除了不同的機構及團體持續關注共融舞蹈教育，觀眾也須從表演中了解「共融」這個概念。克羅地亞的觀眾已有機會認識與多元能力議題有關，或包括多元能力表演者的表演藝術。他們主要透過在克羅地亞歷史最長，始於1983年的現代舞蹈節「Dance Week Festival」去接觸，該舞蹈節於1998年首次邀請到著名的英國CandoCo Dance Company參與演出，並先後在2002及2014年再度參節。2003年，該舞蹈節邀請了來自比利時的Theater Stap，帶來由Nienke Reehorst及Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui編創的《OOK》，是克羅地亞觀眾首次有機會欣賞到唐氏綜合症表演者的演出。著名德國編舞家Raimund Hoghe就在2006年首次到薩格勒布演出，於每年一度的「Queer Festival」中演出他的舞作《Swan Lake, 4 acts》，其後更成為該節的常客。除此以外，每三年舉行一次，經常以挑戰社會常態為策展作品主題的本地藝術節「Extravagent Bodies」，其中兩屆都曾以實踐共融為主題，下文將會詳述，包括2007年以肢體受障為題，邀請了現已逝世的藝術家Lisa Bufano參與，2010年則聚焦精神健康及多元精神狀態議題。
在我簡介克羅地亞的共融舞蹈實踐方式的例子前，我必須提及一個相當重要，在前南斯拉夫地區中提倡共融的先驅：來自塞爾維亞諾維薩德（Novi Sad）的Per.Art。他們自1999年開始活躍，連結各類人士，包括：有學習障礙的人、藝術家（劇場、舞蹈及視覺藝術）、特殊教育者、文化機構代表、哲學家、建築師以及學生。他們都會獲同等的鼓勵，以創作及倡導者的角色去參與教育實踐及藝術創作，作品並會於歐洲各地展出。現任藝術總監為編舞家Saša Asentić，而在剛過去的十二月，Per.Art以由Xavier Le Roy創作的《We Are Not Monsters》，作為他們創立20週年的紀念演出。雖然直到目前為止，Per.Art跟克羅地亞的共融舞蹈家暫時未有合作，但他們的創作方式及作品無疑對克羅地亞的共融藝術及教育有所影響。
失明與視障表演者的劇場及藝術節先驅 —— Novi život
他們於2007年第一次參與舞蹈創作，最後的成果是一個名為《Nos vamos a ver》（See You，中譯：再見）的演出，由Ksenija Zec 及 Saša Božić 編舞。除了有Novi život的常規演員參與，兩名專業演員 Živko Anočić 及 Goran Bogdan，以及兩年前曾與兩名編舞家於表演《I Am Glad to See You》合作過的舞者Maja Marjančić，亦有參演。Novi život亦於1999年首先舉辦了第一個以失明及視障藝術家為主的表演藝術節「BIT」 (全寫為Blind in Theatre，即劇場內看不到的人／東西／議題)，並以兩年一次的方式持續至今。據他們所知，此類型的表演藝術節全球絕無僅有。
以克羅地亞手語為表演工具 —— DLAN
劇場，視覺藝術與聽障文化 —— DLAN（意思為：手掌）是創立於2001年的團體，致力於以藝術及手語傳譯進行教育。那一年是首次有（戲劇）演出以手語進行，該團體在之後多年也持續於戲劇演出中提供手語傳譯。他們在2004年，透過與編舞家Ljiljana Zagorac的合作，初次接觸舞蹈教育；而另一位懂得手語的編舞家Sandra Banić Naumovski，則自2006年開始與該團體合作至今。創作了長篇作品《Crying Hands》後，她開辦了常規的舞蹈工作坊，並以聽障人士為對象，探索他們在溝通時特有的身體狀態，繼而運用當中的特點，尤其是強而有力姿勢動作，作為演出中的表演工具。她亦有 在她的教學中運用一些常見的舞蹈教學方法，例如即興創作，而這方法亦成為之後其作品《X.. Where the Paths Cross》的基礎。該演出是由兩名失聰及兩名健聽表演者合作，以複雜的結構性即興作創作演出。聽障人士依賴姿勢及動作去溝通的這一個特點，亦應用於2009年，她和Selma Banich共同編舞的作品《Rhythm, Signs, Rap》。此團體近期的發展包括於2018年創立的國際劇場節「Sign and Sound」，致力帶來世界各地由聽障表演者創作的演出，並提倡健聽與聽障人士共融的可能。
敢言的多元能力項目先導者 —— Integrated Movement Research Collective／DIVERT
