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My Side of the World: Sonja Lapatanov

My dear adventurers, how are you today? After the first special blog post – an interview with Ms. Vesna Jugović de Vinca, I received a lot of emails and messages on social networks with suggestions whose “side of the world” you would like to see on my blog. I admit that I received a lot of interesting proposals, but one name stood out in particular – Sonja Lapatanov.

Sonja Lapatanov

She is one of the most famous ballet artist, choreographer and adventurer. Sonja Lapatanov, a world traveler who has traveled over 100 countries around the world. She has written several exceptional travel books (In Serbian language, these titles are just translated): In the lap of the Himalayas, Paradise Islands, Mama Africa, Mundo Maya, The Milky Way of the Ocean, The Green Continent. This tireless creative and adventurous soul took advantage of the days of quarantine and is just finishing her new book, which should soon be on our favourite shelves in bookstores all over Serbia and Balkan.

Algeria: Miraculous formations in the Sahara

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ms. Sonja for her time and for being able to share with us the memories of her amazing journeys. This interview will be really special and will be divided into two parts. Let’s go on a trip around the world with our famous world traveler Sonja Lapatanov!

Algeria: Among carpets and pillows

1. You are raised in a medical family and I’m sure you’ve been surrounded by white coats since childhood. How did you resist that phenomenon and become a ballerina?

Sonja Lapatanov: Medicine and white coats were a family tradition and an integral part of my life. I was surrounded by doctors, books in the field of medicine, stethoscopes, pressure gauges, beakers, surgical instruments, various bottles and patients, because my grandfather had an office in the house, until the then government banned private practice. It was logical for me to continue the family tradition and for dermatovenerology to be my specialty.

Southern Ethiopia: In the village of Konso people

In the house where we lived, Russian emigrants gathered. Among them was Mr. Bogdanovski. I was a restless child, so he suggested to my parents that he take me to the ballet school “Lujo Davičo”, where my indomitable temperament would be curbed through physical engagement. That’s how it started!

Pakistan: Famous Pakistani trucks

2. You have an interesting combination of Russian-German origin. What led you more in life: Russian poetics or German pragmatism?

Sonja Lapatanov: It depended on the situation. But it was not always easy to choose the east, or the west, which constantly intersect in my being. In childhood and early youth, the Russian soul was more dominant, and as life inevitably progressed, the German Prussian heritage prevailed.

Libya, Sahara: the magical desert Mandara lakes

3. What was your first association with Belgrade in the late fifties and sixties of the 20th century? Can you make a parallel between Belgrade then and now?

Sonja Lapatanov: In the “Age of the Crown”, when nature may have warned humanity for the last time that it has had enough of oppression over our planet, my Belgrade from the years you mention has returned to me. Unfortunately, only briefly. As soon as the state of emergency was lifted, hygienic and sanitary measures gave way, and ugly habits took over the city again. Traces of negligence and arrogance are already visible in some parts of the city; discarded protective masks and gloves and various waste.

South Africa: Cape of Good Hope

At the moment, at least in my area, Belgrade is beautiful, peaceful, quiet, safe, dignified, educated, full of greenery and birds that sing and chirp again. The streets are clean for now, spared thousands of thrown cigarette butts rolling down the street, chewing gum stuck to the sidewalk, body secretions from the nose and throat, trampled dog feces… Belgrade was like that until the end of the eighties, and then everything went down the hill. Since then, I have not made any kind of parallels!

Guatemala: Tikal, archaeological site

4. You were educated in Moscow and New York. What made a bigger impression on you as a ballerina, and what as a girl who comes from Eastern Europe, towards whom there are still numerous prejudices?

Sonja Lapatanov: Common to both metropolises was and is, the supreme art of the game; classical ballet on one side and musical, jazz and modern ballet on the other. Both sides left strong impressions, because it could not have been otherwise. After gaining impressive knowledge and vast experience and an internship at the Bolshoi Theater, I achieved my goal; to professionally improve and be the best.

