Zuna Vesan Kozánková (née Bacová, 1973, Žilina) graduated from Eva Jaczová’s Dance Conservatory and the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava where she majored in pedagogy of modern dance. She completed several internships in Europe and Asia. Besides dance schools, she also attended the Shiatsu KI School and studied acupuncture at Guang Ming Beijing University in Prague. In 1995, she studied in France at the choreography centres Diverrés/Montet in Rénnes, Claude Brumachon in Nantes, and CNDC – the National Centre for Contemporary Dance in Angers. In 1997 and 1998, she studied in Vienna, Austria, as part of the European danceWEB scholarship programme for contemporary dance, where she did internships with eminent international pedagogues and choreographers, such as Frey Faust (USA), Hope Martin (USA), José Navas (Canada), Andrew de L. Harwood (Canada), David Zambrano (USA), Mia Lawrence (USA), Alarmél Valli (India), Mamadou M’Baye (Senegal), among others. During an artistic residency at the Dance Centre, School of Performing Arts in Bangkok, Thailand in 2000, Kozánková studied the techniques of aikido, yoga, and classical Thai dance. At the Manor House in Mojmírovce, she extended her education by studying lighting design as part of a programme organized by the Association of Contemporary Dance and the Dutch Moving Academie for Performing Arts (MAPA).
While a student at the Dance Conservatory, she initiated close collaboration with Zuzana Ďuricová Hájková. After graduation, the collaboration continued in Hájková’s Contemporary Dance Group and later also in the State Opera in Banská Bystrica, where she worked not only as a dancer, but also as a dance pedagogue and assistant choreographer. In 1996, she and Milan Kozánek established the Artyci Dance Company.
In addition to the choreographic work for Artyci, as well as other ensembles, Kozánková has been a sought-after pedagogue and lecturer of dance and its alternative forms. She has taught in Bratislava, Banská Bystrica, Prague, Salzburg, Vienna, Leeds, Freiburg, Wroclaw, Poznan, Bangkok, Beijing, and Hong-Kong. During the thirty years of her pedagogical activities, Kozánková has developed a unique system of working with the human body based on a thorough understanding of human anatomy and the energy flows in the body. The system is supplemented by contemporary dancing techniques, body awareness and contact improvisation. In her creative and pedagogical work, she interconnects practical dance knowledge with the universal principles of Taoism – this is possible thanks to her having studied Chinese medicine and qigong. As a result, she has developed a methodical system aimed at improving movement intelligence. As a pedagogue, Kozánková has worked at the SEAD school in Salzburg, Austria, the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds, UK, and the Bewegungs-art school in Freiburg, Germany. She and her husband Milan Kozánek founded the Pangea Meetingpoint centre in the Orlice Mountains in the Czech Republic. Kozánková has also worked as a pedagogue for the summer dance workshops Dance in the Mountains which has been taking place every year since 2000. Dance in the Mountains has started the tradition of training dancers and gradually become a preferred international summer dance school. During the more than twenty years of the school’s existence, over 500 participants have attended its workshops, including dancers from Slovakia and the Czech Republic, students from nearly all European countries, as well as Israel, India, Japan, USA, Canada, and China.
Kozánková has led two long-term research projects – Medicine in Dance and Dancing Qigong. They are both focused on interconnecting Taoist philosophy and Chinese medicine with the life of artists, particularly as regards their health and the development of the performative aspect of their presentation. Dancing Qigong aims to aid in improving dancing techniques, facilitating a better interpretational experience for performers, while strengthening the knowledge about healthy use of the body, thus ensuring a longer artistic career.
Zuna Vesan Kozánková has extended her activities also to writing about dance art. She has published reviews of dance performances, articles and essays about dance, interviews with eminent dance personalities, and contributions about health and qigong – in Slovak and international dance and theatre journals, on professional dance websites, as well as magazines on alternative medicine.
In 2018, she published her first book entitled Tao – the Path to Health, which was later published in three further editions. In 2020, her second book came out under the title Meridians – the Lines of Life, and in 2021 her third book Exercise as a Medicine.
Already in her early work, Zuna Vesan Kozánková focused on the body and its anatomical possibilities. She managed to create an original and complex movement language, which is very appealing on stage owing to her own physical disposition. Kozánková’s intellect and spiritual meditation are translated in her work into interesting physical expression, internally initiated gestures, and unbridled physical action.
In the production entitled Myth, the artists sought inspiration from the mythical imagery of ancient Slavs. They juxtaposed the values of the past and present world trying to revive the roots of our past that became nearly forgotten.
In the multimedia project Hard Landing, Kozánková crossed the boundary between the auditorium and the stage, in an attempt to eliminate the difference between various art forms. The project hosted artists from various genre backgrounds from Bratislava, Austria, and the United Kingdom – dancers Elke Mueller (A), Robert Tirpák, Zuna and Milan Kozánek / actress Monika Haasová / visual artists Martin Moravčík and Iveta Haasová / photographer Štefan Psotný / musicians Igor Szabó, Martin Zajko / DJ John Suttill, Jorg Christian (UK, A).
