USA-Balkan Exchange: Practice and Discourse Sharing Laboratory

18, 19, 20, 21 October, Toplocentrala” Regional Centre for Contemporary Arts, Studio

Practice and discourse sharing laboratory where American and Bulgarian artists, theoreticians, curators will exchange ideas and practices on various perspectives of contemporary dance at the intersection with the political. Participants: Kathy Westwater, Andros Zins-Browne, Thomas DeFrantz, Brian Rogers, Mira Todorova, Mladen Alexiev, Vasilia Drebova, Stephanie Handjiyska, Zornitsa Stoyanova, Tsveta Doycheva


18 October, 5 pm., Toplocentrala” Regional Centre for Contemporary Arts

Independent performing arts scenes – USA and Europe


Brian Rogers (New York), curator and artistic director of The Chocolate Factory Theatre and Thomas Erder (Berlin), art manager, researcher


19 October, 5 pm., Toplocentrala” Regional Centre for Contemporary Arts

Lecture: „Blurring the Background: Black Performance as Political Ontology“

Thomas DeFrantz, Northwestern University, USA


20 and 21 October, 3 pm6 pm., Toplocentrala” Regional Centre for Contemporary Arts

Dancing the End of the World

Workshop for performing arts practitioners and theoreticians

with Thomas F. DeFrantz, theoretician, artist, choreographer

Working language will be English. Participants need to register in advance before October 18th here The workshop is free of charge.

The project “Socio-Political Agency of Contemporary Dance. USA-Balkan Exchange: Practice and Discourse Sharing Laboratory” is organized by The Chocolate Factory Theatеr (New York) , New Dramaturgies Platform (Sofia), Lokomotiva – Centre for new initiatives in arts and culture (Skopje), Stanica/Station Service for contemporary dance (Belgrade), Movement Research Inc. (New York)


In challenging social and political times of turbulence on so many levels of private and public life, the realms of politics and the political as mechanisms for regulating and negotiating common living come to the fore. As other areas of human activity, performing arts and dance in particular, which function within the larger picture of the social order, also insist on being thought through this perspective, inevitable in conditions of crisis.

The project’s main objective is to explore contemporary dance at the intersection with the political and to enhance the awareness of the socio-political agency of the artists and their practice. Contemporary dance and performance have the potential to articulate critical gestures towards the social and political structures and apparatuses, being one of the emblematic arts of contemporaneity (André Lepecki, Dance as a Practice of Contemporaneity) This potential is used by artists as a tool for critical approach towards social and political matters, for expressing personal stands on sensitive social and political issues. The project will explore the artistic strategies in contemporary dance for constituting the civil domain in society, where critique could only derive from, residing outside the organized order of the civic structures of organization and control (Pascal Gielen Artistic Constitutions of the Civil Domain: On Art, Education and Democracy).

Through a practice and discourse sharing laboratory artists, theoreticians, curators from USA, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Serbia will reflect on their work through the perspective of its inherent politicality with the aim their artistic and civil agency – to consciously participate in the living together – to be empowered, and thus inspiring such attitude in the public. The artists share their work, thoughts, practices, experiences of/with contemporary dance approaching it through the perspective of its socio-political potential, taking as a point of departure a particular project that they are working on.

Bringing people from very different social, political, cultural and historical contexts – which USA and the Balkan post-communist countries definitely present – to share their perspectives on art and life, culture and society will enrich their artistic and human experience, will cause surprising shifts, mutual provocations and new awareness(es) which will go beyond the artistic realm and infiltrate the social fabric of their communities.

The first part of the project will take place between October 17th and 31st on the Balkans – consecutively in Sofia, Belgrade and Skopje. The choreographers and dancers Kathy Westwater and Andros Zins-Browne, the artist and theoretician Thomas DeFrantz and the curator and artistic director of The Chocolate Factory Theatre Brian Rogers will meet and work with the local communities in every city.

The next part will take place in May, 2023 when artists, curators, theoreticians from Bulgaria, Serbia and North Macedonia will travel to New York to work together with their American colleagues in the frames of a week-long laboratory – residency at The Chocolate Factory Theater. They will also have the opportunity to attend classes and workshops at Movement Research.


In Sofia The Practice and Discourse Sharing Laboratory on different perspectives on contemporary dance in the intersection with the political will be held on the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st of October “Toplocentrala” Regional Centre for Contemporary Arts during the 12th ACT Independent Theatre Festival with the participation of American and Bulgarian artists, curators and theorists. The Sofia part of the project also includes a lecture, presentations and a workshop.

On October 18th, at 5:00 pm at “Toplocentrala”, Brian Rogers, artistic director and cofounder of The Chocolate Factory Theater (New York) and the art manager and researcher Thomas Erder (Berlin) will talk about the independent scene of contemporary performing arts in Europe and USA.

The next day – October 19th – again at 5:00 pm at “Toplocentrala” will be the lecture of the researcher, artist, choreographer and artistic director of SLIPPAGE: Performance|Culture|Technology – Thomas F. DeFrantz “Blurring the Background: Black Performance as Political Ontology”

Black Performance arrives as an ontological nodule of dance as politics.  Of course, as Black Performance emerges in the crucible of capital and disavowed humanity; the dances fomented within the formation of Black life and Black thought are inevitably constituent of political agency and political address. This paper asserts the centrality of Black Performance as, not a political ontology, but the matter and immanence of political ontology itself.  The double-bind of black performance as the opening to contemporary global political formations is considered alongside questions of aesthetic value, skill, practice, and expertise.

