About the Waterman ballet
Bled Island is the only natural lake island in Slovenia and at the same time a historical, cultural, and today also the tourist heartof Slovenia. It has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and the pilgrimage church of the Assumption of Mary stands on a site that is one of the oldest preserved cultic sites in Slovenia.
The idyllic image for which the island is today known worldwide has inspired many artists, including the Slovenian poet France Prešeren, author of A Toast (Zdravljica), awarded the European Heritage Label in 2020 and which seventh stanza was chosen as Slovenian's national anthem thirty years ago.
In his epic poem Baptism at Savica (Krst pri Savici), France Prešeren placed the temple of the Old Slavic goddess Živa on Bled Island and, with his literary imagination, laid the mythological foundations of the Slovenian nation in this sacred space. He also drew on folk tradition for the material in his ballad The Water Man. In it, he tells the story of an arrogant young woman from Ljubljana who takes so long to choose her dancing partner that she is finally chosen as a bride by the Water Man. This story is the starting point for a ballet exploration of modern man and his values. Could it be that, like Prešeren’s young woman, we have crossed the line of hybris or arrogance in the way we live today, which, according to the ancient Greeks, provokes “the wrath of the gods”?
The water surrounding Bled Island was not an obstacle for the original settlers and pilgrims, instead the island in the middle of the lake gave them a sense of safety and refuge. Ancient European philosophical tradition speaks of water as the origin of the world. Water is therefore a place of origin, birth and growth. Furthermore, water is a place of purification and cleansing, which allows us to leave behind all that is bad and open ourselves to the light of the good, the new and the different.
The Water Man ballet is based on Slovenian mythological origins and the poetic legacy of France Prešeren, which helped Slovenian literature reach one of its highpoints in European literary history. The Water Man is thus a Slovenian call and a gift to both Europe and the world to return to our civilisational foundations after our torrid struggle with a viral disease and to redefine our common spiritual and cultural values on these bases, both in relation to nature and to our fellow human beings. This ballet by the internationally renowned choreographer Edward Clug uses a dialogue with the past to address us today in our search of solutions for the future, and brings the message that a love of life is the foundation of an integrated and united Europe.