Galapagos, Isabella Island: A little gossip with a sea lioness

As for prejudices, they are not in the art. We speak a universal body language, which everyone understands, and as a worldly woman, who does not have two relatives of the same nationality, I belong to the East and the West, as well as the North and the South.

Guatemala: Life in Chichiikastenango

5. You are considered to have set new standards in the field of choreography and stage movement. Were you aware of that then or did it become clear to you much later?

Sonja Lapatanov: Everything was clear to me from the beginning! After professional training, in the Russia and the USA, I dedicated myself to pedagogical and choreographic work, as well as the stage movement, developing into a creator of a special and original style, recognisable in countless theater performances and other types of stage performances.

Zimbabwe: Knox dance in front of the Queen and the King

I expertly incorporated steps and dance into the fabric of the play, contributing to the fact that in contemporary theater, stage movement and choreography become an important element of the director’s concept and the plays themselves. Based on my work in 1996, the Sterija Award for Choreography and Stage Movement was established, which I am especially proud of. For my creative work, I have received excellent feedback from the audience and critics, and I have won numerous significant professional and social recognitions and awards.

Zimbabwe: Victoria Falls

6. You are one of the first, if not the first, choreographer who went beyond the strict boundaries of theater and collaborated with the great music stars of the former Yugoslavia. Such a move is not always viewed favorably by your colleagues. How did that collaboration come about and how did you experience it?

Sonja Lapatanov: Older colleagues also collaborated with the music stars of Yugoslavia before me, and that was then called show business. At the time when it was called a spotlight stage, I got into that story, at the invitation of the manager, or the artists themselves. The mention of the star stage is mostly identified with the gallery of all kinds of naked singers on the front pages of the “yellow press magazines”, which unhappily defined the show business as something that implies vulgarity.

Ladakh: Little break on Pangong Lake

Many of them didn’t like those words, while the “show business” expression is much more acceptable. People from cultural circles are especially sensitive to the star stage, who perceive the term as something third-class, as evil and upside down. In essence, pop and show business have the same meaning and identical frameworks in which they operate. My collaboration with pop artists has always been at an enviable level, because how could it be otherwise with Zdravko Colic, Bebi Dol, Brena, Ana Bekuta, Dragana Mirkovic, Rambo Amadeus, Goran Bregovic, Alen Islamovic, Zorica Kondza, Biljana Ristic, Suzana Mancic , Bane Mojicevic, Stevan Andjelkovic, Marija Serifovic…

Ladakh: On the Changla pass

There were some people who were not kind to me because they could not enter to my team of players, those who accompanied the singers and some colleagues who later reluctantly accepted to do choreographies with newly arrived singers and future stars of the same “stage”. For my players, that cooperation was a solid source of income, they had a long service and health insurance. We were all satisfied with that cooperation.

Grenada island: Spice and fruit sellers

7. Due to the nature of their work, ballerinas “retire” extremely early by the usual standards. How did you experience that? Did traveling serve you as a new life challenge?

Sonja Lapatanov: I was not very shaken, because even then I was actively involved in pedagogical work, choreography and stage movement for theater performances in Belgrade and throughout Yugoslavia. I worked a lot, as many as 12 shows a year, sometimes two at the same time, say; one in Subotica and the other in Nis. Home in Belgrade, I just came to change my wardrobe! There was work, creativity was at its peak, as was inflation! From signing a contract, to paying a fee, hyperinflation would eat everything up! It was the highest inflation recorded in Serbia and one of the highest in the history of mankind.

Cambodia: Fields of Death

Product prices grew very fast, even in just a few hours the Yugoslavian Dinar (currency which was used in those times) became just a piece of paper. The exchange rate of the brand jumped every day. More and more money was printed and the new banknotes had more and more zeros. The shops were empty, and for a jar of cucumbers, 2,100 dinars had to be set aside, and for two liters of milk, or 200 grams of mustard, as much as 500 billion dinars! Terrible!

