Sad Sam Lucky

8, 10/05 – 20:30

9, 11/05 – 22:00
EN > FR / NL


Back working in his home town of Pula after training in Amsterdam, the young Croatian dancer, choreographer and video director Matija Ferlin combines a conceptual approach with radical physicality and formal rigour with an interest in romanticism. In 2004, he began a series called “Sad Sam”. Sad Sam Lucky is a physical response to the work of Srečko Kosovel (1904-1926), one of the most important Slovene poets of the early 20th century. Ferlin takes as his inspiration and inexhaustible playground the avant-garde writer who was as renowned for his profound and ironic work as for his tragic fate. Combining words, music and movement, this melancholic and turbulent solo cultivates the ambiguity of signs and plays on the oppositions between body and mind, the individual and history. Between the ghosts of the past and promises of the future, a young artist is seeking to be today. A revelation!

Choreography & performance
Matija Ferlin

Goran Ferčec

Srečko Kosovel, Matija Ferlin

Luka Prinčič

Mauricio Ferlin

Saša Fistrić

Matija Ferlin

Tina Ivezić

Christophe Chemin

Danko Stjepanović, Nada Žgank

Katja Kosi, Daniela Bilić Rojnić

Project assistants
Ana Kovačević, Nina Janež

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Kaaitheater

Production & management
Emanat (Ljubljana)

Rencontres chorégraphiques internationales de Seine-Saint-Denis, Centre National de la Danse (Paris)

Hosted and co-produced by
Zagreb Dance Centre

Bunker-The Old Power Station, Elektro Ljubljana, Dance & Non-verbal Theatre Festival San Vincenti

Funded by
Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sport of Republic Slovenia, Municipality of Ljubljana, Municipality of Pula

Back to top

Sad Sam Lucky: solo for one dancer and his double

At the end of his choreography studies at the School for New Dance Development in Amsterdam, Matija Ferlin began a cycle of solos under the title Sad Sam... The title is open to interlinguistic word games, combining his mother tongue, Croatian, with a language he has assimilated perfectly, English. Hidden beneath the initial tension found in the beginning of the phrase, Sad sam... (Now I am...) and the words at the end is work on identity, both private and professional. It is a piece of introspective research that nevertheless has plenty to say to us all.

First in 2004 came an exhibition, SaD SaM Display, and a piece, Sad Sam (revisited), followed by a second piece, Sad Sam Almost 6 in 2009. Sad Sam Lucky(2012) is the most recent part in the series and enables us to follow the genesis of a dancing subject. For almost a decade, this series has been like a secret garden that Matija Ferlin has continued to cultivate between periods of artistic collaboration with choreographers such as Sasha Waltz and Ame Handerson, thus retaining a privileged space for himself in which to experiment over the long term. His laboratory has allowed him to embark on approaches that he subsequently develops in other contexts or, conversely, picks up again, as was the case with Sad Sam Lucky, a solo that the dancer performed in Serata artistica giovanile (2008) by Slovene choreographer Maja Delak.

These solos can be interpreted as stages in the advance of the dancing subject which is engaged in a process of continuous questioning, without being directed by a rational consciousness capable of immediately understanding the cycle in its entirety. By his own admission, Matija Ferlin is in reality merely "documenting" the states in which he puts everything "that concerns him", "here and now", so that "his interpretation always flows from a sincere relationship with the state in which he currently finds himself". The subject is not the place from where the work originates. It is constituted like a soil sketching itself out as it is walked on, a landscape shaped by the sediments of what has been experienced. The work of personal memory is practised on both a psychological level and a gestural one. The memory of gestures, a marker of an identity in movement, allows the crystallisation of dancing corporeity. Some "figures" in Ferlin's choreographic language which already appeared at the start of the cycle resurface in the later stages to be part of other postural backgrounds and slip into other sequences. Their reappearance is tinged with a radical questioning of the technical skills gained from the accepted training of dance. By haunting the solos, these gestural ghosts establish a dialogue with the continually evolving writer and open up the possibility, for an imaginary spectator witness, to "recognise" the dancing subject and follow it through different stages, bringing together scattered fragments as indicators of the enunciation.

While, in his earlier solos, Ferlin confronted himself with his own otherness in a face-to-face with himself, Sad Sam Lucky introduces the figure of the double in the form of the avant-garde Slovene poet Srečko Kosovel (1904-1926). He evolved towards several avant-garde trends, from impressionism to constructivism via expressionism. Lucky is nothing other than a translation of the poet's first name. He functions as a third party, a mediator within Ferlin's multiple subjectivity. The encounter between the dancer and Kosovel's irreducible, albeit strangely familiar otherness pushes him to refine his gestural habitus and adds a new dimension to his self-referential preoccupations. Although starting from a process of identification unleashed at the moment of discovery of Kosovel's poetry collection Integrali and their shared centres of interest in terms of creation, the piece draws largely from major expressionist themes in relation to the poet's life and work: mysticism, solitude and death, things that limit the "presentation of the self". The stage becomes a space-time which is open to welcoming co-presences, an alliance of two bodies that have never met before. This solois a real, though impossible exchange between two young artists, one living, the other dead. The living one brings the dead one back to life by conjuring up his imagination with remarkable accuracy, echoing and incarnating his lines. And conversely, the "body" of the dead poet, who died following an illness at the age of twenty-two, materialises, making death appear in the body of the living one. The tension between the animate and the inanimate is accentuated by the choice of the main stage object: a table which determines the spatiality of the danced gesture and, in return, undergoes several metamorphoses.

