PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 27.2 (2005) 10-27
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Dance and Not Dance
When we attend a dance festival we tend to know what we are looking for: new dance works, perhaps some well-known works by prominent choreographers (if we are nostalgic or enjoy a historical perspective), fresh ideas by younger and emerging choreographers, some experimental pieces by cross-over artists, and promising new companies from abroad to expand our horizons. If it is not dedicated to a retrospective, say, of canonical works by Balanchine, Tudor, Kylián, or Graham, nor celebrates national treasures such as Pina Bausch or Alvin Ailey, we expect a contemporary dance festival to provide insight into how dance is evolving, how changes relate to cultural shifts and, perhaps, to a new generation of audience that drives the change.
This is not to say that many of us would agree on what constitutes the "contemporary" in contemporary dance.1 But generally, dance enjoys and reproduces a fairly clear sense of community, both in terms of the special interest we hold in the aesthetics of the art form and its various paths of evolution (ballet, modern, traditional, dance theatre, Butoh, Kathak, improvisation, etc.), its relationship to our visual and musical cultures, and in terms of its larger social dimension. We go to see dance because we love movement and enjoy dancing ourselves as it is a vital part of our physical and sexual culture, and perhaps the oldest sense we have of feeling alive in our bodies.
Contemporary festivals, like museum exhibitions or film retrospectives, have come to be curatorially driven: they are conceptually organized and announced with themes that can range from formal concerns, such as the 1999 Nordic Solo Forum (Copenhagen) dedicated to the art of the solo dance, or interdisciplinary visions regarding the relations of dance to film and the moving image (Temps d'Images, La Ferme du Buisson/Paris, 2003) to more political ones, such as Where is the East? (1999 Kampnagel Summer Festival, Hamburg) and The Third Body, the title of the last IN TRANSIT festival presented in Berlin's Haus der Kulturen. Its curators, Koffi Kôkô and Johannes Odenthal, described this festival for performance, dance, and theatre at the House of World Cultures as an international laboratory for the latest developments from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Their curatorial perspective is transcultural: [End Page 10]
The First Body is the physical, biological body. The Second Body is the cultural, socialized body, the body of memory. The Third Body is the 'impossible' body, the body between worlds, the body in cross-border transition. In search of a vision of humanity, the body becomes the medium for experience, communication, and transformation. The Third Body awakens echoes of the Third World and a "Third Space"—thus transcending those concepts embedded in bipolarity. The House of World Cultures sees itself as a Third Space—a free, open space for encounters, exchanges and new productions (http://www.in-transit.de/).
When IN TRANSIT refers to the stage using a synonym—"platform"—it emphasizes the discursive dimension of the festival, with its workshops, labs, and seminars. A large-scale international festival, with considerable funding provided by city and government, The Third Body wants to be more than a festival. It wants to take part in the political discussion on globalization, and thus refrains from limiting itself to "individual genres" but moves closer to the threshold of contemporary discourses "between theory and performance." From its inception, the curators claim, IN TRANSIT intended to be both a laboratory for cultural studies and a platform of the performing arts.
In a similar vein, other events like the Festival de Nouvelle Danse (Montréal) and ImPulsTanz (Vienna), which generally offer dance classes alongside the performance program, now announce "laboratories." The 2004 ImPulsTanz arranged a "research" series for choreographers and dancers exploring poetry, architecture, video, and sound, and some of the research projects were later exhibited in the festival. The biannual Monaco Dance Forum, which features world-renowned companies on its large festival...