Southern Ethiopia: Members of the Mursi tribe

Thanatos and Eros, those compounds of opposites in life, life and death, happiness and sorrow, pain and enjoyment… destruction and creativity, which sustained me then and thank him! Traveling is my eternal life challenge. My ancestors migrated from one end of the world to the other, which is characteristic of the human race, including me.

Libya: Qasr Al-Haj

8. When did you feel that travel had become more than an adventure and had become your second occupation?

Sonja Lapatanov: From the moment when I started with writing books.

Libya, Sahara: The Finger of Allah

9. You have visited almost all countries of the world. What encouraged you to visit countries that go beyond the tourist framework and which most people never intend to visit?

Sonja Lapatanov: There is an answer in your question. I was encouraged by the fact that the countries I like to visit go beyond the tourist framework and that a small number of people intend to remind them!

Southern Ethiopia: Houses of the Dorze people

10. You say for yourself that you are an adrenaline addict and that your favorite destinations are in Asia and Africa. Which trip caused the greatest adrenaline?

Sonja Lapatanov: That’s right, I am a curious, adrenaline junkie and adventurer eager for knowledge. I constantly need to improve my being spiritually and intellectually. In that sense, I need changes. And it doesn’t hold my place! Many situations caused euphoria, some brought tears, some fear, some sighs and admiration… in Africa Sudan, Tanzania and Namibia, in Asia Cambodia, Myanmar, Pakistan…

Oman: In a desert oasis

My dear travellers, I hope you like my new post in column on the blog “My side of the world” and that you enjoyed it with my guest today. We will continue our trip around the world in a few days with our Sonja Lapatanov.

I would recommend you to take a look at the other pictures that dear Sonja set aside in the gallery especially for us to see what kind of beauties our earth hides.

French Polynesia, Tahiti: In the company of a tattoo artist

 If you have a suggestion when you would like to see and whose side of the world you would like to discover, you can write to me below in the comments. Of course, as always you can contact me via mail or social media, which you can find on the CONTACT page. See you soon with another interesting story!

Best,
Mr.M

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My Side of the World: Vesna Jugovic de Vinca

My dear travellers, I hope you are well and ready for a new post. I have decided to create new content for you in the form of special interviews with people who have traveled around the world. Travel is the most beautiful gift of life that can give us the best form of non-formal education.

My guest today is Vesna Jugovic de Vinca, a cosmopolitan, and a woman who has been striving for the best possible display of all dimensions of beauty for over two decades. She is the woman who was able to connect us to the world in the most difficult moments. I would like to take this opportunity to thank her for her time!

1. It is considered that you have set the standard in organizing beauty pageants in the Balkans and in Serbia and through the Miss Serbia project have opened the door to our country for some new opportunities. Were you aware of that in the 1990s or did it become clear to you much later?

Vesna de Vinca – I think that was my destiny. It was a system of decisions that I was “like” forced to make. I wanted to escape from the hard times of war reporting where, as a National Television journalist, I saw and filmed horrors and stepped almost into a world of hopelessness. I bought 1995 world miss licenses to elect Miss Yugoslavia – from Donald Trump who was then the owner of the Miss Universe organization and from Julia Morley, who owns the Miss World Organization. It was at the worst moment when Yugoslavia was notorious and banished from the events of world culture and sports.

Despite everything, I was able to “hook” us (Yugoslavia) into the world. It was probably our proverbial – stubbornness! Since 2006 when we split up, I have become a license holder for Miss Serbia and Miss Montenegro. Let’s not forget that the Miss World event is watched by over two billion people every year, including us as participants. It looks like the Olympics. I brought that new task in my life, the choice of official beauty, to an institution level. I have lasted for more than two decades despite difficult situations of sanctions, war, bombing, coups, political and economic turmoil.

2. For over two decades, you have been striving to portray beauty as something more than an aesthetic ideal, and that it is more a matter of psyche and spirit. Can beauty beat the time?

Vesna de Vinca – Beauty can beat time. Beauty is the heart of creation. It’s a special kind of energy. It is a special talent, which perishes like any talent if it is not respected and developed. Beauty is developed by mission. If it is understood as private wealth used for narrowly private successes, beauty is going to be crowned with the time.

