – a film-event for the body, a film-body. The work invites us to see the body in its fragmented nature, in its nakedness to the bone, in its elusiveness. Corpus chooses to “deprive” the body of its gender, racial, age, sexual, national, religious, social and political identity. Corpus is a corpus and it’s nothing more and nothing less. The work, or more precisely, the convulsive movements of the body in it insist, they declare themselves, they “fight” for universality, for cohesion, without unity, for fullness and density. On the screen, the body unfolds and stretches, uncoils and retracts, just as our view unfolds and stretches, uncoils and retracts to see the body, to examine the body, but it turns out that it (our view), too, is fragmented, always taking into account certain parts, segments, gaps. Indeed, it is this involuntary play between the viewer’s eye and the body on the screen that gives us a chance, in a way, to intuit the fact, and the same time be unequivocal about it, that there is no body that can only see itself and that it – the body – always needs another body in order to be seen. The decision Corpus to be a video work, and not a dance solo, for example, helps us feel this dialogue more clearly and more easily, as it were. The camera is the suitable, loyal partner in this “conversation”, in this screen dance.

Exposing the body, however, does not mean getting to know its interior, rhythms, dynamics and processes. Exposing the body is also not a matter for translation, nor of presenting these processes and problematizing them on screen. The exposure of the body is here to guide us through a delicacy and subtle elegance to their hidden existence, safe and concealed – because in Corpus the body is in front of our eyes, but the hidden remains hidden until the end of the work. Through the presence of corporeality, however, the code is set for the complexity of the human system, for the mystery of its inner nature and for the width of its inner volumes. The path that the body draws in the Corpus is one of repulsion, detachment, withdrawal, and then reconnection, articulation and multiplication within oneself. The cyclicality of the figures that the body depicts before our eyes, creates a feeling of both instant dissolution and resistance. Against what or against whom – we do not know and will never find out, but we will certainly keep these issues with us. The choice to “walk” from the blurred, almost contoured image of the body to a crystallized image at the end of the video is a technique that seems to help us imagine that it is possible to reach a point of peace, in the sense of reaching to a point of inner satisfaction due to the taking of an active position in the world. Our hope seems to expand in the course of the work. But as in life, where the role of hope is boldly holding the horizon in front of us, and motivating us to make choices that have the horizon as their destination, here, too, we are left to ourselves – to choose whether to stay in the modality of hope, or to sink into the darkness of disbelief with the last black frame… 

​​Through our bodies we feel, we see, we hear, we smell, we touch, we think, we speak and experience the world; we inhabit them and through them we are present in the world. The body is the subject of many discussions, works and research in the field of the humanities. There are different typologies in an attempt to define the symbolic value of the body and the discourse it generates. The body is seen as an individual filled with subjective experiences; the body is thought of as a social and political body because of the complex connections it builds with itself, natural phenomena and society; the body is also presented as a consumer due to the new codification system of bodily needs related to the culture of mass consumption and the use of certain goods as markers for building self-identity; the body is increasingly a medical body, because with the development of new technologies its parts are a comprehensive territory for medical examinations, interventions, etc.

Iskra Ivanova’s Corpus is an interesting visual interpretation of the complexity of body issues. This screen dance work marks a strong beginning of her path as an artist, declaring emphatically the central object of curiosity in it. And what could be a more natural start for a choreographer’s career than Corpus?


Translated by Miryana Mezeklieva

Svetlozara Hristova is a culturologist, art manager, artistic collaborator, author of articles in the field of contemporary dance and theater, co-organizer of the Moving Body Festival and RADAR Festival Beyond Music.

Miryana Mezeklieva (1987) graduated in Cultural Studies at Sofia University Kliment Ohridski. Since 2008 until today she has been working as a translator of feature films and series for dubbing mainly for the channels of Nova Broadcasting Group.

This material was created within the project “Translation on air” – a rubric dedicated to dance for screen or screendance. Every month we invite the professional and amateur audience, tempted by this intriguing symbiosis between cinema and dance, to join our readings, conversations and discussions with active practitioners in this field choreographers from the country and abroad.

The project “Translation on air” is implemented with the financial support of the National Fund “Culture” under the program “Audiences” 2020 and the program “One-year grant” 2021.

Videography and bibliography:

Short film CORPUS

Short film Positive negativity

Online conversation with Iskra Ivanova

Nancy, Jean-Luc, Corpus, translated from French by Boyan Manchev, LIK Publishing House, Sofia, 2003

Thomas, Helen, “The Body, Dance and Cultural Theory”, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2003

Hristova, Svetlozara and Sotirova, Ana-Maria,  On the field of screendance: the meeting of dance with cinema, Dance Magazine, issue 2, 2020