American participants:

Thomas F. DeFrantz directs SLIPPAGE: Performance|Culture|Technology, a group that focuses on live-processing interfaces deployed in the interests of theatrical storytelling. DeFrantz assembles artists into formations to explore themes of social possibility in theater performances, symposia, workshops, and publication projects. DeFrantz received the 2017 Outstanding Research in Dance award from the Dance Studies Association, and contributed concept and voice-over for a permanent installation on Black Social Dance at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. DeFrantz thinks alongside other artists continually, in formations at the American Dance Festival, Movement Research, ImPulsTanz, Ponderosa, and the New Waves Dance Institute, as well as at MIT, Stanford, Yale, NYU, Hampshire College, the University of the Arts, Duke, Northwestern University and the University of Nice. DeFrantz composes music, designs soundscapes, writes interface code, dances, creates texts, and wonders how we could gather through art as a register of possibility and expertise.  DeFrantz believes in our shared capacity to do better, and to engage our creative spirit for a collective good that is anti-racist, proto-feminist, and queer affirming.


Brian Rogers is a director, video and sound artist, co-founder and artistic director of The Chocolate Factory Theater, which supports the creation of theater, dance, music and multimedia performances at its 5,000 sq ft facility in LIC, Queens. Since 1997, Brian has conceived and/or directed numerous large scale films and performances at The Chocolate Factory and elsewhere including Screamers (2018), Hot Box (September 2012, co-presented with FIAF’s Crossing The Line Festival / January 2013, PS122’s COIL Festival / February 2013, EMPAC Center, Troy NY – supported by a MAP  Fund grant), the Bessie-nominated Selective Memory (July 2010, Mount Tremper Arts / September 2011, The Chocolate Factory / January 2011, PS122’s COIL Festival) and the horror the horror (Movement Research Festival 2011, Abrons Arts Center / 2012). Brian recently completed his first feature film; composed the soundtrack for Shaun Iron & Lauren Petty’s film Standing By: Gatz Backstage; and has collaborated as a sound and video artist with numerous experimental dance and theater artists in NY and elsewhere. In addition to his own work, Brian curates The Chocolate Factory’s artistic programming (now in its 18th year) which supports the work of more than 100 theater, dance, music and multimedia artists each year.

Kathy Westwater has choreographically pursued radical dance forms since 1996. Her work responds to the social landscape in which it manifests, often by taking up our most challenging experiences such as pain, as in her Bessie-nominated Rambler, Worlds Worlds A Part (2019). With other major works she has explored the built environments of monuments (Anywhere, 2016) and landfills and parks (PARK, 2008-present); war and pain (Macho, 2008); intersections of human and animal culture (twisted, tack, broken, 2005); psycho-physical states of fear (Dark Matter 2002); and interactive virtual environments (The Fortune Cookie Dance, 1999). In August this year she premiered her first gallery exhibition, a collection of work emerging from a nearly fifteen-year choreographic inquiry into the site of Fresh Kills Landfill. The exhibition is a bodily act of processing and remediating environmental trauma, grief, and complicity. Westwater is the recipient of the 2017 Solange MacArthur Award for New Choreography, the first woman to receive the prize. She was born in Virginia, grew up in Kentucky, and lives in the Bronx, NYC.

Andros Zins-Browne (b. 1981, New York City) is an artist working at the intersection of performance and dance. His work extends choreographic notions to interact with dancers, non-dancers, singers, objects, and texts. Central to these pursuits is the exploration of the body as both material and immaterial, a site of exchange between embodied images and somatic experience. His works include Already Unmade—an unmaking of his own choreographic archive— (ICA, London; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai; and Fondation Galeries Lafayette, Paris) Over the past several years, he also created remixes of existing works: Jérôme Bel, 1995, 2020 (e-Flux and KADIST Foundation); and with choreographer Will Rawls- See-Saw by choreographer Simone Forti (The Museum of Modern Art, New York); and The Tony Cokes Remixes (10th Berlin Biennial). In collaboration with artist Karthik Pandian, Atlas Unlimited, a series of exhibitions weaving together stories of migratory movement, destruction, and re-construction through sculpture and vocal performance was featured at the PERFORMA19 Performance Biennial, New York. In 2021, his work was commissioned by Danspace Project and Triple Canopy.  In 2022, along with Holland Andrews, Elaine Carberry, Loren Davis Fisher, and Jessika Kenney, he premiered color a body who flees, a sound installation and couplet of performances (Hammer Museum, Los Angeles).  He’s currently working on Dance History(s): Imagination as a Form of Study, initiated by choreographer Annie-B Parson, to be published by Dancing Foxes Press in Early 2023. Zins-Browne is the recipient of grants and awards from the Goethe Institute, the Flemish Cultural Ministry, NYSCA, and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.


The international project “Socio-Political Agency of Contemporary Dance. USA-Balkan Exchange: Practice and Discourse Sharing Laboratory“ is implemented with the financial support of Trust for Mutual Understanding (TMU) и National Culture Fund of Bulgaria, in partnership with  “Toplocentrala” Regional Centre for Contemporary Arts и ACT Independent Theatre Festival.