Artistic Strategies in Contemporary Dance − The Dancer as an Artist
2010 - In Curatorial WorkArtistic Strategies in Contemporary Dance - The Dancer as an Artist
- a seminar
Ramsay Burt, Loan Ha, Bojana Kunst, Rudi Laermans
Saturday 23 October 2010
Augustin Hotel, C.Sundtsgt 22-24, N-5004 Bergen
During the past few decades, substantial changes have taken place in the use and comprehension of the dancer as a creative performer in the field of contemporary dance, alongside changes in how the dancer views his/her own work and the artistic process and practice. The role of the dancer has developed more along the lines of the role of the artist in contemporary dance. What are the dancer’s artistic strategies and materials, and how does she work with these? Which parts does the dancer play in the realm of contemporary dance?
The seminar presents four new lectures by people that are, in different ways, involved in the field of contemporary dance: Ramsay Burt who is a professor of dance history, cultural sociologist Rudi Laermans, the dancer Loan Ha and the philosopher and dramaturg Bojana Kunst. After the lectures, a panel discussion will be held. The seminar is moderated by Josefine Wikström.
The field of contemporary dance maps out and tests performative concepts and dramaturgy. There is a great range of practices and methods. Many choreographers have a background as dancers themselves, and often work in both roles. Today, many contemporary dancers choose to start choreographing performances themselves, and this is a tendency we see at work in Norway as well. The artistic methods of many choreographers consists of processes in which the dancers contribute directly to the choreographies and the performance material. They provide the dancers with what may be described as artistic licence, an opportunity to help shape the performance. In other projects, however, the dancer works within the choreographer’s materials and concept.
Only rarely is the dancer shed light on. Or if she is focused on, the body is often taken as a point of departure. In Routledge’s Dance Studies Reader from 1998, Alexandra Carter writes in the introduction to «Performing Dance», a chapter which discusses the role of the dancer: «Whereas in other parts of this Reader the challenge was to find representative work from the wide section available, for this Part, the difficulty was in finding writing by dancers at all, especially on their experience of performance». It is still, as a rule, usually choreographers who comment on the performative part of the field of contemporary dance. Few dancers write. Few dancers are interviewed about their art. Few dancers are included in fora of discussion. And many dancers resist writing about, verbally expressing, or «putting into words» their artistic strategies and methods, and likewise their meanings and points of view on contemporary dance and the field within which it is situated. Dancers’ experiences and viewpoints have been largely ignored within discourse on and discussions within contemporary dance.
How does the dancer see himself in relation to being an artist? Anthoni Dominguez writes, in ballet tanz’ TEAM year book 2008, titled «DANCE IN ART»: «The use of the body as living raw material during a performance enables the artist to reduce the distance between himself and his art work. Even before any activity takes place, the body manifests itself in both material and a temporal dimension by its simple presence.» In the same publication, choreographer Ben J. Riepe states: «I appreciate dance (...) but only as a working method, as a tool, as something with which to create an artwork».
Ramsay Burt's lecture is titled Contemporary dance and the politics of historical consciousness. A number of European dance artists in the past fifteen have cited past dance works either through reconstructions, re-stagings and re-enactments, or through making new works that explicitly respond to works from the past. Given that history and memory are important to the construction of identities, reconstructions are an important means of understanding the relationship between past and present. An articulation of historical consciousness can be used to assert the right to define one's own chosen history rather than accept an official canon. Some European dance artists have articulated concerns about the way a globalised market for contemporary dance that has developed since the 1970s often influences and determines the kinds of works that are taken up and shown at key dance festivals and performance venues. One aspect of the workings of this market is a flattening of history. This paper argues that radical experimental work which articulates historical consciousness, challenges its beholders to pay attention in a focused, intense, active, engaged way that is very different from the diffuse inattention that is all that is required when beholding the same old tired choreographic devices within blandly uniform dance works. Through a discussion of a few recent examples, this paper will argue that the development of a historical consciousness among experimental dance artists can be seen as an act of resistance to the anaesthetising effects of the globalised dance market.
Rudi Laermans' lecture is titled Creating Together: Artistic Collaborations in Contemporary Dance. Based on extensive in-depth interviews with dancers from the Brussels dance community, the lecture will identify some of the principal motivations behind and stakes involved in collaborative practices in contemporary dance – such as unrecognized co-authorship, the production of a social and artistic 'common', and the dynamics of trust between a choreographer and the dancers during a rehearsal process.
