edition März-April 2024

Arguments for a Future Past

"The League Of Time" by BADco., 2009. Foto: BADco.

Just how can we contemplate the future (of dance)? Dance scholar and dramaturge Mila Pavićević suggests that writing about the future requires one to look to the past. She suggests following the steps of our collective, individual and unusual biographies, building bridges and forming alliances. A plea for a future of diversity.

Text: Mila Pavićević
Dance scholar and Dramaturge


How do you write about the future of dance at a historical moment when history is viciously repeating itself? Under these circumstances, writing about the future entails knowing our (own) histories. And this knowing is never a neutral one. In the words of Fredric Jameson, as stated in his foreword to Darko Suvin’s[1] book on the history and the fall of Yugoslavia: “It should be noted that the ‘sacred’ obligations of objectivity are ruled out in advance, as signs of reified disciplinary convention and prejudice. The very choice of a history of socialism is a partisan one.” (Jameson 2016: IX). So, in the spirit of this, I would like to tell a story about a dance that took place not so long ago, not so far away from Berlin, Germany.

It’s the year 2009. The League of Time/Liga vremena by performing arts collective BADco. (bezimeno autorsko društvo, nameless society of authors) is being performed in Rijeka, Croatia. Two NGOs, BADco. and Drugo More/Other Seas from Rijeka, Croatia, collaborated on it with the Croatian National Theater Ivan pl Zajc. BADco. were a collective of dramaturge-choreographers based in Zagreb, Croatia, active locally and internationally from 2000 to 2020. The core of the collective consisted of Ivana Ivković, Ana Kreitmeyer, Tomislav Medak, Nikolina Pristaš, Goran Sergej Pristaš, Zrinka Užbinec. In 2020, the collective disbanded and decided to stop producing dance collectively. In 2024, some of the members of BADco. have joined the green-left political Platform Možemo!/We can! where they are actively shaping political decisions, among other urgent matters, about the present and the future of arts and culture.

In this 2009 performance, BADco. posed the following question: “At the beginning of the new century, we ask ourselves: What happens to all future times whose time has run out? What happens when the founding social narratives no longer offer the key to understanding reality?”[1] These founding social narratives are the ones around the transformation of the socio-economic system from socialism to capitalism, taking place in the countries of former Yugoslavia from the late 1980s onwards, including the transformation of labor. In order to tell the story of these complicated times, the performance utilizes the idea of utopia as a framework for fictional future telling. The core of the work revolves around an oddly familiar fictional conflict between “the bourgeoise America and the soviet Eurasia, which Vladimir Mayakovski envisioned 200 years into the future” (The League of Time 2009: 26:34). For them, envisioning a possible future, and taking the philosophical thoughts of Fredric Jameson into consideration while doing so, means embarking on an archeological investigation into the past that has never happened. As noted above, for their performative text, they draw their inspiration from the futurist poetry of the avant-garde Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovski, who left this world too early. The language of Mayakovski’s poetry reads as an attempt to reinvent and propose a future poetic language in a situation where “the world has lost its fixity; it lost its solidity” (The League of Time 2009: 13:45). And I would like to add that this loss is twofold, to some degree, not only in that this new neoliberal world is losing its solidity, but also in that we as a society have also lost the language that has the potential to tackle and interpret this new world.

Vladimir Mayakovski’s poem Flying Proletarian, which is used in this performance by BADco., was written in 1925 from the perspective of workers standing on the ground and watching the sky being filled with the rockets of a raging war. It almost reads as a messianic foreseeing of the future and simultaneously unveils the doom of capitalism by observing this future from the workers’ perspective. In this environment, the dancers’ bodies resemble the idea of workers from Mayakovski’s poem caught in the midst of these skies that are ablaze. They embody four archetypal figures:  a ufologist, a pilot, a women-machine and a cosmonaut, who take turns telling stories using words and movement about this future past. A battlefield diagram is drawn under their feet on the concrete red floor. On each side of the battleground, two rows of audiences face each other. When the choreography clears the space between them, the audiences, starkly lit (there is no veil of theater’s darkness), are left to face each other with their histories and their projections of the future. Joe Meek’s 1960s song I Hear a New World is played in these clearings: “I hear a new world, calling me. So strange and so real, haunting me.” In that context, these lyrics come across as an ominous anticipation of yet another person that left this world too early, Mark Fisher, who used this concept of hauntology to bring and keep bringing back the past and its ghost at times when we’re being led to believe that there’s nothing but a drowning present and very few hopes for tomorrow.

In honor of Mark Fisher, I would like to relate some anecdotes from the past. This particular anecdote is not directly connected with The League of Time/Liga Vremena but rather with the place where I saw this performance for the first time: POGON Jedinstvo, a center for independent culture and youth in Zagreb. POGON was a former factory that, until the 1990s, supplied other factories with different machining parts. In the 1990s, the factory and many other factories in former Yugoslavia were closed and abandoned. The name POGON means “to set things in motion” in the sense of the driving force of industrial production and labor. The opening of POGON was yet another battlefield. Through years of advocacy and activism of civil society organizations and the actors from the independent scenes, the cultural center POGON opened in 2005 as one of the pioneer examples of an institution based on civil-public partnership between the NGOs and the city of Zagreb.