If it is understood as a gift of God, as something that is not yours and that you did not deserve, but was given to you from above and “given” – it can last. So, if we put our beauty in the mission of affirmation of nobility and goodness, wisdom, helping one’s neighbor, affirmation of wonderful values – beauty lasts, because it is always colored again by the most beautiful energy beam of light inside, light that is corrected and exits through eyes and pores on the skin.

3. Due to the nature of your business, you have had the opportunity to visit almost all countries of the world. Have you had the opportunity to visit countries that go beyond tourism? (like Ethiopia, Brunei and similar destinations) Did the trips help you find yourself in a new life challenge?

Vesna de Vinca – Travel has become my religion. I have formed this particularly exciting picture of the world both as a journalist for many shows from all continents and as a producer of beauty and fashion events. So far I have visited 71 countries of the world, always as a traveler, never as a tourist. Honestly, I despise consumers in all areas, including tourism. The main motive for the trip should be discovery. The end of the journey must be the knowledge that we have improved. If that is not the case, then it is a matter of false splendor and exclusive summer resorts with photos that we post on social networks to make ourselves important.

Of course, I was also in countries, areas insufficiently discovered. I was so before this terrible war in Syria in Aleppo, riding the Euphrates, watching the Christian cells on the banks of this Bible river. I will never forget that. In the barren mountains of northeastern Syria, Qalamuna, in a village, the small town of Malula, where at that time there were about 5,000 inhabitants who spoke the only language in Christ – Aramaic, I went to research whether to make a film about it. The village was soon destroyed, and the inhabitants scattered all over the planet. Isis urged them. What a tragedy.

In Africa, I visited Tenge Njenge, the most creative village in the world, where sculptures resembling Henry Mura and Brancusi are sculptured and made by illiterate villagers, elderly people and children. I made a documentary about that, I think it’s very good. In Libya, when I was with Gaddafi and did an interview back in 1992, I went with the team to the center of the Sahara, to Gadamesh and talked to the Tuareg, desert samurai, filmed unforgettable scenes with which I begin two shows about a “colonel who has no one to write letter to”.

In Vietnam, I was on an island that in the “6 sense” system near Nya Trang. On that island, when you disembark, you return an hour or two earlier, to wake up earlier and, like the Robinsons, consume a day as much as possible. It is one of the most amazing tourist-exclusive centers where Cavalli and one of the sons of Prince Charles were at that time. Only bicycles are ridden, rivers are skipped, everything is designed to look natural and in fact the top quality is everything from showers to everything else. No phone. They make you forget the time and the burden of the outside world.

Here is another story from Cancun. It was the trip to the center of Mayan civilization and one of their guides is actually a tough Mayan nationalist and May language teacher. At first he thought I was American so he was grumpy, but when he realized where I was from and that I was a journalist he dedicated himself to me completely and took me through the Mayan civilization as their kind of ambassador. I also have a photo with him, it really was a kind of discovery.

4. In one interview you mentioned that your father is deserving and that he helped you discover the world. Which journeys do you remember with your father?

Vesna de Vinca – Although he went to another planet a long time ago, my father Minja Jugović still lives in me. Even today, I talk to him sometimes. It seems to me that I still haven’t realised yet how he made me a fearless, natural, resourceful and incredibly terribly curious person. Our most valuable journey together has always been the journey to the center of our family roots, to Bjelopavlice in Montenegro, where my family Jugovici from the Brajovic Brotherhood originate.

There on the river Zeta, my dad taught me about our ancestors and Njegos. I think I know over 30 generations of the family backwards, by heart as a song. We hunted frogs and eels with the children from the village of Kosić, played fircik (marijaš – card game) and preferences with the elderly, learned about the heroes and listened to anecdotes about the family that we still retell today.

My grandmother’s name was Gaja, and “gaja” means planet. Imagine what a wonderful name. Our property is like a dream, beautiful. Grandpa bought it twice. He went to America for the first time and worked in the mines, got married, had children and then lost his land. Then he packed up again and went to Marseilles to work on the salt pans. So he bought the same property again. Tough and persistent family – my dear Jugovici. Even today, the trip to Kosić, is always a new excitement for me.

