Aleksandra Nikolajev-Jones is a Serbian born choreographer/dancer, actress and educator living in Cardiff, Wales. She has produced for theatre, television and film in both the UK and in Serbia and is leading on the Building Balkan-UK Bridges initiative. Her production work has focused on intercultural collaborations between artists from diverse media and backgrounds and she has provided a gateway for several artists wishing to work on Balkan to successfully achieve their artistic ambitions.
Aleksandra is also working with professional dancers, actors, musicians and performers through CODA-Context Oriented Dance Approach she has developed over the last 25 years of experiences with her students from Serbia and Europe. CODA approach incorporates Authentic Body, a gentle creative movement method that brings together dance and performance techniques. And Creative Movement, discovering and exploring new ways to express ourselves, using our bodies, memories, dreams, experiences; and it is specialized for dancers and actors to break from habitual patterns and release unknown capacity.
During the troubled times in her countries recent history, Aleksandra toured as an Actress and Dancer with plays and political satire with the theatre company Cougars and the National Yugoslav Theatre Company. She also ran her own ballet studio for children from when she was 16. It was during these 25 years of teaching practice that she developed Balans – an exercise system that seamlessly combines yoga, Pilates, chi kung and ballet. Balans augments the other two methodologies that make up the CODA approach.
For 4 years after the war Aleksandra was involved in developing and implementing the National Strategy for Young People in Serbia. Seeing the need for theatre to engage more with healing the post-conflict society rather than just providing escapism and entertainment she trained as an Applied Theatre practitioner. As a trainer/educator for CEDEUM – Centre for Drama in Education and Art, Aleksandra was often selected to work in multi-ethnic areas most affected by the conflict. This experience gave her the ability to sum up clearly, and to engage participants in dialogue in sometimes complex and very emotionally charged situations.
In 2005 Aleksandra set up UG RAFT to deliver projects in Serbia that empowered young people and people with disabilities through participative theatre. She was responsible, as president, in engaging and encouraging teams of volunteers and paid staff to deliver projects successfully and according to UG RAFT’s humanitarian ideals. She was also responsible for coordinating all the NGO’s activities, which included international projects. www.ugraft.org
The NGO used Theatre of the Oppressed methods which have a set of principles http://ospiti.peacelink.it/giolli/giolli_gb/node4.html) to which it is important to adhere. And she was successful in sharing the democratic and non-violent values which the principles and methods promote with communities, institutions and volunteers. She was part of a team motivating and engaging 15,000 volunteers in non-verbal communication and perception trainings, anti-prejudice and intercultural dialogue for the ‘Universiada’ Sport Competition in Belgrade in 2009 http://www.fisu.net/en/Summer-Universiades-3490.html
In 2011 Aleksandra left Serbia to live in the UK with her husband, who is also an Applied Theatre practitioner. Together they run an international network of artists and organizations that are using the Context Oriented approach to arts., which is called The Republic of the Imagination. She is also currently working as choreographer and director for Theatr Ffynnon, South East Wales, UK. This is highly sensitive work with adults with learning difficulties and their helpers and she is encouraged by the feedback that the skills and abilities she has developed in her work in Serbia are highly valued and quite hard to come by here in the UK.
Authenticity does not happen by default. It needs to be carefully nourished with a culture of acceptance, support and recognition. It might be necessary to review the website – www.aleksandrajones.com and www.troti.org to understand the breadth of her work and the principles by which her operate.