Moreover, this institution hosted experimental artistic and cultural practices, including contemporary dance. POGON is situated in proximity to the working-class neighborhoods of Zagreb on the outskirts of the city center, near the wide river Sava, and located off the road, remaining invisible to random passersby. In 2012, I was still living in Zagreb, and was working as a young dance dramaturge in POGON, one of the few places that would then open its door for young practitioners. My mother, visiting from our small town in southern Croatia, decided to attend our opening showing.  She ordered a cab to go to POGON since this was a more accessible option to access the space. When the local taxi driver pulled over, probably observing the dark industrial complex, then watching my mom, he asked her with a voice of honest concern: “But madam, are you sure you want to go there?” She laughed and thanked him for the ride.

Although I assume that in 2024, this situation would have played out differently, firstly thanks to the better conditions for contemporary dance and secondly possibly due to greater visibility[1], I often recall this anecdote as an excellent example of one way of understanding the relationships between contemporary dance and its immediate surroundings. This relationship, often unspoken, is based on a misunderstanding between the parties involved. The question I ask myself regarding the future of dance, and then consequentially with respect to the future of dance in Berlin, is whether or not the time has come to bridge these misunderstandings. And here I am not suggesting the approximation of a formal language in one field to a formal language of another, but rather in terms of considering the idea of alliances across our society. Maybe it’s time to rethink and reflect, ultimately asking the question: “What can I do for my society as a member of that society?” rather than positioning oneself constantly in terms of belonging, based on our identity. The same belonging that a priori and nominally excludes an elderly working-class woman as a contemporary dance spectator, POGON visitor, and the taxi driver himself. Because of these and similar exclusions, I find it difficult to imagine of what the answer to the question regarding the future of dance might be. Although currently relevant from our field’s perspective, it becomes more challenging to imagine without addressing the perspective of other futures we usually don’t consider. How one thinks about dance in terms of transdisciplinary and micropolitical approaches will become an even more critical task in the future. I propose that we think about possible futures in orientation to our common or uncommon lived histories, constantly reminding ourselves that past, present, and future have already happened in different contexts and perspectives.

The League of Time/Liga vremena offers both diagnoses of our times while simultaneously providing the tools for dealing with this future task. The diagnosis is articulated as “a world [that] is radically transformed, into the ever-shifting morphing world, a world that has lost its solidity, a world that escapes interpretation, a world where superheroes were lost” (League of Time 2009: 46:03). The tools that they suggest are contained in the active form of live remembering, narrating, fictionalizing, as a constant uttering of that past. This past is then repeated ad exhaustion, and it becomes so that it becomes a re-iteration of the present. By means of the logic of reiterations, they compel a dramaturgical coexistence of the past and present within the same performative framework – and within this field, new articulations of history are possible. Tomislav Medak, performing in The League of Time/Liga vremena, suggests these new articulations in the guise of the metaphor of bridge-building: “In this time we took a stroll of remains of bridges yet to be built, excavating remanence of future time and letting our imagination to run wild” (The League of Time 2009: 21:55). And in the abstract world of neoliberalism that swiftly co-opts every production of meaning, they are advocating for a repetition of past, bygone non-sense poetry as an antidote for the present. Following BADco.’s recipe, I will conclude this essay with a poem in Serbo-Croatian, available for your future Google translations:


Koreografija za budućnost

Stojim na desnoj nozi

Poviše svoje lijeve noge

Pa gledam kako povijest

Opet bije isto


Stojim na desnoj nozi

Ne spavam jer stoji

Sutra ću opet




Mark Fisher (2014): Ghosts of My Life, Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures, Winchester, Washington: zero books

Fredric Jameson (2005): Archeologies of the Future, The Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions, London, New York: Verso

Fredric Jameson (2016): “Foreword” in: Darko Suvin Splendour, Misery, and Possibilities An X-Ray of Socialist Yugoslavia, Leiden: Boston, pp XIX -1

Other sources: Dance performance League of Time/Liga Vremena (2009), BADco. [Hartera, Rijeka, 07.09.2009]


This essay is inspired and comes out my PhD research entitled Daydreams for a Future Past: Dramaturgies from former Yugoslavia and its contributions to contemporary dance which is situated at the Department of Dance Studies at the Free University Berlin.


[1] According to the city administration, funding for the independent dance scene from the City of Zagreb this year amounted to 625,000 euros, representing almost double the increase from last year’s 348,000 euros.


[1] See: bezimeni.wordpress.com/works/league-of-time/ [01.02.2024]


[1] See: Darko Suvin (2016): Splendour, Misery, and Possibilities An X-Ray of Socialist Yugoslavia, Leiden: Boston

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