Between 2008 and 2016, in collaboration with Milan Kozánek, she organized the improvised conceptual project Couch Corner. It was a platform for experienced dance performers from different places to meet in an improvised living room on stage. The result was a combination of conversations on topical issues with dance improvisation, which turned into a kind of dance-talk show on philosophical and even quite prosaic topics, touching on the lifestyle of the dancers and their families. The themes – which were related to dance, to the performers themselves, and to the city where the format took place – were shared in the discussion part and were also interwoven into the themes of the dance improvisation entries.
Kozánková’s project Towards Oneself was conceived in close cooperation with British DJ John Suttill and Slovak visual artist Martin Moravčík. The performance is an artistic testimony about searching for the meaning of life, the quest for a path back to fundamental and pure human values. In a devised solo project, the choreographer addressed the topic of merging and correlating the principal patterns of the universe. Kozánková confronts the fragility of human beings with their tensions and perpetual movement. In the escalations of creation and extinction, the artist found parallels with a Faustian quest for the meaning of life. The refined visuals by Martin Moravčík became a truly stunning work of art used in the dance genre at that time. Similarly, the ratio Kozánková chose between dancing and projections, was so unique that it disrupted the established and careful conventions. The balance between the medium of dance (or movement) and the visual technologies created a magical atmosphere – a distinctive prism of concentrated viewing. Scenes of galaxy formation and extinction were metamorphosed in the choreography into delicate movement of the performer in anatomically extreme positions. Multidimensional images found their mirror images in the dancer’s small intimate gestures, the subtlety of her touch and the combination of acoustic sound and John Suttill’s electronic music.
Conceived as a dance and music concert, the production For Gaia used improvisation as a powerful tool of the present moment. From its seeming randomness and inscrutability, the choreographer created a natural regularity. On the occasion of International Earth Day, Zuna Vesan Kozánková joined forces with the phenomenal musician and outstanding improviser Maok to pay tribute to our planet. A projection of photographs by Boris Verseghy and Zuna Vesan Kozánková, including shots of the landscape, sea, and sky, with added poetic close-ups of plants and animals, clarified the context of the attitude the artists took towards ecological and spiritual themes. The subtle connections between the micro-and macrocosm and their mutual interaction are choreographed in archetypal symbols.
The performer enjoyed the stability of the horizontal in relaxed lying positions, revealing the beauty of the earth’s gravity. She perceived the surface of the stage as a base for expansion into multidimensional airspace. The dancer engaged all of her senses as she explored the earth, smelling it, taking in its smell and moisture, absorbing its warmth, kneading the clay in the ground, and caressing it. She embraced it and cuddled with it – the slow movements becoming an intimate ritual, a prayer of thanksgiving. The performer identified and merged with the Earth, and defined herself in it and with it. The circle of clay symbolized the cycle of birth, life, and death. The dancer explored the circle, gently touching it, entering into it, and blending in with its lines in the liminal positions of her extraordinarily apt body. The petals of the flowers represented the fragility of beauty, tenderness, and impermanence. The dancer had the flowers in her hair, protected them on her body, and scattered them with delight across the stage. In the end, she planted a bush in the ground, a symbol of new birth, wetting the life-giving earth with her own saliva. The communication between the metaphysical space and the concreteness of the dancer’s physical expression found its equivalent in the communication with the musician Maok. They shared the stage space, listened to each other, influenced, and supported each other in their expression.
The themes of the individual dance images, within the maximal possibilities of their medium, were interpreted autonomously by both artists. Thus, they achieved a pliant expression while maintaining a sufficient statement clarity during the musical-dance syncretisation of the chosen means of expression. This intimate communication was supported by Ján Čief’s lighting design. The light focuses the viewer’s attention to detail, illuminating the stage area, revealing the breadth of connections, and changing the atmosphere of the subtle dance images with its colour. Thanks to its versatility, the production became one of the most successful performances at the 2015 Beijing International Dance Festival NEW in China (Beijing, Xi’an).
The cyclic nature of life’s metamorphoses and the reminder of the need to find a balance between receiving and giving become apparent in Kozánková’s choreography also owing to the seeming simplicity of the directorial approach and the straightforwardness of the dramaturgical structure.
The Dance Studio Theatre in Banská Bystrica saw the premiere of the three-part feature production 3x20 Women in 2019. It was choreographed by Martina Hajdyla Lacová, Lívia Méndez Balážová and Zuna Vesan Kozánková. The production won the DOSKY 2019 Award for an exceptional dance theatre performance. Kozánková’s choreography entitled Spaces pushes the audience into a kind of future, a utopian vision of society in which people want to coexist as part of the whole, but remain isolated on their little islands of solitude. The melancholic and meditative mood of the whole choreography gives the impression of peace and serenity. Meditative static dance images are complemented by shots of the dizzying transformations and processes in the universe. The white tight-fitting costume allowed the spectator to observe details of the dance movements, the fine articulation of the spine, its exposed positions and also the impression of fluidity of the limb joints. These are the qualities that characterize the interpretative uniqueness of Kozánková’s dance expressivity. Maria Júdová’s projections with dynamic optics of shots of the cosmos and the immensity of its space were replaced by a view from above of a small dot – our world. In doing so, the artist relativized the significance of the human dramas of failure, the stubbornness and recklessness of human striving. By directing the movement sequences in a circle, as well as the cyclical nature of the images, the choreographer emphasized the idea that humans are part of a higher system, that they are a single particle of the universe. Due to the esoteric nature of the choreography, it brought an existential reassurance; the artist consciously avoided a narrative of definition. In the dramaturgical concept, Kozánková generously worked with a temporal proportion to explore the limits of the spectator’s ability to concentrate.
