City of Women (Slovenia)

Director and performer:  Nataša Živković

Also performing: Daniel Petković, Loup Abramovici, Slobodan Malić

Scenography: Lenka Đorojević

Lighting designer and technical implementation:  Špela Škulj

Photography: Nada Žgank

Advising: Teja Reba

Management: Eva Prodan

Co-Producer Bunker – Old Power Station

Special thanks to: Maska ir Mladinski Theater

The project is supported by: Creative Europe, the Slovenian Ministry of Culture, the Ljubljana Municipality


Premiere: 2018 

Duration: 40’

DATES: 8 October, 15:00 and 19:00

VENUE: Lithuanian National Drama Theatre (Gedimino av. 4), Second Stage


If you think that social gender is a modern innovation, take a closer look at the story. Slovenian performance creator Nataša Živkovič is creating a fascinating and extremely sensitive play about the so-called Albanian sworn virgins. These are women who choose the masculine social gender in exchange for status in the community and pay for it with vows of eternal chastity.


Kristina Savickienė

Artistic Director of the Festival


I was born a girl, but they call me Sonny.

Being Burrnesha is a principle of thinking, a state of mind.

Everyone respects me because I am a man!


Albania has an old custom that allows a woman to become a man. Such a woman is called Burrnesha. Women who have made a vow of chastity are wearing men’s clothing to live as men in the patriarchal society of northern Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro. To a lesser extent, Burrneshas also exist in other parts of the Western Balkans, including Bosnia, Croatia, Serbia and northern Macedonia.


The Sonny is an attempt at an anthropological research of a specific phenomenon in a performative form. It is an amazed fascination with images and stories of sworn virgins from the remote parts of the Balkans. Is this a kind of rift in the system that supports patriarchal attitudes and the protracted question of what kind of world we live in and how to survive in the world of men?


The “Sonny“ speaks of the privilege of being a man and questions the nature of women’s power, freedom and choice in the Balkans, assuming the role of a man. I use the stories of sworn virgins as a starting point to rethink the history of women, the supremacy of men, and strategies for empowering women in the Balkans to ask even more loudly where are we today? Does the woman still have to lower her voice to be heard? Does she have to wear pants if she is surrounded by men in suits? How do we perceive power and authority?

Nataša Živković


About the creator

Nataša Živković is active in various fields of performing arts as an author, choreographer, dancer and performer. Since 2006 she has regularly participated in the productions of Via Negativa. She is part of No! Training Lab team,  Nataša she co-created numerous projects in the production of Emanat. In 2016 she co-created the performances If You’re Happy (Bunker), In the Back of Time (Puppet Theater Ljubljana) and Just in appearance sometimes as everyone else (Emanat). In 2019 Nataša received the Ksenija Hribar Award, which is awarded for outstanding achievements in the field of contemporary dance. Her last author work entitled Sonny (City of Women) won the main award at the ACT Festival in Bilbao – ACT Award 2019. In 2020, with the performance Dodgeball, the creator completed a trilogy in which all family relationships: daughter – mother, daughter – father and daughter, as a mother – child. In 2021, she was the author, director and choreographer of the huge production All Good. Its co-authors were students from 11 different Slovenian higher education institutions. The work was produced by the City of Women and the Ljubljana Puppet Theater.



“I am Stana Cerović” is just an introduction to one of the fates that Nataša Živković presents to us. Based on their stories, she draws more from verifiable facts than from fiction. Stana Cerović is inscribed as “Montenegro’s last virgin” who died in 2016 at the age of eighty-five. After the death of her brothers, she lived proudly as a man or a virgin. Proudly, because if a woman is worth as much as an animal (as the performance tells us), then  for her sacrifice, a virgin is worth as much as two men. Burnesha has a freedom that is only available for men: no one will force her into an agreed marriage with a much older man, no one will restrict her movements in public spaces. And, of course, she won’t do jobs that are for women.


Dijana Matkovič, writer, journalist, translator




The “Sonny” is not a play for women, it is a performance for us men who take it for granted. The “Sonny” embarrasses us every minute, and that’s more than fair.


Muanis Sinanović, poet, essayist, writer, critic