Academic journal article TheatreForum

The Story of Dah

Academic journal article TheatreForum

The Story of Dah

Article excerpt

During the summer of 2008, I spent three weeks in Belgrade, Serbia, working with DAH Theatre. DAH is a group of professional performance artists with a growing international reputation and an active commitment to theatre and its potential for social change. It was a memorable experience during which I learned much about the dynamic relationship between the arts and society, about a different way of performing, and about myself as well. This article explores DAH's work and techniques and focuses on The Story of Tea, a performance the group devised in 2006

"A theatre dedicated to social change." These words, undoubtedly, have been said about numerous performance organizations over the years, many of which initially sought to change their world for the better. Over time, some of these groups garnered small successes, and some still exist years later grinding away at their monumental task, but most disappeared quickly. Most see their initial spurt of idealistic vim turn quickly and finally dissolve with the unavoidable resistance and frustration with which all agents of change have to grapple. DAH, however, has consistently grown in its prominence since its creation in 1991 and still counts three of its founding members. An additional member joined the group in their third year of existence.

For nearly twenty years, DAH has worked daily and arduously on its mission. The group has seen what began as a street theatre, whose office was in a bakery, turn into an organization with two separate performance arms, both of which work throughout the year and throughout the world. Their bakery days have passed and DAH operates today in its own space, maintaining a school and a theatre research center as well. Additionally, DAH has accomplished this remarkable feat in Serbia, a country at war through most of the first decade of the group's existence, a country burdened by both sanctions and a pariah status. The group has done this without losing sight of its mission and with no apparent diminishment of their commitment or their considerable talents.

DAH, the name of the theatre, is a Serbian word that means "breath" or the process of breathing. Anyone who has investigated the psychophysical level of training performers knows that much emphasis is placed on the breath. Every movement of the body, from the largest gesture to the smallest synapse is structured like a breath. Even the traditional dramatic structure of a rising and falling action can be found in a single breath. Breathing is a way that we commingle with our fellow human beings and interact with the physical realities of our environment. It is a definition of being alive and an apt appellation for a theatre that explores the human condition so tirelessly.

The founding directors, Dijana Milosevic and Jadranka Andelic, were the primary forces in the theatre's creation. Andelic is still a close associate artist though she now lives in Brazil. Performers Maja Mitic, an original member, and Sanja Krsmanovic Tasic, who joined DAH a few years later, though in their 40s, have shown no signs of slowing down. Aleksandra Jelic has been performing and teaching with DAH since 1999, and Ivana Milenovic, the youngest member of DAH, made her debut in their 2009 piece, Crossing the Line. [Photo 2] Jugoslav Hadzic, Jugie to his friends, has recently become the first male actor to be given permanent status after serving DAH as a musician and technical director for about a decade.

DAH is at the contemporary end of a remarkable genealogy. The company's practice can be linked directly to the work of Eugenio Barba and through him with Grotowski. On two different occasions, in 1989 and early in the 90s, Dijana Milosevic worked at Barba's Odin Teatret in Holstebro Denmark. Three other members of DAH had stints there as well. Barba has been influential for DAH, but ultimately, Milosevic claims no irreducible method. DAH's work stems from, and is more clearly defined by, processes developed by the performers themselves under Milosevic's guidance. …

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