In her choreographies, Kozánková works very sensitively with the visual aspect, thoughtfully and purposefully using new media to achieve connections in expressing the abstractness of philosophical opinion and technically demanding dance elements. The stage treatment of native and ecological themes and their artistic utilization also resonate strongly with the present times and issues. The choreographer addresses the basic questions of human coexistence with nature in a highly progressive manner. Her work is characterized by a movement ecology in which she consistently avoids unnecessary mannerisms and confidently uses the performative power of authentic gestures.
- 1992 – The Circle, Zuzana Hájková’s Contemporary Dance Group, choreography: Zuzana Bacová. Premiere: Slovak Radio Chamber Studio, Bratislava
- 1995 – One Big Yes, Faculty of Music and Dance, Academy of Performing Arts, Tanco Teatro, choreography: Zuzana Bacová. Premiere: Courtyard of the Faculty of Music and Dance, Academy of Performing Arts, Bratislava
- 1996 – Wings, Modern Dance Group Alfa, choreography: Zuzana Bacová. Premiere: Dúbravka House of Culture, Bratislava
- 1996 – With You, Artyci, Dvorana Movement Studio, choreography: Zuzana Kozánková and Milan Kozánek. Premiere: Courtyard of the Faculty of Music and Dance, Academy of Performing Arts, Bratislava
- 1996 – Myth, Artyci, Dvorana Movement Studio, choreography: Zuzana Kozánková. Premiere: Courtyard of the Faculty of Music and Dance, Academy of Performing Arts, Bratislava
- 1997 – Another World, Department of Dance Art, Academy of Performing Arts and Academy of Fine Arts and Design, Dvorana Movement Studio, directed and choreography by Zuzana Kozánková. Premiere: Courtyard of the Faculty of Music and Dance, Academy of Performing Arts, Bratislava
- 1998 – Hard Landing, Artyci, conceived and directed by Zuzana Kozánková. Premiere: Aréna Theatre, Bratislava
- 1999 – Towards Oneself, Artyci, choreography: Zuzana Kozánková. Premiere: Aréna Theatre, Bratislava
- 2000 – New Ritual, Bratislava in Movement, Artyci, conceived and directed by: Zuzana Kozánková and Milan Kozánek. Premiere: site-specific project, streets of Bratislava Old Town
- 2001 – One Yin for Every Yang, Artyci, choreography: Zuzana Kozánková. Premiere: Aréna Theatre, Bratislava
- 2004 – NUMEN@LUMEN.sk, Artyci, conceived by Zuzana Kozánková and Milan Kozánek. Premiere: Aréna Theatre, Bratislava
- 2004 – Sectio, Dance Studio Theatre, choreography: Zuzana Kozánková. Premiere: Dance Studio Theatre, Banská Bystrica
- 2005 – Cocoon invisible, Artyci, choreography: Zuna Kozánková. Premiere: V-club, A4 – Zero Space, Bratislava
- 2007 – Sui generis, Artyci, Ponec Theatre, choreography: Zuna Kozánková, Róbert Tirpák, Milan Kozánek. Premiere: Ponec Theatre, Prague
- 2008 – Twoism, Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance, SEAD, choreography: Zuna Kozánková. Premiere: SEAD, Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance (A)
- 2008 – Couch Corner, Artyci, New Space, conceived and directed by Zuna Kozánková, Milan Kozánek. Premiere: New Space, Bratislava
- 2011 – Zen Kiss, Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance, SEAD, choreography: Zuna Kozánková. Premiere: SEAD Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance (A)
- 2012 – Shui, Artyci, The Grotowski Institut Wroclaw, choreography: Zuna Vesan Kozánková. Premiere: The Grotowski Institut Wroclaw, Poland
- 2013 – For Gaia, Dance Studio Theatre, choreography: Zuna Vesan Kozánková. Premiere: Dance Studio Theatre, Banská Bystrica
- 2015 – Satsang, Dance Studio Theatre, choreography: Zuna Vesan Kozánková. Premiere: Dance Studio Theatre, Banská Bystrica
- 2016 – CH_6, Dance Studio Theatre, choreography: Zuna Vesan Kozánková. Premiere: Dance Studio Theatre, Banská Bystrica
- 2019 – Spaces, Dance Studio Theatre, choreography: Zuna Vesan Kozánková. Premiere: Dance Studio Theatre, Banská Bystrica