至2012年開始以「Integrated Movement Research Collective」（或簡寫「IMRC」）之名運作，並於2020年改名為「DIVERT」的組織，是在克羅地亞語境下的一個獨特共融舞蹈及教育團體。他們最初是在Croatian Institute for Movement and Dance（克羅地亞形體及舞蹈學院）下創立，當時舞蹈員及監製Amela Pašalić開始組織一些共融工作坊，而曾在英國接受正式舞蹈教育，並曾在CandoCo group的工作坊中接觸過共融實踐方式的舞蹈員及編舞家Iva Nerina Sibila不久後亦加入，後來更成為團體的藝術總監。IMRC自成立起便與唯一有足夠輪椅通達設施之Zagreb Dance Centre（薩格勒布舞蹈中心）合作，為多元能力人士舉辦工作坊，即使沒有任何受障的表演者亦可因應其興趣參與，發掘形體的可能性及進行不同藝術實驗。該團體其中一名創始成員Slađan Livnjak，是一名爵士舞者及編舞家，自出生以來一直為輪椅使用者，曾獲年度「Croatian Theatre Awards」（克羅地亞劇場大獎）最佳表演者獎；另一成員Vesna Mačković則曾經歷長期無法行走的狀況，也是IMRC第一個長篇作品《Magnolia》的表演者及共同創作人，後來她更發展出自己的藝術形式。Helvecia Tomić在IMRC成立不久後加入，並取得舞動所能（Danceability）的認證導師資格，因而成爲團體的教育活動統籌。除舞動所能之外，該團體亦採用開放即興的方式進行形體動作研究。
IMRC亦有參與一些歐盟計劃，例如「Unlimited Access and Moving Beyond」，為他們提高了國際知名度及擴闊人脈，也便利他們從海外邀請老師。他們目前每週仍會舉辦免費的共融工作坊，而且不只會在薩格勒布，也會在其他較小的城市舉辦，並嘗試開放給更年輕的舞蹈工作者參與。
IMRC《Bella Ciao》排練照; 攝：Jasen Vodenica
談到正規、大專程度的舞蹈教育，克羅地亞直至2013年才出現首個舞蹈學系。在此之前，立志發展表演事業的舞者，就只能報讀國外的課程，又或者透過大量參與各類型於克羅地亞及前南斯拉夫地區的工作坊和教育平台，接受非正規的教育。直到目前為止，也沒有任何多元能力的學生，獲克羅地亞的舞蹈學系或其他表演藝術相關的高等教育課程取錄（包括各類型戲劇及形體劇場課程）。不過在薩格勒布戲劇藝術學院的舞蹈學系，也有一個關於共融教育的正面例子。其舞蹈學士課程共有三個分支：芭蕾舞教學法、當代舞蹈表演及當代舞教學法。選讀第三項的學生需要修讀一個名為「共融舞蹈」的必修課程，而該課程就是由DIVERT的藝術總監Iva Nerina Sibila任教。
學生會認識到有關共融的主要工作方法及原則，了解到共融並不只是應對各種不同的肢體及精神上需要，也是一種讓舞蹈教育開放予被邊緣化及小眾社群的實踐。學生將接觸到主要在西方表演藝術中實踐以上概念的例子，同時學生亦會參與曾跟多元能力表演者合作的舞蹈工作者所帶領的工作坊，包括來自DIVERT的Helvecia Tomić會為學生介紹舞動所能的方法、以及來自前文提及的Novi život的Ksenija Zec和Maja Marjančić等。課程涵蓋與共融相關的理論和實踐，而學生也會有機會與多元能力的表演者合作，例如腦麻痺症患者及不同輪椅使用者組織等。此課程為未來當代舞蹈教學家的教育，提供了獨特而必要的知識，繼而鼓勵學生修畢課程後繼續發展對共融舞蹈教育的興趣。
以更高層次的共融衝擊城市 —— Magija
身處像克羅地亞般中央化的國家，逃離首都薩格勒布總是一件樂事，我們來到被歐盟選為2020年歐洲文化之都之一的里耶卡。推廣共融的組織Magija（意思為：魔術）自2006年起開始活躍，持續探索當代舞及形體劇場。組織由Association of Persons with Cerebral Palsy（腦麻痺患者協會）及Polio Rijeka共同創立，並由Sanja Josipović擔任藝術總監及Gordana Svetopetrić擔任製作人暨教育者。他們經常與專業舞者及只有小學生程度的舞蹈學生合作。2017年，他們開展了跟Regional Association of People with Hearing Impairments（聽障人士地區協會）的合作，創作出由Sanja Josipović負責編舞的長篇作品《Tell Me》。這次演出是一個將共融提升至更高層次的壯舉，透過邀請擁有多元能力及有不同程度受障的人士合作，創造出一個共同探索舞蹈及形體的空間。這次擴闊了更真切共融可能的嘗試，可被視為此城市的另一個計劃Peti Ansambl的重要基石。此外，里耶卡自2016年開始已經是「Festival of Inclusive Stages」（共融舞台節）的主辦地，是全國獨一無二的共融演藝節。
與肢體受障者及其他小眾共融 —— Peti Ansambl
