Uncommon Wisdom: Stephanie Handjiiska
“Uncommon Wisdom” is about sharing those habits or stories that we wouldn’t normally think to share. There’s so much talk about morning routines and self-care practices these days but a lot of it can seem kind of superficial or maybe just predictable and repetitive. This is why we asked a bunch of high-performing creatives and entrepreneurs a few questions about awareness, energy, and productivity. We wanted to learn something a bit more unexpected, and here’s what we found out.
Who is Stephanie Handjiiska?
Stephanie Handjiiska is a dance artist, director and choreographer with 25 years of experience in the field of contemporary dance. She holds an MA degree in Contemporary Dance specializing in Choreography with a first-class honours from the London School of Contemporary Dance in 2020. She is the winner of the ATLAS scholarship from ImPulsTanz 2019 and an ICAR nominee for contemporary dance and performance with “Ion (a play for the adopted)”. Stephanie currently works between Sofia and London, where she is currently undertaking a 200 hours of yoga teacher training at TripSpace London Yoga and Dance with a scholarship. Her work explores femininity, capitalism and musicality. She is, moreover, the founder of Man with a Hat, a Bulgarian NGO aiming to develop young artists in the field of dance and dance film. Stephanie has created the dance films “Glance from the Edge” and “INNER BLOOM” in collaboration with director and choreographer Kosta Karakashyan, and is the author of multiple stage works including “84 DIALS”, a dance show on capitalism. In 2020 her solo work “Presence <> Absence” was selected for the prestigious British festival “Dance Umbrella”. Her dance style is inspired by the ultimate femininity, waves and musicality.
#1. What's something unexpected or uncommon that made you more aware?
Working collaboratively with others is definitely something that made me more aware. Monitoring and observing how to be myself and give space to others to be themselves in the rehearsal studio. Finding the outer expression of the divine dancer hidden in me while encouraging others and holding space for them to find theirs. Furthermore, I have found that dosing my social media also helps with my awareness. It’s very easy to get eaten by it and all of the digital emotions of what other people are doing with their lives. Social media is a powerful tool I can use to tell others about my journey in dance and creativity, and at the same time it can completely wipe out my awareness if I am not being intentional with it. I like to take time off and schedule my posts, leaving just a little bit of scrolling space here and there. But I need to keep reminding myself – it’s not natural to know what all of my friends and colleagues are doing all the time.
#2. What's something unexpected or uncommon that gives you energy?
People’s joy gives me a lot of energy. People’s love, emotions, interactions. Meeting the audience after a performance. Ever since I was a child, every time I was riding the tram to go to my ballet class, I was imagining that, instead of just a rehearsal we will have a performance. I was sitting in these old Bulgarian trams, looking at the autumn rain through the window, imagining everyone from the audience coming towards the theatre like rivers full of lava illuminating the whole city. I find that inspiring! We just had the premiere of a new dance show on capitalism on which we have been working for a whole year. The audience’s participation, comments, joy and excitement made everything worth it.
#3. What's something unexpected or uncommon that makes you more productive?
Deadlines make me really productive. I need them, I love deadlines! I know exactly when I should start working towards a deadline, and no matter how hard it is to sit down and complete something, once I sit down and begin, it feels like I am in a bobsleigh, gliding down the tunnel, looking only one way.
#4. What does your morning ritual look like?
In the morning, I try to stay away from social media for as long as possible. I drink squeezed lemon, I shower, and I lovingly massage rosehip oil into my skin. I like to spend the first moments of the day on my yoga mat, gently moving my spine and lengthening myself. I often imagine I am an octopus, or another creature that is slowly stretching and lengthening. I imagine I am made of light. I search for the shapes that my body suggests and I trust my intuition. I slowly write a to-do list offline, or on a piece of paper.
#5. What does your evening ritual look like?
Evenings are reserved for my boyfriend. If I’m at home in London, we usually spend the last 30 minutes of the day cuddling, relaxing together, often reading as well – we have our own book club. If bedtime is 11pm, it’s best if social media goes away even earlier, around 9pm. When I am on a dance job, away from home, we would spend the same amount of time on the phone and we’ll read the book from our book club to each other. Some evenings he reads to me and some evenings I read to him, picking up where we left off. It actually takes months to read a book on the phone, and we have been reading the same one since February. We’re still only half-way through. Reading to each other gives us the possibility to take care of one another in an absolute way, without judgement. Sometimes I am away for weeks at a time and this evening ritual really helps us to stay close, no matter how long we are physically apart.
Cover photo by Nikola Gyulmezov
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