Thanks to our online conversation with choreographer and artist Iskra Ivanova in the virtual section of the Translation on Air rubric, we learned how significant her environment of artistic associates and friends was in sketching the first traces of creation. It takes place in the field of video art, where Corpus and Positive Negativity materialize. These two video works, in fact, are the first unconventional endeavors for Iskra beyond her university degree in Choreography and Pedagogy at Varna Free University “Chernorizets Hrabar”. They were created in the context and time period of 2013, but it’s worth going back in time a little before we dive into them.

In 2008, Iskra organized a visit of the Dance Company DUN and Petya Stoykova at the Comics Club in Varna. Several intense days full of new colors and directions took place: the dance performance DANZA was presented, the short dance film The Aquarium was screened (which can be interpreted as an early example of a Bulgarian screendance project), and a workshop was held. It is – these kinds of experiences and the people that ignite Iskra’s passion for the possible symbiosis between the arts – and sustain the intuition in her creative path. Thus, the inspiration becomes reciprocal – the environment enriches the artist and at the same time, with her personal works, Iskra enriches and contributes to the emerging community of artists, crossing and blurring the boundaries between video art, photography, performance, dance, and screendance.

Our millennium is also blurring boundaries. Today, by sharing loaded streams of information, we can interact, cooperate, hinder and reject one another in many ways. Whenever we present something to others around us, we are between ourselves and the world. Our points of view, opinions and messages are between ourselves and the world. What, then, is the world – or rather, how do we make it such? Impulsively, we may shout “we live in the age of the consumer society!” – and it’s true. We often ask ourselves questions about society, about our roles in it and about our existence. And we exist with our bodies. We are here with our bodies. What, then, is the place of the body here and now? We can connect it exclusively with hedonistic notions and with satisfying not only the needs of basic physiological nature but also the desires and demands imposed by the mass taste, as suggested by the media. There are dozens of concepts, philosophies, worldviews about how we should take care of our bodies. It seems that the longing for them to age as slowly as possible is rising into a cult. Movements and tendencies emerge about diets and procedures that are magically able to somehow, at least for a while, preserve youth. We as a society are still obsessed with models and ideals of beauty. We like to both put them in boxes and label them male and female, masculine and feminine, and then question them and blur the differences. Muscles, curves, flatness, tissue, textures, and other markers so that the biological and sociocultural may meet. So, what is our body? What is the body in Iskra Ivanova’s work, Positive Negativity?

It is not overloaded with clearly identifiable signs and meanings. It is naked and its movement raises new questions. The lack of definitions, labels and identities may be a retort against the struggle for self-determination through the body. A struggle or path that, as social beings, we all have. 

Indeed, this is the way to express ourselves – be it collectively or individually – to assert and to protest. In this sense, the body in the video Corpus is projected in the body in the Positive Negativity project, through anxiety and fragmentation. In the second video art project, we notice the neck, collarbones and chest; we do not know, we ask again. Why so? What is the intention? Is there one? Whose body is it? What is it doing? Why don’t we hear a voice or any other type of human sound?

Positive Negativity, concept and implementation Iskra Ivanova

We listen to the song of joy and light by Bob Marley Sun is Shining, in a sharp contrasting mood to the body’s movements. They are a kind of rebellion and protest. They escalate to a cry, at once powerful, and unable to reach us. Is this the desperation of an impossible resistance? Aggression that keeps spiraling without the potential for catharsis? Iskra’s work seems to be an evaluation of the failing dialogues that we as people refuse to hold with each other. Instead, we drown in deceptively positive thoughts about summer, carefreeness, bliss… freedom. A body goes from a state of rest to a state of rage through the mouth, one of the most essential tools for human expression and communication. It is also the channel of the voice, between the inside and the outside, between oneself and the world – a possible catalyst for the rebellion of the body, from inside out.

Positive Negativity is a work of art that offers interpretations from various angles, but wherever we look for gaps to translate meaning, we find ourselves in the middle. As a format, the work is between video art and screendance. Between the tool that is the camera and the tool that is the body – the former observes, positioned in a specific place, static but not passive, capturing processes, gradations, emotional changes, states, focusing on the body, fragmenting the resisting shoulders, mouth, face. Positive Negativity is also between stillness and resistance, between the material presence of the body and the invisible perception of music. The meanings are positioned between themselves and the world, between the inner, which emerges as a protest, and the protest, which affects the core of the personality. These meanings dilute in the intimate, the social, the historical. These meanings are between the past of 2008, the current creation in 2013 and the present continuation of Iskra’s creative path.

That is why we can seamlessly jump to the here and now, the years 2020/2021 when Iskra is also a facilitator of dance, movement and somatic practices. Somatic comes from the Greek word sōma, meaning body, and somatic cells are all those that form the body and are not germ cells. They build the internal organs, skin, bones, blood and all other tissues (connective, epithelial, muscular and nervous). Iskra shares with us that these practices are valuable in the processes of awareness and tangibility for one’s own body. The awareness of the spinal cord’s memory and of the spine, as well as flexion, and conscious movement so that the spine feels like a moving pillar holding the human body is an intriguing study that many people can practice. And they do, thanks to modern phenomena such as somatic movement practices.

The present moment is logical – connecting Iskra’s long-term interests as an artist, facilitator, and moving person. Here again, we find fragmentation of the body, the separation of the spine, in order to try to perceive the body as something – foreign, universal, capable of speed, flexibility, a sense of pain, a sense of temperature or other external factors. The body as a fragment and the body as a whole. The body as something influenced from the outside and the body as something affected from the inside. Translating between the self and the other.

In this context, we can also position Translation on air, attempting to verbally translate and outline ideas in the screendance field. In Iskra Ivanova’s works, Corpus and Positive Negativity, audio-visual experiments with body and camera, we focus our imaginations on identifications, shortcomings, resistances and liminal spaces where we generate a potential for discussion. We continue with all available means – language and body, to enrich ourselves, the world and everything we are able to recognize in-between.


Translated by Miryana Mezeklieva

Ana-Maria Sotirova has a degree in Film from the University of Reading and a Master’s degree in Film Studies from the University of Amsterdam. She is a collaborator at the Moving Body Festival in Varna with main organizers Svetlozara Hristova and Iskra Ivanova.

Mirjana 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

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