5. Did you go to the same destinations again and did you happen to be disappointed with something that had previously delighted you or that you were delighted with something that seemed ordinary to you for the first time? Should you turn around the second time when something thrills you at first sight or should the experience not be spoiled by a replay?

Vesna de Vinca – I rarely go back to the “crime scene”!? New places need to be discovered. However, I always want to go to Jerusalem, Israel and Greece again, again and again. In Jerusalem, every atheist feels like a pilgrim. It is a source of special energy. Even looking in that direction from Belgrade, always fills me with a new light of knowledge about the sacrifice of Christ, who suffered all our sins on the cross – until then.

I would always go back to the Church of Christ’s Tomb, to Masada or to Bethlehem. Greece is definitely the most beautiful country in the world. You will never visit all the Greek islands and all the beauties of its ancient magic for life. I want to live in Greece. I also love Miami, actually Key Largo, where my friend Chris has a house on the ocean. The road to Key West, where Hemingway lived, is wonderful. That way across the ocean, I always love to pass by.

6. I know from my experience that travel is actually learning about the culture and history of a nation. Whose culture impressed you the most?

Vesna de Vinca – If I had to choose, I would choose the cultures of the Maya, the Greeks, Israel and India. India is a country that is entered at 1000 entrances but has no exits. Once you enter, you are obsessed with that diversity of everything. My trip to Sai Baba’s birthday, in Putaparta, is something not to be forgotten. Hey, I forgot the second most beautiful country in the world – Sri Lanka.

7. Did some trip disappoint you in the sense that you expected much more from that country, but you realised that sometimes good advertising is responsible for the overestimation of a certain destination?

Vesna de Vinca – At the first sight, I was disappointed by Nigeria. It is a land of car and shipwrecks. It is a country where there is no street light. It is a country where they tried to instill fears of crime in me. That’s how I saw it in the beginning.

But it turned out that country is a place where was no end to the curiosity. I will never forget the trip to the island where a married couple of priests live, who are elite intellectuals and very rich people, who decided to spend their lives in that environment where it is difficult to watch unhappy and poor people. You don’t know who to help first… Wonderful creatures!

8. Which distant country would you say is most similar to Serbia and why? Is there somewhere else in the distant world of our mentality or are we still unique?

Vesna de Vinca – The most similar country to Serbia is Portugal. I’m actually talking about the similarity of one people, the mentality. Then there are the Romanians, with whom we have never had a dispute in history, let alone a conflict. Maybe Irish and Welsh. Once in Hollywood, I had lunch with Catherine Zeta’s brother Jones – David. It was a completely Welsh team. It’s the same for me! And of course our wonderful Greeks.

9. Do you remember the feeling when you first organized the beauty pageant “Miss Serbia”? The moment when you proclaimed the first most beautiful girl in Serbia and realized that you became a pioneer in the promotion of Serbian beauties in the world.

Vesna de Vinca – I was excited because for the first time there were so many problems in Sveti Stefan and Cetinje in 1995, that I just waited impatiently for the end, to finish as soon as possible. I barely survived that pageant. That’s a long story. But I learned so much during that night that I would learn it all in the normal way for years. Here are the beauties in trouble. Everything in life is relative!

10. If you had to choose only one determinant word, what would you answer to the question of who is Vesna Jugovic de Vinca. A beauty promoter, a passionate traveler or a journalist?

Vesna de Vinca – Researcher of life! It’s an infinitely exciting “job”. It seems to me that even when I go to that world, I will feel great excitement and curiosity – what awaits me there? That would be a success.

I hope you like my new column on the blog “My side of the world” and that you enjoyed it with my guest today. If you have a suggestion when you would like to see and whose side of the world you would like to discover, you can write to me below in the comments. Of course, as always you can contact me via mail or social media, which you can find on the CONTACT page. See you soon with another interesting story about Belgrade!

Best,
Mr.M

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