Peti Ansambl（意思為：第五組合）作為最接近擁有穩定體制框架的計劃，是克羅地亞現時唯一屬於國家劇院的常規計劃，名為Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc in Rijeka（CNT）。該計劃源於聘請唐氏綜合症患者成為帶位員，後來在2018年二月發展成一個更大型及持續的教育計劃，盛載不同劇場創作元素並將其推廣給多元肢體及精神能力人士。除CNT之外，該計劃的聯合創辦單位為City of Rijeka（里耶卡市）、Centre for Education Rijeka（里耶卡教育中心）及Rijeka 21 - Association for Down Syndrome（里耶卡 21 —— 唐氏綜合症協會）。而計劃統籌就包括身兼舞者、文化工作者及Rijeka 21主席的Mila Čuljak、教育及復康工作者Nataša Bačić，以及戲劇顧問Nataša Antulov。該計劃將不同類型被排擠的人士與曾受正規訓練的表演者連繫起來，一起學習形體、演技、舞台演講、服裝設計及平面設計。
課程中以強調形體研究的常規工作坊最為突出，特別是有來自DIVERT的Helvecia Tomić及獲Lessac 教學法認可的教育家Valentina Lončarić的參與。儘管有具舞台表演背景的教育工作者參與，計劃目的是要探索於所謂後戲劇劇場中的新表現手法，特別強調提升表演者的直覺，以及探索多元精神能力人士的某種特定虛構化舉動。Peti ansambl吸引之處在於，它不單聚集了各式各樣多元肢體與精神能力人士，包括唐氏綜合症患者、各類型的自閉症患者、聽力受損人士及腦麻痺者，更有一直在克羅地亞被排斥的吉卜賽人。不論是作為文化藝術的受眾還是創作人，他們總是被拒於門外。此系列工作坊的成果於2019年6月，透過一個名為《Descendants, Giants, Gods》（後裔、巨人及眾神）的表演／匯報讓大眾看到。這個由30人共同創作的表演，也是首次讓Peti ansambl與大眾會面。他們選擇不集中呈現特定主題，而是就著每一位表演者的藝術和表演興趣去共同發展，使整個表演成為在舞台上對共融社群及友誼的探索。他們計劃會持續進行常規工作坊，並會在每個劇季於CNT進行一個演出，現時該劇場乃有法定的義務去協助實行。
The Fifth Ensemble; 攝：Dražen Šokčević
最後這個有關克羅地亞共融教育的例子，是現時為止離開體制以外最遠的。考慮到Peti ansambl的情況，戲劇顧問Natasa Antulov指出在體制內如何處理共融，有一個非常重要的取態：「在與多元能力的年輕人舉辦過工作坊後，這些人後來就成了Peti ansambl的成員，我有一種不太好的感覺，是體制透過這些工作坊逃避了自己在共融政策上的責任。每一項共融都成為申請資助時會強調的一個人文／人道主義重點，但體制內有關共融的長期發展策略及實踐模式，卻從不存在。」這絕對是共融實踐在克羅地亞表演藝術教育的未來發展中，其中一個最重要的挑戰：如何確保體制能夠持續支持文化發展，特別是國內不少實驗性、非主流先鋒，都要依賴公共資助。除了確保工作和教育的基本資源，主流體制亦能在社會上提供一定程度的關注，較小型、獨立的藝團卻往往因缺乏商業吸引力而無法獲得如此注視。在新自由主義的壓力下，藝術亦要變得可持續，然而這個需求本身就根本不能持續，因為在克羅地亞，倚賴公共資助是慣常文化，展望藝術及教育團體能夠將實踐共融作優先考慮，繼續鞏固其作為社會推廣共融及多元化的角色及功能，而非現時眾多體制中所見，所保存的單一文化、民族主義等價值觀。否則，共融教育只會停留於表演藝術的邊緣位置，在一個又一個不確定的計劃申請之間掙扎求存。
 除了Vesna外，Iva Nerina Sibila及Silvia Marchig也分別以編舞家及表演者的身份，參與該演出的創作。
 包括以下各著名編舞家的作品，例如Aleksandra Janeva Imfeld（《Nukleon》，2018年）、Silvia Marchig （《Bella Ciao》，2018年）、 Iva Nerina Sibila （《Lemia》，2019年）及Martina Tomić（《The Devil’s Advocate》，2019年）。
 摘自Iva Nerine Sibila 於《Movements, Dance magazine 32》（薩格勒布：克羅地亞國際劇場學院，2019年12月，頁72）的文章 <The Day the Successors Met the Giants, interview with Nataša Antulov and Helvecia Tomić>
[ENG]Inside Out: on Inclusive Dance Education in Croatia
Text: Nina Gojić
Introduction: performances of diverse abilities in Croatia and the ex-Yugoslav region
