A music theater piece by Petra Strahovnik

Based on the book ‘Ballerina, Ballerina’ by Slovenian writer Marko Sosič

 Concept, composition, and sound art: Petra Strahovnik

Stage Director/Designer: Rocc

Music Director: Ezequiel Menalled

Production: Slovenian Chamber Music Theatre, and Ensemble Modelo62

Co-production: Cankar Centre and Opera Povera

19 & 20 October 2020 Linhart Hall, Cankar Ljubljana, Slovenia

21 October Velenje Festival, Slovenia

Banner photo: Joris Jan Bos



The novel “Ballerina, Ballerina” tells the story of a typical seafaring family in a town that overlooks Trieste through a surrealistic, rather than sickly, view of its heroine; a person with autism. She constantly dreams about a world that matches the one in her mind’s eye. Gazing towards the high starry sky above, she sees the satellites traveling and she longs for them. The world in Ballerina’s peripheral view is both sharp and dull at the same time, lyrically fragile and yet ruthless, cruel but fortunately short-lived. It is ours, our here and now, our always unpredictable world.


Petra’s opera piece is not a dramatization of the novel, but instead an ephemeral sound-space where the inspirations and inner atmospheres of Ballerina come to life. The stage is divided into imaginary chambers where everyone’s individual and intimate artistic action takes place: action slowly becomes a reaction, reaction becomes an action of its own, and soloistic awareness graduates into a collective symphonic interaction. The complex perspective and Ballerina’s train of thought, influencing her emotions and senses, is channelled through three art disciplines: music, performance art and video. The duality of two singers as an aspect of complex emotions in the world of Ballerina is expressed through amusical concept ‘Continuum’, where the beautiful mind, intense emotions, complex personality, ‘united and divided’ lie under a magnifying glass.


The objective theatrical point of view is supported by a live-camera on stage that focuses one detail after another, resulting in a projection of micro-moments as a subjective truth. The camera is also a performer, an instrument of a live VJ situated on the set. Every performer creates its own private story, and all together they embody the associative inner world of Ballerina’s mind. Actions happen, reactions interweave, emotions pour, and the normally closed inner world of the heroine is exhibited so that the audience can plunge into it and deeply connect with her.

“I took the book ‘Ballerina, Ballerina’ in my hands, right when I was in very confused times. The sensations overtook by body, the emotions my mind. My breathing became shallow and from very far I could see, feel, touch one sound engaging with the other. Torn between an inner world of ideas manifesting in audible creations and the outside world. The inner world, along with existential questions, was taking over, while the reality expected from me to be a perfect Society’ resident, play multiple characters of a life, and to act (live) as my culture taught me to act (live). I could envision from her eyes, I felt what she felt, I was Ballerina, I am Ballerina. My aim is to illuminate the diversity of Neuroatypical’ perspective and bring the Autism up close and personal” (Petra Strahovnik)


Extended artistic collaboration.

This music theater piece is the culmination of disOrders, a long-term collaboration project between Ensemble Modelo62 and Slovenian/Dutch composer Petra Strahovnik. During this period they have created new works combining performance art, video, and electronics, to raise questions on the place and importance of mental health in our society. An overview of these works includes:

  1. Five installations for solo performers, performed simultaneously in five galleries in The Hague. Each installation is based on a different mental condition: Depression, ADHD, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder.
  2. Three works for soloist plus ensemble. To be presented in Korzo Theater, The Hague, and during Gaudeamus Muziekweek. The works are based on three different mental conditions: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Schizophrenia.


BallerinaBallerina is made possible thanks to the financial support of Fonds Podiumkunsten, Stichting Dioraphte and Gemeente Den Haag.