Maga Magazinović (1882–1968), was one of the most educated women in Serbia at the start of 20th century, a pioneer of artistic dance, but also on the battlefield of women’s equality. She graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy as the first female candidate in her group. She also enrolled at the Faculty of Law so as to open the door to female students into the up-till-then exclusively male domain of law studies. As the first female clerk in the National Library, in 1905 she worked as a trainee and the first journalist who published articles for Politika daily (1905/1906). Artistic, dancing and theatrical knowledge she acquired with the most prominent theatre names of her time in Germany: Max Reinhardt, Émile Jaques-Dalcroze, Rudolf von Laban, Isadora Duncan. As the first educated dancer, she opened a school of modern dancing (1910), at the time when in Serbia the classical ballet had not yet existed. In 1936, she founded the Student Folklore Group; she greatly contributed to spreading of dancing skills, the new understanding of female body and gradual reducing of aloofness towards women in various domains of professional creation. She is one of the progenitors of choreodrama in our country. She is the author of the first professional literature and texts on dancing in Serbia. She died on 8th February 1968.
Smiljana Mandukić (1907–1992), was the progenitor of modern dancing in Serbia and the region. She acquired her dancing expertise in Vienna where she made first successes on stage as a solo dancer. She learned from famous Viennese artists: Gertrud Bodenwieser and Grete Wiesenthal.
In the interwar period, she performed in Belgrade, where in 1931 she founded a modern dance school. She even held her dancing classes on the Radio Belgrade waves from 1931 till 1940. She was one of the procreators of choreodrama as a specific theatre genre in our region. She also established the first professional troupe for modern dance by which she affirmed the alternative dancing movement.
She was an instructor of Rhythmic and Stage Movement from 1941 till 1946 at the Academy of Music, and also a professor teaching Stage Movement at the Higher School of Film from 1947 till 1950. She took part in the founding of the City Ballet School in Belgrade and was its main teacher. She engaged in choreographic and educational work at the Cultural and Artistic Association “Abrašević” and in the professional dancing troupe “The Belgrade Modern Ballet of Smiljana Mandukić”, which she founded in the seventies. She died on 12th May 1992. The Ballet Artists Association of Serbia established in 2012 an award named after Smiljana Mandukić, a pioneer of modern dance in Serbia.
Jovanka Bjegojević (1931–2015), was a prima ballerina of the National Theatre in Belgrade who earned world-wide recognition. She performed in a tremendous number of impressive roles and had a reputation of an excelling artist who, in her interpretations, brought about a unity of spiritual, emotional and bodily expression. She danced with great success in France as a member of troupe of the famous Jean Babilée; she danced in the National Ballet of Australia as a prima ballerina in famous ballets, such as Swan Lake, La Sylphide, Giselle, The Sleeping Beauty… Enriko Josif composed specially for her the famous Serbian ballet Bird, Don’t Fold Your Wings. At the Faculty of Drama Arts in Belgrade, she introduced the course of Stage Dance at the Department of Acting, where the prospective actors learn the basics of classic dance and culture of movement. In addition to being prima ballerina and her performances in the classic repertoire, she gave an enormous contribution to contemporary artistic dance. As a pedagogue, she contributed to the development of the Serbian dancing community and participated in the establishment of the Association of Ballet Artists of Serbia in 1962. She was the Director of the Ballet of the National Theatre in Belgrade. She was a laureate of the Seventh of July Award in 1962 and of the Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed by the Association of Ballet Artists of Serbia in 1998. She died on 30th August 2015.
Dušanka Sifnios (1933–2016), prima ballerina of the National Theatre in Belgrade, world-renowned ballet star, soloist in the famous troupe of Maurice Béjart – Ballet of the XX century. After the Ballet School in Belgrade, which she finished in the class of a famous Russian ballerina, Nina Kirsanova, she entered the Ballet Company of the National Theatre in Belgrade, where she had, while still a student, already played solo roles in the Swan Lake. As a prima ballerina of the Belgrade Ballet Company, with extraordinary performances in Orpheus, La Sylphide, Romeo and Juliet, Giselle, Coppélia, she remains unsurpassable for the fantastic performance of the role of the Girl in the The Miraculous Mandarin, to the music of Béla Bartók and the choreography of Dimitrije Parlić. She cooperated with world-renowned choreographers Léonide Massine and Milorad Mišković in Italy and France, but will always be remembered for playing in Maurice Béjart’s ballet troupe: Ballet of the XX Century. The famous Béjart, inspired by her, created the legendary historical ballet Bolero, to the music of Maurice Ravel. Dušanka Sifnios also made a film version of Bolero for Bavarian television, as well as The Fantastic Toyshop, The Blue Danube, etc. She won the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Association of Ballet Artists of Serbia in 1998. Dušanka Sifnios died on 14th October 2016.
Expert collaboration: Vera Obradović, PhD (Professor) and Svenka Savić, PhD (Professor Emerita); Belgrade City Museum and Association of Ballet Artists of Serbia.
Artistic realization: MA Nadežda Skočajić, academic graphic artist.