Although education of variously abled people in performing arts in Croatia has had its continuity in different fringe initiatives, it may be said that the past decade was marked by a proliferation of initiatives with notable examples in Zagreb, the capital, and Rijeka, the third biggest city in Croatia. As this text will map, some of the initiatives date back as early as 1948, but several important milestones that have made inclusion a recognizable marker of (mostly extra-institutional) dance education took place in the country in the past 10 years. The issues around inclusive dance practices in Croatia thus serve to pose the always pertinent question of institutionalization, not only of dance education itself, but also of social values that our society wishes to affirm. As the examples in this text will show, with only one notable exception, diversely abled artists still don’t get support from mainstream institutions. Inclusion in dance has mostly been understood as inclusion of people with diverse physical and neurological abilities, but there are significant challenges to our cultural sector as to how it wishes to include those otherwise excluded, among whom are different ethnic, racial and class groups, a fact that has recently become even more relevant with the arrival of more migrant communities. Moreover, inclusive dance practices have actively been blurring preconceived and tacit understandings of the fixed borders between amateurism and professionalism. Even though this division is problematic in its traditional sense, where an individual is legitimized by their passage through formal institutional education, in the case of inclusive practices it becomes evident that the reason for the division is a discriminatory one. For example, The Academy of Dramatic Arts in Zagreb had a vague, but nonetheless ableist rule that students of acting should be “psychologically and physically healthy”, which prevented performers with diverse abilities from entering the programme. This regulation has been dropped since 2000, but still the Academy has not accepted diversely abled students in any of its departments.