Bojana Kunst's lecture Dancing Labour will connect the question about the strategies of the dancers to the ways in which dancers work today and how their work has changed with the expanded notion of choreography, research and new discursive contexts. She will relate this to political issues like postfordism, the continual nomadism of dancers and the multiplicity of time. What has changed in the work of the dancer today, with new ways of production, and how does this influence the body?
Loan Ha’s lecture is titled Tracing My Questions: About Becoming a Dancer. She will reflect on becoming a dancer and how the questions she has asked herself have continued to inspire, affect, and change her work. In 2005, while still a student at P.A.R.T.S. in Brussels, she interviewed teachers, dancers and choreographers in her educational environment about what it meant to them to be a practitioner.
Ramsay Burt is professor of dance history at De Montfort University, U.K and founding editor, with Prof. Susan Foster, of Discourses in Dance. He is the author of The Male Dancer: Bodies Spectacle, Sexualities (1995, 2007); Alien Bodies: Representations of Modernity, Race and Nation in Early Modern Dance (1998); Judson Dance Theater: Performative Traces (2006); and, with Valerie Bringinshaw, Writing Dancing Together (2009).
Loan Ha has studied at the School of Contemporary Dance in Oslo (2000-2002) and the P.A.R.T.S. in Brussels (2002-2006). In addition to working on her own and other co-choreographer’s projects while at P.A.R.T.S., she danced in several repertoire performances by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, and toured with productions by William Forsythe (Die Befragung des Robert Scott) and Trisha Brown (Set and Reset and ”Lateral Pass - Reworked”). Since the summer of 2006, Loan Ha has worked as a freelance dancer, her projects including the Norwegian multi-medial performance ”Terje”, which was staged in Yokohama, Japan – and The Kansas City Shuffle for Canadian Sandy Williams, which was staged in Ghent, Leuven and Brussels, Belgium. Since 2006, she has worked with impure company/Hooman Sharifi. She is also involved in projects with Kristina Gjems and Human Works (Anne-Linn Akselsen og Adrian Minkowicz).
Bojana Kunst is a philosopher, dramaturg and performance theoretician. She works as a visiting professor at the University of Hamburg (Performance Studies) and teaches at the Slovenian University of Primorska. She also works as a dramaturg and artistic collaborator. She is a member of board of editors in the journals Maska, Amfiteater, and Performance Research. Her essays have appeared in numerous journals and publications and she has taught and lectured extensively in Europe. She has published three books, including Impossible Body (Ljubljana 1999), Dangerous Connections: Body, Philosophy and Relation to the Artificial (Ljubljana, 2004).
Rudi Laermans is senior professor in sociological theory at the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium and also a permanent guest teacher in the theoretical programme at P.A.R.T.S. He has published extensively on dance policy, general trends within contemporary dance and the work of particular choreographers such as Anne Theresa De Keersmaeker, Vincent Dunoyer, Jan Fabre, deepblue and Meg Stuart. He has recently directed research projects on globalization, modes of believing within Western Islam, cultural heritage, the cultural omnivore and alternative pop music. He has published widely on social systems theory, French poststructuralism and cultural theory, and is currently writing a book on contemporary dance which will appear in Spring 2011.
Josefine Wikström is an independent curator and writer. She has written for various dance and arts magazines, and guest-edited Paletten with choreographer Malin Elgán in 2008. She works with the independent project Word on questions about the production and distribution of art, and is involved in the performing arts collective IINPEX, in which she has initiated projects such as Hula-Hula To Tensta Konsthall. She has collaborated with artists International Festival in among other projects The Theatre. In collaboration with Malin Elgán, she created a choreographic score for the exhibition Undersöka Form at the National Museum in Sweden in 2008, and curated the lecture series Publishing and other activities in 2009. She was invited as “satellite-curator” to Bonniers Konsthall in Stockholm in spring 2010. Wikström has a BA in Comparative Literature, and has studied dance at London Contemporary Dance School. She recently completed an MA in philosophy at Middlesex University in London.
The seminar is part of the international dance festival Oktoberdans. The seminar is presented in collaboration with BIT Teatergarasjen and is funded by Arts Council Norway.