Tanzconnexions: An Innovative Joint Dance Project in the Pacific Region
The project is as ambitious as it is daring. Tanzconnexions has set itself the target of giving impetus to the dance scene in a region with a population many times the size of Europe’s but one that to date has given little or no support to contemporary dance.
Countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Malaysia have a rich traditional dance culture that has been cultivated or suppressed in recent decades depending on the political conditions. There has been little need for contemporary forms of expression to date there, however. Thus, in building up joint structures in this region of the world under the auspices of its regional headquarters in Jakarta, the Goethe-Institut has set itself an enormous logistical and financial task since 2008. Under construction since mid-2009, the website has been providing country portraits and dance scene profiles in all the participating countries in five languages (Bahasa Indonesia, Thai and Vietnamese, as well as German and English). Until all the translations are available, the entries can be viewed in German and English.
Focus on dance
A colloquium held in Sydney in October 2008 marked the start of tanzconnexions. On the initiative of the Head of Programme at the Goethe-Institut in Jakarta, Frank Werner, representatives of the local Goethe-Instituts, artists and journalists from the region and from Germany have been developing dance as a focal area. The idea was that the Goethe-Instituts in the region of Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand were to devote their cultural measures to dance in one way or another – contemporary, but also traditional dance. The history of artistic movement cultures in Indonesia, Thailand, Australia and Singapore were to be examined, connections made with artists from Germany, cooperations set up and joint ideas made possible. This led to the creation of Asian-European coproductions such as Body Swap by the Hamburg-American choreographer Dani Brown and her Singaporean colleague Joavien Ng (premiered in May 2009 at the Kampnagel in Hamburg). The invitation issued to Indonesian choreographer Jecko Siompo to come to Hamburg with his racy piece Room Exit as one of the “Folkreol” series of events (February 2010) is a result of tanzconnexion’s networking achievements.
The constantly growing website provides current information on the history of the respective national dance scenes, on leading choreographers, training venues, places of residence and means of production. Logistically, this is a mammoth project, as the aim is to find local authors and correspondents in cooperation with the respective programme organisers who can report from each country or region. The information thus collected has to be processed by the editorial team, consisting of German journalist Constanze Klementz and project founder Frank Werner. It then has to be translated and approved by local staff before finally going online. This requires both diplomatic and organisational skill. The Theatre and Dance Department at the Goethe-Institut’s Munich headquarters also provides indispensable assistance and support with all these matters.
Dialogue and networking
The regional database of information on artists is one of the central projects. There are other activities too, however. Exchange, understanding and confrontation, particularly in the performing arts, do not only take place electronically. Rather, there are also direct forms of cooperation. In this area, working meetings are convened within the context of tanzconnexions. The first, which also marked the project launch, took place in Jakarta in August 2009. Each of the cooperating countries – Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines – sent one choreographic work, choreographers and dancers as well as qualified critics or experts. Part of the project that was not open to the public looked at communication strategies and evaluated the connection between traditional forms of dance and movement and the demands and innovations of contemporary forms. In the public parts of the colloquium, contemporary works were shown and analysed in subsequent artists’ talks. The whole wealth of knowledge about dance, but also the many difficulties encountered by an independent, non-institutional contemporary dance scene in the course of its development, became evident at the “Regional Dance Summit: Transforming Tradition“.
Project objective for 2011
It is important that the project strengthens its infrastructure and also improves exchange among the dance scenes within the region. Time and again, it has become apparent that dance artists from Southeast Asia are likely to know more about developments and conditions in Europe than about their neighbouring country. However, there are already other initiatives which have broadened this flow of communication and information. Asia Dance Channel, for example, has been proposing national focal areas for a number of years and reports on specific regional features in Southeast Asia. True to its name, on the other hand, the Asia Europe Foundation has focused more on promoting exchange between the two regions of the world.
The focal area of the tanzconnexions programme is being continued with an international workshop on the tasks and opportunities of dance criticism, which will take place in parallel with the Jakarta Dance Festival in June 2010. Consultations are still under way on further artistic cooperation projects. tanzconnexions is planned to run until at least 2011.
is a dance researcher, journalist and critic. He is a research project partner in the Tanzarchiv Leipzig e. V. and in the CENTRE NATIONAL DE LA DANSE, France. Since 2006 he has been a member of the course of study “Contemporary Dance, Context, Choreography” within the framework of the Inter-University Dance Centre Berlin, and from 2007 until 2013 he is director of the COLLÈGE INTERNATIONAL DE PHILOSOPHIE in Paris.
Translation: Eileen Flügel
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
Any questions about this article? Please write to us!