Ferlin introduces turmoil on many levels so that the very status of what is seen becomes impossible to determine. By increasing the transitions from the performative register to the fictional one, he blends heterogeneous material so intimately that the audience is continually invited to wonder whether the subject designated as "me" represents the poet or the dancer. Similarly, meta-theatrical and deconstructivist processes put a distance between elements tinged with expressionist emotionalism. The fact that the dancer returns after having been inhabited by the poet's corporeity, introduces reality and reinforces his presence. Guided by his performative actions, the audience is regularly brought back to the present of the performance. The power of Ferlin's performance comes from, among other things, this uninterrupted link with the audience who is asked to continue this open work.

The dance is sketchy, fragmented and fleeting. The nature of the movement is like a form of stammering, with loops of jerky gestures. The quality of flow is variable; Ferlin allows various tonic states to go through him. The relationship to weight is singular: the audience is occasionally surprised by the "lightness" of a fluid gesture, implying low voltage, like these strange "anti-gravity" jumps. The dancing body is de-hierarchised, lying as much as standing, often deliberately off balance. It is frequently characterised by a radical physicality that goes back to the idea of art as an experience of the extreme, something dear to Kosovel the poet. The recurrent figures of falling have none of the quality of the conjurer's jumps previously mentioned; on the contrary, the body falls with its full weight, causing coal dust to rise. In the melancholic atmosphere unleashed by the Slovene poet's words, they perfectly evoke the sentimental experience of a person thrown into the world and incapable of being shielded from having to exist.

While the themes tackled are expressionist, the structure of the piece is inspired by constructivist formal resources. The composition of the work is articulated neatly and precisely around the phrase "A big job awaits me. Isn't that joyful?" Such a figure of cyclical return, questioning the notions of beginning and end, matches the reflection on impermanence and eternity induced by reading Kosovel's poetry. At the same time, it constitutes the means of introducing a new introspective theme for Ferlin, that of work allowing the artist to realise himself fully, pushing forward relentlessly thanks to the creative momentum, but which can also leave a trace, leave behind marks. Even if, in terms of the structure, this phrase serves as a link, it also suspends time, opens up a breach in the linear time of the performance: like an incantation, a magic formula with which the performer opens the doors of the performance by grappling with his physical material and Kosovel's poetic images.

The uncluttered staging of the space, based on the contrast between the grey-black and the white, realises the metaphor of writing as the crossroads of the poetic and the choreographic: dance conceived as a line and the dancer as a writing instrument; and if the choice of stage objects falls on a table and sheets of paper, it is because they are the poet's main tools. The allusion to writing allows Ferlin to explore the theme of artistic work more deeply. A source of inspiration, Kosovel's poetry is directly emphasised by the concrete presence of his collection on stage and the text to which Ferlin never fails to refer in an ostensive way.

Thus Sad Sam Lucky accepts the challenge of exceeding the dualities of identification/distance, word/action, me/the other and continues to question the here and now of the performance. All the elements of the show work towards dance and the poet meeting and one can talk about a happy resolution to the equation between language and body: dance and word both have a relationship with the body and are both language. The dance born of the encounter with the poet is singular, unattributable, jerky and fluid, aerial and anchored, abstract and theatrical, fleeting and written, performative and choreographed, mystical and physical.

By Jelena Rajak
Full text published as "The performative intersubjectivity: the position of the double in the genesis of a dancing subject" in Kretanja/Mouvements, journal about dance, 17/2012, International Theatre Institute, Zagreb

Back to top

Matija Ferlin graduated from the School for New Dance Development (SNDO) in Amsterdam before living and working in Berlin. After returning to Pula in Croatia, he focused on research and the re-articulation of various concepts of stage performance and other media such as short film, video, exhibitions and costume design. Ferlin has presented and performed his work throughout Europe and America at numerous festivals, such as Impulstanz in Vienna, Spider Festival, Mladi levi and Gibanica in Ljubljana, Ex-Yu festival in New York, Rhubarb Festival in Toronto, Contemporary Dance Festival in Bogotá, Rencontres Chorégraphiques in Paris, Dance and Non-Verbal Theatre Festival in Svetvinčenat and the Perforations Festival in Zagreb. For the stage Matija Ferlin has created Tepli zdrhi (2001), Sad Sam Revisited (2004/06), Drugo za jedno (2007), Lucky Between the Mountains (2007), Sad Sam Almost 6 (2009), The Most Together We’ve Ever Been (in collaboration with Ame Henderson, 2009), Nastup (2010), Samice (2012), Sad Sam Lucky (2012), the short films and videos 4:48 (2003), Rework at the Freezing Point (2004), VUK – Vorbild und Kampf (2006), Iznad oblaka (Nola, 2009) and Automatic Disco (Dogma, 2010), and the exhibitions SaD SaM Display (2004), Lucky is the Lion That the Human Will Eat (2006), Pozdravite svoje doma! (2007), Beauty Unrealised (2009) and Differ & Repeat (2011). Matija Ferlin has collaborated with numerous choreographers, directors, dramaturges and visual artists including Ame Henderson, Sasha Waltz, Maja Delak, Aleksandra Janeva, Luc Dunberry, David Zambrano, Keren Levi, Ivica Buljan, Mateja Koležnik, Goran Ferčec, Jasna Žmak, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Christophe Chemin and Mauricio Ferlin. His choreography Onformance won three Croatian Dramatic Artists Awards in 2010 for best choreography, best dance performance and best female dancer. According to New York’s V-magazine, Ferlin was one of the most outstanding choreographers in 2011. He has recently been teaching in professional institutions and schools in Europe and North America.

Back to top