Parallel to organizations and groups that deal specifically with continuous inclusive dance education, audiences have to be introduced to the idea of inclusion in performance. Croatian audiences have already had a chance to be introduced to performing arts that have dealt with or included performers with diverse abilities. These performances were made known primarily through the longest-running festival of contemporary dance in Croatia, Dance Week Festival, that started back in 1983, and brought the famous UK company CandoCo for the first time in 1998, and again in 2002 and 2014. Belgian group Theater Stap also performed in the same festival in 2003 with OOK by Nienke Reehorst and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, in which Croatian audiences had their first chance to see performers with Down syndrome. Celebrated German choreographer Raimund Hoghe first performed in Zagreb in 2006 with his Swan Lake, 4 acts as part of the annual Queer Festival and has been a regular guest at that festival ever since. Besides that, the local festival Extravagant Bodies, which is held every three years and curates artworks that question societal perceptions of normality, has dedicated two of its editions to inclusive practices as they will be discussed in this text: in 2007 the festival was dedicated to physical disabilities, featuring, among others, the late artist Lisa Bufano, and in 2010 to issues of mental health and diverse neurological conditions.
Before I briefly present Croatian examples of inclusive dance practices, it is important to mention the pioneers of inclusion in our ex-Yugoslav region, namely the group Per.Art based in Novi Sad (Serbia). They have been active since 1999 when they connected people with learning disabilities, artists (theatre, dance and visual arts), special educators, representatives of cultural institutions, philosophers, architects and students. All of them are equally encouraged to act as authors and initiators of educational practices and artistic works, while their work has been presented all across Europe. Today, choreographer Saša Asentić is the artistic director and in December 2019 the group celebrated its 20th anniversary with a performance authored by Xavier Le Roy, We Are Not Monsters. Although there have been no collaborations between Per.Art and Croatian practitioners of inclusive dance as yet, the group’s methodologies and works have indubitably informed those in Croatia of specific work in inclusive art and education.
Theatre and festival pioneer for performances by the blind and visually impaired -- Novi život (New Life)
Speaking of inclusive performing arts practices in Croatia and looking further than (only) dance, the Theatre of the Blind and Visually Impaired-- Novi život (New Life) must definitely be mentioned. Founded in 1948 and producing performances on a regular basis since then, they are one of, if not the, oldest theatre group in the world that features blind performers. The group is still struggling with its aim to be formally recognized and granted institutional status, but so far to no avail, despite receiving critical acclaim in performing arts festivals around the country. They are still officially categorized as a “drama studio”, emphasizing the educational aspect of their work, even though they are more visible in the cultural scene with their performances, most often co-authored by those considered ‘professional’ directors and theatre-makers. Albeit the majority of their productions qualify as text-based drama theatre, there are two notable exceptions to mention.
The first dance process they engaged in happened in 2007 and resulted in a performance entitled Nos vamos a ver (See You) which was choreographed by Ksenija Zec and Saša Božić. Alongside regular participants of the actors from New Life, two professional actors, Živko Anočić and Goran Bogdan took part, as well as dancer Maja Marjančić,, who renewed her collaboration with the same choreographers two years later in a performance entitled I Am Glad to See You. Also, New Life initiated the first performing arts festival dedicated to blind and visually impaired artists, BIT (Blind in Theatre), which launched in 1999 and has had a biannual continuity to date. As they note, it is the only such festival in the world.
Croatian Sign Language as performative tool -- DLAN (Palm)
Theatre, Visual Arts and Deaf Culture - DLAN (Palm) is a group founded in 2001, engaging in education through art and sign language interpretation. That year was the first time a (drama) performance was held in sign language, and the organization continued to provide sign language interpretation of drama performances in the following years. Their first encounter with dance education took place in 2004, by engaging choreographer Ljiljana Zagorac, while another choreographer, Sandra Banić Naumovski, herself knowledgeable in sign language, has continued working with the group since 2006. After creating a full-length performance entitled Crying Hands, she established regular dance workshops in which she has been exploring the specific physicality inherent in the communication among people with hearing impairments and uses these specificities, especially their strong gestuality, as performative tools in performance. She also employed some of the usual dance teaching methodologies, such as improvisation, in her pedagogical work, which served as the basis for a later performance entitled X.. Where the Paths Cross, in which two deaf and two hearing performers engaged together in a complex structured improvisation. The reliance on gestural communication specific to people with hearing impairments was also used in the 2009 performance Rhythm, Signs, Rap co-choreographed with Selma Banich. Most recently, in 2018, the group established an International Theatre Festival, Sign and Sound, focused on presenting works made by deaf performers from all over the world as well as introducing the possibilities of inclusion between the hearing and the deaf.
