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In this guest post, Finland’s Pirjetta Mulari - curator for the upcoming 10th biennial Dance In Vancouver - talks about working internationally in dance:
Coming from a rather small country on one edge of the world, becoming international needs motivation and effort. Victoria, Vancouver Island and British Columbia provided me with the first steps of learning about different cultures, when I spent an exchange student year at Oak Bay High School in Victoria, BC in the late 80’s. The performing arts department at the school made it a ”Fame” year for me, and set some parameters for what I would do later in life. At that moment, my aim was to work for the United Nations, and I feel that I have not gone too far from that wish. I feel that arts can make a change in the world, especially at times when the world is going through different crises.
It has been an interesting journey to curate Dance In Vancouver, and to learn that the BC dance scene is vibrant and versatile. Through The Dance Centre, and its director Mirna Zagar and her excellent networks, the Vancouver and BC dance scene has become more and more known to the rest of the world. From the beginning of my curation, it was clear that the Dance In Vancouver programme should present the scene in its all variety, bringing up also the cultural aspects of the British Columbian dance field. Examples of that are Starr Muranko, who brings aboriginal dance culture into contemporary choreography, and the Dancers of Damelahamid, who celebrate the Indigenous cultures across Canada in a unique collaborative way that cherishes the Gitxsan traditions.
I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the BC dance scene by getting to know choreographers working with different methods and practices, some developing the movement into extremes, some working intelligently with text, some stretching the boundaries of different art forms. The scene felt quite close to the European scene in all its phenomena. I see no obstacles for BC artists to succeed internationally.
Why then working internationally? I believe that in BC as well as in many other regions, the possibilities of domestic touring are quite limited, so the life-span of one work might be really short. It is natural that the motivation to tour internationally comes into the picture. Working with artists and companies wishing for more international touring, I often feel that - after realising that the work does have an audience and it communicates to international audiences - the main thing is the attitude. After that it takes time, patience and a good strategy. And hopefully structures that can help with the endeavours.
The Dance Centre and Dance In Vancouver provide BC artists with important structures to reach out. It seems that at the moment, platforms presenting works from a geographical region are popular amongst the presenters, since the events provide a sensible and pleasant context for networking and getting to know the artists. As one example, the dance field in the Nordic countries have put their effort together in creating ICE HOT – Nordic Dance Platform that biannually travels from one Nordic capital to another, next being in Copenhagen in early December 2016.
Ten years ago within the Finnish arts field, there was a strong tendency to talk about export, but during recent years – at least within the performing arts field – the export talk has shifted towards collaboration. This is what I feel is important and interesting globally at the moment, finding collaboration models that the artists can benefit from. The collaboration can happen at many levels, artist-to-artist, organisation-to-organisation, artist-to-organisation. In our work at Dance Info Finland, we believe in building up sustainable and long-term relations that the artists can make use of in developing their work. Finland and BC are a long way from each other, but if there is a similar mind-set in the dance field and shared values that we work for, the collaboration across the ocean might be fruitful and bring new ideas to one’s own work. I am happy to explore the possibilities that would lie in connecting British Columbian and Finnish dance more closely together.
I am looking forward to meeting the artists realising Dance In Vancouver as well as the Vancouver audience. Thank you to Mirna Zagar for giving me this opportunity to learn more about the BC dance scene as well as connecting the two worlds more closely to each other. It is a small world after all.
Pirjetta Mulari is the Manager, International Affairs at Dance Info Finland.
Dance In Vancouver takes place November 18-22, 2015 and features an exciting program of performances and free events, with a wide range of local dance artists.
Photos top to bottom: Pirjetta Mulari by Johanna Tirronen; Ziyian Kwan | dumb instrument Dance in a slow awkward, photo Chris Randle.
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