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Poet Novak, ballet dancer Mejač win Prešeren Prizes

Ljubljana, 16 January - Poet, playwright and translator Boris A. Novak and ballet dancer, choreographer and director Janez Mejač have won this year's Prešeren Prizes, Slovenia's top lifetime honours for the arts, the Prešeren Fund announced on Tuesday.

Ljubljana
The management board of the Prešeren Fund declares the winners of Slovenia's top honours for the arts, Prešeren Prize and Prešeren Fund Prize.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Ljubljana
The management board of the Prešeren Fund declares the winners of Slovenia's top honours for the arts, Prešeren Prize and Prešeren Fund Prize.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Ljubljana
The management board of the Prešeren Fund declares the winners of Slovenia's top honours for the arts, Prešeren Prize and Prešeren Fund Prize.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Ljubljana
The management board of the Prešeren Fund declares the winners of Slovenia's top honours for the arts, Prešeren Prize and Prešeren Fund Prize.
Photo: Daniel Novakovič/STA

Ljubljana
Poet Boris A. Novak
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA
File photo

Ljubljana
Ballet dancer Janez Mejač
Photo: Stanko Gruden/STA
File photo

Novak has been playing a significant role in the Slovenian cultural landscape for 40 years as a poet, playwright, translator, author, socially-engaged intellectual, literary scientist and university professor, the jury said.

Although he started writing poetry in the period of radical, late Modernism, his work formed a new movement, by opening new ways of expression. His sonnets, ballades and other classical forms showed the features of a new era, Postmodernism.

According to the jury, Novak used all of his skills and poet's instruments in his "magnificent" epic poem Vrata nepovrata (The Door of No Return).

"He interwove an epic narrative with lyric poetry, a modern free verse with classical verses and poetry forms, upheld its framework with resonance and its resonance with framework.

"He leavened a documented history and family recollection with uncontrolled poetic imagination and profound personal meditation. He complemented strict and bitter rational observation with untainted sensual and emotional perception," the jury wrote about the 2,300-page epic poem that earned Novak the prestigious poetry award the Veronika Prize this year.

The 81-year-old Mejač was honoured for the "immense" mark he left on the Slovenian ballet art scene of the 20th century.

In the two decades he dominated Slovenian ballet art, Mejač performed in 84 solo roles which he created in cooperation with 26 Slovenian and foreign choreographers.

Between 1971 and 1973, he organised more than 70 ballet concerts around Slovenia and in neighbouring countries. He danced in 80 TV shows and made choreographies for some 20 TV projects.

He was the head of the Ljubljana Ballet for two terms and led the ballet school at the SSG theatre in Trieste for 20 years. He choreographed more than 60 productions. He has remained active as lecturer even after he retired in 1987.

Mejač has received several awards for his work, including the 2011 Lydia Wisiakova Ballet lifetime achievement award.

The six Prešeren Fund Prizes, given out for achievements in the last two years, went to filmmaker Marko Brdar, actor Matej Puc, performer Simona Semenič, ballet dancer Valentina Turcu, photographer Boris Gaberščik and intermedia artist Maja Smrekar.

The prizes will be given out at a national ceremony on the eve of 8 February Culture Day, which is celebrated in memory of Slovenia's greatest poet France Prešeren (1800-1849).

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© STA, 2018