IMRC; photo: K.Marinac
Outspoken diverse abilities projects advocate -- Integrated Movement Research Collective/ DIVERT
Formally known as Integrated Movement Research Collective (IMRC) since 2012 and renamed DIVERT in 2020, this inclusive dance and educational initiative is unique in the Croatian context. It was founded under the Croatian Institute for Movement and Dance when dancer and producer Amela Pašalić started organizing inclusive workshops, soon to be joined by Iva Nerina Sibila, a dancer and choreographer who, having received formal dance education in the UK where she had encountered inclusive practices through workshops with the CandoCo group, joined and became artistic director of the group. In collaboration with the Zagreb Dance Centre, which was the only institution with adequate wheelchair accessibility, since its foundation the IMRC collective has been organizing workshops for people with diverse abilities, joined by performers without disabilities who have participated in the exploration of movement and artistic experiments out of their own interest. The group included Slađan Livnjak, one of the founding members, a jazz-dancer and choreographer who has been a wheelchair user since birth and who received the best performer award at the annual Croatian Theatre Awards, and Vesna Mačković, a person with an experience of long-term immobility, who was the co-author and performer of IMRC’s first full-length performance, Magnolia, and who later continued developing her own artistic practice. Helvecia Tomić joined the group soon after its foundation and became a certified educator of the Danceability method, thus becoming the coordinator of educational activities. Apart from Danceability, the group’s education follows the open improvisation approach in movement research.
The IMRC were involved in European Union projects such as Unlimited Access and Moving Beyond which gave them international visibility and contacts, enabling them to bring teachers from abroad. They still organize weekly, free-of-charge inclusive workshops not only in Zagreb, but smaller cities as well, which they try to open up to the youngest dance practitioners too.
Other than providing widely accessible inclusive dance education for all, the collective focuses on building national and international networks for inclusive dance projects, works on audience development programmes and advocacies, and has produced many notable contemporary dance performances.
Inclusive practices in formal dance education
As for formal, university level education in dance, Croatia got its first dance department as recently as 2013. Before that, dancers who wished to pursue a performing career have either attended courses outside the country or received informal education through numerous workshops and educational platforms available in Croatia and the wider ex-Yugoslav region. So far, no students with diverse abilities have been accepted to the dance department or other higher educational institutions dedicated to performing arts in Croatia (i.e. various programmes in acting and physical theatre). However, there is a positive example of teaching inclusion at the dance department of the Academy of Drama Arts in Zagreb. The BA in Dance consists of three subdivisions: ballet pedagogy, contemporary dance performing and contemporary dance pedagogy. The students of the latter attend an obligatory course called ‘Inclusive Dance’ which is taught by Iva Nerina Sibila, the artistic director of DIVERT.
The students are introduced to the main methodologies and principles of working with inclusion, which is understood and introduced not only as working with various physical and neurological needs, but also as a practice of making dance education available to all socially marginalized and excluded groups. The students are introduced to examples of such practices from mostly Western performing arts, while they receive practical workshop visits by dance practitioners who are experienced in working with performers with mixed abilities, such as Helvecia Tomić of DIVERT who introduces the Danceability method, as well as Ksenija Zec and Maja Marjančić, the aforementioned collaborators of the group Novi život. The lectures cover topics around inclusion from both a theoretical and practical perspective and the students get the opportunity to work with performers with diverse abilities, such as cerebral palsy or various groups of wheelchair users. This course provides a unique and essential input into the education of future contemporary dance pedagogues who are potentially encouraged to pursue their interests in inclusive dance education after their studies.
Hitting the city with a next-level inclusion -- Magija (Magic)
Moving away from the capital city Zagreb, which in a centralized country such as Croatia is an always welcome endeavour, we arrive at Rijeka, the European Capital of Culture for 2020. The inclusive collective Magija (Magic) has been active there since 2006, continuously exploring contemporary dance and physical theatre. They were founded by the Association of People with Cerebral Palsy and Polio Rijeka with Sanja Josipović as artistic director and Gordana Svetopetrić as producer and educator. The group has collaborated with professional dancers and primary-school level students of dance, while in 2017 they initiated a collaboration with the Regional Association of People with Hearing Impairments, resulting in a full-length performance, Tell Me, choreographed by Sanja Josipović. This was a great step towards achieving another level of inclusion because this type of collaboration brought together people with different impairments and abilities and opened up a space of common exploration of dance and movement. This approach to expanding the possibilities of more genuine inclusion figures act as the cornerstone of another initiative – Peti Ansambl - in the same city. Also, the city of Rijeka has been the home of the Festival of Inclusive Stages since 2016, the only one of its kind in the country.
