Problematics and aims
The transformation of dance performance education at the Academy of Theatre and Dance in our view presents an opportunity to jointly reflect on how we can create a variety of contexts for artistic and educational practice in dance, to examine its aesthetic, cultural and institutional history, and to re-evaluate what contemporary dance means today and how we want to approach it in our academy.
The existing richness and diversity of dance education at the ATD provides us with an excellent starting point for the further interrogation of the relation between what we call 'contemporary dance' and traditional, vernacular and urban dances, as well as the notion of 'contemporary dance' as it is practiced and discursively constructed in contexts that may be described as ‘non-western' (despite the vagueness of that term in our globalized world). Through this Artist in Residence Programme, we want to address a number of issues: the problems of artistic, social and cultural diversity and difference; the underlying colonial and imperial-historical determinations of artistic practice and theory; and institutional policies.
It is timely to tackle issues of cultural difference and diversity in dance as an art form and through the education of dancers – not only because the overall policy of the ATD promotes diversity and inclusivity, but also because those notions are increasingly being critically scrutinized by a number of social and artistic movements, through the lenses of the colonial heritage, power relations and cultural domination that form the fabric of the modern world. The briefest survey at the international artistic and cultural landscape in the past few years reveals the increasing urgency of these questions. A number of research and curatorial initiatives in the field of visual arts have emerged that re-examine the colonial history of institutional bodies in culture as well as the vestiges of that history in today's language, images and bodies. The Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, La Colonie in Paris, BE.BOP. Black Europe Body Politics (2012–2016) in Berlin, are just some of the institutions and/or artist-led initiatives and research projects that are engaged in raising critical awareness and proposing new modes of making, doing or looking at art.
The contemporary dance field is also increasingly confronted with problems of representation, cultural appropriation, gaps in judgment, mistranslations in intercultural contexts, and problematic dominance of historical narratives. The heated discussions that occurred during the American Realness festival and Impulstanz are examples of this. Still, it seems that these issues are more often examined through individual artistic practices than on a structural level.
Moreover, questions and debates are mainly raised at the curatorial and choreographic/dramaturgical level. A good example of research being carried out into the question of decolonization of the curriculum, and that addresses both educational and choreographic practice can be found close to us: at the SNDO.
The problem we want to address is the relative invisibility and silence regarding cultural difference and diversity when it comes to the dancer's practice, particularly when it comes to the dancer's education and training. The approaches to diversity and difference that are already in place in dance programmes at the ATD deserve to be shared and debated more often and more systematically. And we want to go even further: while transitioning towards the new programme – which has at its centre diversity and difference in a decolonial process – we would like to explore a radically egalitarian take on education for young dancers with different backgrounds, on the level of their social and cultural milieu, but also their dance styles, vocabularies, technical training, modes of existence, and aesthetic horizons. What will this mean on the programmatic level? What will this mean for educational content and architecture, for didactic approaches, for auditioning procedures, and so on?
In asking these questions, we wish to explore what brings us – we dance-driven new generations – together, and create and celebrate a learning, sharing community.
It is important for the students and teachers that we create a healthy crossover between the UC (JMD), MTD programmes and the new ECD programme. While the current scale at which we are implementing and operating this new approach is perhaps modest, there is potential for a broader influence: while conceiving and imagining a future for dance education at the ATD, we should perhaps also be taking the opportunity to engage a broader dance field in the practices and discussions that are clearly becoming ever more vital and necessary.
The crossover programme Training the Future: Context, Difference and Awareness in Dance Education will run for two years and across five AIR events with distinct yet interconnected topics. The entire body of students and teachers from the three dance departments will participate in all five encounters. Each will last one week with a combination of formats: classes, workshops, discussions, lectures and student-led projects. Several guests will be invited for each encounter, with some recurring guests throughout the crossover period.
The first session will take place in January 2019 and will be attended only by MTD and UC (JMD) students and teachers. The first cohort of ECD students will start their school year in September 2019, and from there on all three departments will participate in these AIR events. As the AIR programme progresses, we will look into the possibility of opening up the collaboration to other departments (such as ATKA and SNDO) that might be looking at the same issues through a different prism. The final encounter will take the form of an international symposium.
The five events will have the following themes (in chronological order):
- 'Talent' in contemporary dance and in the context of cultural difference
- 'Personal and cultural agency through dance'. Agency of dancers in the working field. Agency regarding representation and gaze. Agency regarding cultural constructions of bodies through class, gender, racialization, religion etc.
- 'Decolonizing technique: What is at stake in the training of a dance performer'. Cultures of perception and embodiment.
- ‘Hybrid and border aesthetics in dance'
- 'What is “contemporary dance” in the dance department of the ATD?’