Stephanie Handjiiska is director & choreographer based in London & Bulgarian born. Also, Yoga Teacher RYT, movement director and a MA graduate of the London Contemporary Dance School.
She is the Chairman & Artistic Director of Man with a Hat Foundation.
Currently living in London, but works on both fronts - GB and BG. We are happy that she's agreed to answer some of our questions related to her personal and professional story just before the premier of her short film INNER BLOOM, which is part of the Trilogy BECOMING.
Stephanie's new film INNER BLOOM, dedicated to femininity and the female body, you can see at the premiere at the Cinema House on February 3, 2022 at 19:00.
INNER BLOOM Trailer below.
Full interview below and links to her work and collaboration at the end of the page!
Photo Credit: Camila Greenwell & Adriana Yankulova
How did you end up in Britain and how did you start dancing and everything around them?
I found myself in London, Great Britain, completely deliberately and with a lot of effort - at the age of 25 as a young choreographer and dancer in Bulgaria I just felt that it was time to make a leap for development abroad before I settled too much with my lifestyle in Bulgaria.
I applied for a Master's degree in Choreography at the London Contemporary Dance School and at the Co-Darts in Rotterdam, and I was accepted in both places. I chose London, but I could not afford to study there. At the same time, a very interesting thing happened - I was chosen for an international contract in Cairo, Egypt, for the legendary artist Sherihan. I went to Cairo, and while I was taking pictures there, it turned out that I had received a scholarship for a master's degree in London.
So I moved from Cairo to London for one day, from a 40 degree summer, I went to live in Hackney, London in an 11 degree autumn.
Dancing has always been something I want to do, I'm attracted to creativity in dance. Ever since I was a child, I have been inventing dances and performances, and
I have always wanted to create work and community situations rather than be a dancer in a troupe.
As a person who is active on both fronts UK and Bulgaria, what do you think about the development of the creative industry in Bulgaria?
The creative industry in Bulgaria needs very serious changes, a serious investment from the state and the spectators themselves, …
… who are interested in art and allow themselves to be involved in it. I think that the sector itself, the artists themselves, are extremely energetic, ideological and last but not least - with endurance, and with a lot of ingenuity they overcome the current conditions.
We lack organizations that produce artistic work so that artists can dedicate themselves to creation. We also lack a more engaged audience, maybe here comes the question of what the Bulgarian audience needs?
I think people need inspiration, community, faith, innovation - but these are my feelings.
Many people wonder if they should come back to Bulgaria, because of prejudices about the topic. An effort has to be made though.
And you are a person who does exactly that. Puts in the effort.
What are you doing to change the scene in the literal and figurative sense in Bulgaria? How do you build the bridge between here and there, your knowledge and your socially - enriched understanding of development - here in Bulgaria?
My work at the moment is probably 50/50 divided between Bulgaria and London, and in both places I am in a very different position.
In London, I am a new artist who wants to create collaborations, learn, do new projects and is still building her name. I'm just getting my first selections for big festivals - Dance Umbrella, Resolution, my first residencies as artists - at Studio Wayne McGregor. I am about to shoot my first solo film as a director - "Bulgarian Women" in London with 13 dancers at the end of March 2022.
Bulgaria is my home, whose problems I take to heart, and I am actively fighting for it to become a better place to live. I have been running the Man with a Hat Foundation in Bulgaria for 6 years - our mission is to develop contemporary dance and dance film in the country.
Our big project Focus Cinema Dance is happening for the second year.
In it we have a training program for artists in dance cinema, which creates a unique artistic society and many new collaborations start from there. This year we have a production platform led by Kosta Karakashyan, in which we will produce two new Bulgarian dance films through a competition.
Finally - my personal favorite initiative is "Dance Cinema on the Road to Bulgaria" - we tour small towns and villages in the country, where we show our dance films for free and do workshops and discussions with locals.
Naturally, it turns out that in some way I 'represent' Bulgaria here in cosmopolitan London, where the whole world has gathered. People see the work I create in Bulgaria, they see the work of my organization "Man with a Hat" Foundation - I try to make quality connections and partnerships between the two worlds. In Focus Cinema Dance we have the opportunity to invite big names from Britain and the United States dance film and to meet the students directly with them in conversation. I guess I'm a natural 'conductor' of art '.
What will you continue to do in your career and what would you advise those who are looking for opportunities here and in the UK?
I want to give a lot of courage to all artists, a career in art is a difficult but not impossible endeavor. We face many rejections, but this should not define our artistic practice. My advice is - find your values and where you want to go, and follow them closely. Sooner or later everything will work out.
Learn and find out more about this artists here: