From Dansateliers in Rotterdam to Tanzquartier Wien (Vienna)
March 27-31 2017

Often, artists are asked to define their artistic vision a.k.a. their artistic fingerprint, which in turn can influence the impact they have on their art form. During my exchange at Tanzquartier Wien, I was curious to learn about the artistic fingerprint of the organisation. Tanzquartier Wien welcomed me very warmly to visit their facilities for a week at the end of March 2017 to do just that.
* From now on I’ll refer to Tanzquartier Wien as TQW.

Some context about my perspective: In my work as a creative producer under the umbrella of Dansateliers, I often see the institution from the production perspective, where I am a middle person between a choreographer (Loïc Perela) and the house. However, I also see Dansateliers from the perspective of a resident of Rotterdam. I am constantly fascinated by how Dansateliers resonates within the cultural field in Rotterdam. Working for a public institution I feel it is my duty to be aware of and to critically analyze my work and how it fits into “the bigger picture” of the city. And it’s also nice to know that you sweat, blood and tears go towards something meaningful to others in your city!

Some context about TQW: TQW is in the middle of a change of directorship. What I could pick up in this week was most likely more representative of the organisation influenced by the vision of Walter Heun, who directed TQW from 2009 and will continue until May 2017. Bettina Kogler will take the helm at the beginning of 2018. From June-December 2017 TQW will put its activities on hold, as they will be undergoing renovations.

Having said that, to get an idea of their fingerprint, in Vienna I set out to find out:

a) How TWQ operates within the city and other Viennese cultural institutions
b) What role TQW plays in the Vienna dance and performance scene
c) How TQW defines itself on an international level.

How TWQ operates within the city and with other Viennese cultural institutions:

For starters, TQW is primarily funded by the municipality of Vienna. This means that in its funding structure there an inherently direct relationship to the city. Secondly, TQW is located in the Museumsquartier, a very popular destination for tourists and locals a like. It is in the center of the city, amongst other cultural big-wigs. This prime location can be envied by all the other dancehouses that are tucked away in their city! TQW has a good relationship and works with other local organisations like brut, WUK and Impulstanz for various events. How TQW is perceived by the “typical” resident of Vienna, I’m not so sure. That would take a bit more investigating than I had time for. I do know that when I mentioned it to a distant relative of mine (who works in insurance) he wasn’t quite sure of what it was. But when I told him it was in Museumsquartier he could identify with it straight away. It once again reinforced the idea that having a dancehouse in a notable location within the city can “help it out a bit” in terms of recognition on the broader scale.

What role TQW plays in the Vienna dance and performance scene:

TQW is the largest centre for contemporary dance and performance in Austria let alone in Vienna. It therefore plays a substantial role in the local scene in both the production and presentation of contemporary dance and performance. Two things stick out the most for me that make TQW different. First, performances as a form is very stressed upon in both Tanzquartier as well as the city in general. Secondly, TQW is a place where the theory of dance and performance takes a front row seat.

It is really interesting to see how the importance of the intellectual and critical response to the art form takes an active role in the house. They have a publicly accessible library filled with books on everything from performance theory, philosophy, choreography, theater theory, dance terminology, and more. Their Mediateek offers an extensive digital collection of recordings of all of the productions they have held since 2008, free to use.

Next to this, it also was notable to me that TQW tries to accommodate the artists’ desires in how they want to communicate their work. For example, if a maker needs a white cube space, or an outdoor setting TQW will try to make the form fit the content and not try to fit the content into the form. The form being the building.

How they define themselves on an international level?

Not only does TQW include about 50% international programming in its season, it also is joined to the international field through EDN (obviously) and other European projects. It is clear that their international position strenghtens not only the organisation, but the artists as well. Their focus on theory also makes them stand out in the international community. It will have missed their event FEEDBACK (April 24-27), in which they present various local artists, to give a peek into what is being done in Austrian contemporary dance. But this is another example of their desire to connect Austrian work with the rest of the world.

At TQW I was able to speak with people from various parts of the organisation, peek into their theoretical collection, take part in a dance class, see an international performance, got a grand tour of their theatre space and was introduced to their collaborating organisations. In short, I think I got the perfect taste of a slice of what TQW does.

So what does TQW’s fingerprint look like? It’s a big one for sure. It definitely has a mark on the city as a place that bring together dance, performance and the theoretical approach. Its fingerprint is also the result of the close connection between the people who work there. It was very nice to hear from so many people how much they felt like a family. Maybe that’s a general dance world thing? But it definitely was a tangible TQW things. Its fingerprint also has a strong international relevance.

As with a lot of people, I am curious to see how the organisation will evolve with the change in leadership. I will just have to come back in 2018 to see for myself! But until then, I am eager to see the development of Dansateliers’ fingerpring.

TIP: What to learn something new? As a Viennese to explain the terms “format”, “position” and “dramaturge”. Ok, maybe not any Viennese, but someone working in contemporary dance and/or performance. I won’t give it away, you gotta go there yourself 🙂

Christina Giannelia
Creative Producer at Dansateliers Rotterdam
3 April 2017