The Fifth Ensemble; Photo: Dražen Šokčević
Inclusion for the physically and otherwise excluded -- Peti ansambl (The Fifth Ensemble)
Getting closest to a stable institutional framework and the continuous support that such a context provides, Peti ansambl (The Fifth Ensemble) is now the only initiative that is a regular part of a national theatre in Croatia, namely the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc in Rijeka (CNT). The seeds of the initiative were sown with the employment of people with Down syndrome as ushers, which then in February 2018 developed into an ambitious, ongoing educational project which encapsulates many aspects of theatre-making and renders it accessible to people with mixed physical and neurological abilities. Besides CNT, the co-founders of the project are the City of Rijeka, Centre for Education Rijeka and Rijeka 21 - Association for Down Syndrome, while the coordinators of the project are dancer, cultural worker and president of Rijeka 21 Mila Čuljak, educational rehabilitator Nataša Bačić and dramaturge Nataša Antulov. The project connects differently excluded individuals together with institutionally educated performers and they are educated in movement, acting, stage speech, costume design and graphic design.
The educational process is comprised of regular workshops where the emphasis on movement research is most prominent, especially with the engagement of Helvecia Tomić of DIVERT and Valentina Lončarić, a certified Lessac method educator. Although educators from the field of drama performance were involved as well, the intention was to search for performative strategies along the lines of the so-called post-dramatic theatre, especially focusing on developing performers’ intuition and exploring the specific manners of fictionalization among neuro-diverse people. What is particularly engaging is that Peti ansambl gathers not only people with diverse physical and neurological abilities, e.g. people with Down syndrome, people on the autism spectrum, people with hearing impairments and with cerebral palsy, but also Roma people who are ethnically and racially among the most excluded social groups in Croatia, usually with very little access to cultural content, either as recipients or producers. The visible result of this series of workshops was seen in June 2019 when Peti ansambl appeared publicly for the first time in a performance/presentation entitled Descendants, Giants, Gods, collectively authored by around 30 people. Rather than focusing on a particular theme, it dealt with the artistic and performative interests of each performer, resulting in a staged exploration of an inclusive community and friendship. The plan is to continue with regular workshop sessions and produce one performance per season at CNT Zajc, which the theatre now has a statutory obligation to make possible.
Inclusive Education: future perspectives
This last example speaks of the perspectives of inclusive education in Croatia, which is at the moment still mostly extra-institutional. Considering the situation with the Peti ansambl, the words of dramaturge Nataša Antulov refer to a very important tendency in how inclusion is institutionally treated: “After the workshop was held with diversely abled young people, who later became members of Peti ansambl, I got an unpleasant feeling that with such workshops the institutions in a way shake off their own responsibility regarding inclusive policies. Every inclusion becomes a humanitarian excess highlighted in applications for funding, but a long-term strategy for institutional development and inclusive practices doesn’t exist”. This is definitely one of the most important challenges for the future development of inclusive practices in Croatian performing arts education: how to ensure continuity through institutional support which, in a country whose cultural sector, especially in its experimental, non-mainstream outposts, is mostly dependent on public funding. Besides ensuring fundamental resources for work and education, institutions provide a degree of visibility in society that smaller, independent initiatives simply don’t receive because they are not perceived as commercially attractive. Being under the neoliberal pressure to make art more sustainable, which is itself an unsustainable request in a culture as dependent on public funds as is the case in Croatia, art and educational institutions will hopefully make it among their priorities to open up towards inclusive practices, thus consolidating their societal function as promoters of diversity and inclusion rather than preserving mono-cultural nationalist values as seems to be the case in too many institutions now