Observations on Dance Massive, by Andrea Snyder

28 Mar

DanceMassiveSiteDance Massive is the biennial Australian dance festival held in Melbourne over the course of two weeks in March. It is a massive celebration of contemporary dance, including well-established choreographers, indigenous contemporary voices, and emerging artists. Organized by three presenting venues (Dancehouse, Arts House, and Malthouse), it is easy enough to move among the three sites and walk the city.

One of its purposes is to showcase the works of selected choreographers/companies to Australian and international dance presenters. Dance Massive is geared towards interested presenters; being an official presenter delegate has its benefits. Each week contains a AngelaConquet_ClaudiaLaRocca_Andrea.JPGcombination of essential events (“must go to” or participation in) and a dense schedule of performances. International delegates came and went throughout the two weeks, some for several days, and a few for the entire stretch of time.

My purpose in attending was to scope out the gathering in order to advise U.S. dance artists about the possibilities for relationship-building, and to continue to build awareness of international programmers who might appreciate the opportunity to attend a future American Dance Recon (ADR). I JarmoPentilla_LindaYip_AnnaChanwas delighted to have reunions with ADR international “graduates” during the five days I attended (Cathy Levy, Jarmo Pentilla, Angela Conquet, Anna Chan, György Szabó, Jerry Remkes, Tay Tong, Josh Wright). I was also thrilled to spend some time with the few U.S. delegates attending during the time I was there (Paul King, Walter Jaffe, Ben Pryor) and to cross paths with Claudia LaRocca (teaching a workshop) and artist Emily Johnson (involved in a collaboration).

I arrived on Sunday, March 19, and departed Friday, March 24. Over those five days, I saw seven performances, presented a 3-minute Pecha Kucha Pecha-Kuchaabout American Dance Abroad, listened to a panel discussion about dance curation, participated in a series of Roundtable discussions with choreographers, visited a former Temperance Hall now being re-established and renovated as a performance space, and with Paul and Wally met with the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate to share what we are doing as well as learn about the Consulate’s interests and priorities. Nothing definitive to report here, since the State Department is in transition, staff is on the move, and budgets are in flux.

PaulKing_WalterJaffe_BillFurnish_largerAs opposed to the current state of unknown about the NEA, the day before I arrived the Australian Arts Council received news that over half of the $100m funding that was siphoned off by the Minister of Culture several years ago (for his own determination) was being restored. There was plenty of sympathy and understanding from the internationals for what the U.S. is facing with the new administration.

I was struck by the similarities between U.S. and Australian dance. Much of what I saw came from a very strong physical base, the dancers were highly skilled, and the content was, for the most part, abstract. There were several outstanding productions. I wondered if the European presenters thought the same about U.S. and Australian dance (“lights and tights”, too physical, and not context-driven enough)?

In conclusion, Dance Massive seemed primarily geared towards making connections between Australian artists and interested national and international presenters.  I did, however, have conversations with several Australian colleagues who were impressed and intrigued with what American Dance Abroad does for U.S. dance.

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