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Aleksandar Ilić, First Soloist of the National Theatre Ballet in Belgrade, choreographer, professor and one of the founders of the Belgrade Dance Institute

Constant Education is Vital

My professional journey has become a golden circle – from a dancer to someone who educates dancers. The only thing I believe in is education, because alongside talent, dedication, serious work and discipline, it is the only imperative of a successful artist

I took my first steps in ballet in Novi Sad, later continuing my education and training in the classes of top ballet artists Zoja Begoli, Milica Bijelić and Ivanka Lukateli. As a student of the Lujo Davičo Secondary Ballet School (1997), I recieved an opportunity to join the ensemble of the National Theatre in Belgrade, becoming a permanent member in the following season. In parallel with my dance career, I started dealing with choreography. From Viva la vida! on the Great Stage of the National Theatre (2009) until today, I have done choreography work for almost every theatre company in the region: Opera & Theatre Madlenianum, the Serbian National Theatre in Novi Sad, the Sarajevo National Theatre, the national opera & ballet companies of Skopje, Zagreb, Velenje and Celje, the Montenegrin Music Centre in Podgorica. My work as a choreographer has taken me everywhere from Basel to Boston (2019), to New York, where I received a United Nations award and the status of a Music Ambassador, then to Shanghai, Beijing, Daqing and Ürümqi.

The greatest turning point in my professional activity came with the invitation of professor Vladimir Tomašević and the establishment of the Belgrade Dance Institute (2014), the setting up of the first and only accredited study programmes dealing with the education of students in the fields of classical ballet pedagogy, contemporary dance and contemporary dance pedagogy, choreography and folk dance in Serbia. A total of 113 guest professors have passed through the Institute, which this year marks the tenth anniversary of its establishment with more than 120 significant projects having been implemented.

For me, dance is the sincerest form of human communication that isn’t subject to language barriers, and tutoring work is the most responsible way of relaying the secrets, crafts and academic breadth

Since 2009, my involvement with the Association of Professional Ballet Dancers, Choreographers and Ballet Padagogues of Serbia has been directed towards the struggle to improve the position of ballet artists in Serbia and the establishing of the Terpsichore Award, which – with the support of the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Serbia – has been awarded to ballet and dance artists for the past 13 years. The Terpsichore Award has to date been received by our country’s most renowned artists.

My professional engagements and interests used to partly extend beyond the boundaries of my profession. By performing the duties of Artistic Director of BELEF (2017–2020) and Director of the Cultural Centre of Belgrade (2019–2023), I introduced contemporary dance to some new forms and systems.

Despite my professional dance career having come to an end, my engagment at the National Theatre takes on new meaning as of this season, in my role as a tutor working with young dancers. Through my involvement in the ballet Who’s Singin’ Over There, I train colleagues with whom I previously shared the stage and give new direction to youngsters who are taking their first steps on stage. My professional journey has become a golden circle – from a dancer to someone who educates dancers. The only thing I believe in is education, because alongside talent, dedication, serious work and discipline, it is the only imperative of a successful artist.

For me, dance is the sincerest form of human communication that isn’t subject to language barriers, and tutoring work is the most responsible way of relaying the secrets, crafts, academic breadth and depth and tools of our profession: the art of dance, regardless of its field.

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