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Dance Dialogue: Focus on Shoghakat MLKE-Galstyan, Chief Coordinator of HIGH FEST

1 May

HIGH FEST International Performing Arts Festival was established in 2003 by Artur Ghukasyan. This festival gives Armenian audiences a great opportunity to get in touch with the values within the world of performing arts. The organizers aim to bring the best and most innovative companies to Yerevan, and provide its people with a rich and unique palette of worldwide art. At the same time, the Festival promotes Armenian culture in the international sector, making it closer and more connected to the world of performing arts.

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HIGH FEST 2017

HIGH FEST presents productions in all genres of performing arts, including theatre (drama, comedy, mime, movement, circus, street performances, puppet/marionette, fingers and visual theatre), dance (contemporary, folk, classic), music (opera, classical, musical, contemporary, jazz, folk), and more.

Over 3,000 participants (500 foreign companies, organizers of well-known international festivals, representatives of international networks, producers, promoters and presenters, critics, etc.) from 50 countries have participated in the festival. Performances have been held in numerous venues (indoor and outdoor) throughout Yerevan.

Besides the Main and Fringe program of the festival, other events such as seminars, master classes, roundtable discussions, and trainings are organized to create a favorable atmosphere for the exchange of ideas and experiences on New Writing, Networking, Cultural Management, International Cooperation in Arts, Cultural Policy, and other issues. The master classes, led by foreign arts practitioners, concentrate on new trends and methods of contemporary performing arts and present these new approaches in different spheres of art.

My journey with HIGH FEST International Performing Arts Festival began in 2003. It was the first edition of the festival, I was 15 years old, and my brother and I had just established our theatre when we saw a TV interview with the festival’s president, Artur Ghukasyan. We were so inspired that the very next day we went to the office and said: “I don’t know English well, nor using a computer, but I am so eager to help you!” The following day I had already started putting up posters all over the city and preparing coffee in the HIGH FEST office. Now, I am currently the NGO’s head of international programs who runs the HIGH FEST International Performing Arts Festival. Although at first I felt extremely naive, I now am confident with my familiarity of every side of the festival – even within – as I also have performed and taken part in it with performances by MIHR Theatre.

Each programmer tries to find the ‘golden middle’ between his/her own aesthetics and the audiences’ needs. Armenia has an ancient history in national dance, but only a Soviet period of ballet dance. During the independent years, Armenia’s main outlet of dance education lied on the shoulders of the HIGH FEST International Performing Arts Festival. Thus, a lot of the programming of workshops begin with the choreographers. In the beginning, people thought that contemporary dance was hip-hop, but nowadays they seem to more accurately see the differences between urban choreography and modern ballet. The main criteria for our selection is having “inspiring” works; we are not searching for the big names or shows, we are searching for choreographers and performers who can inspire our dance community to further create and inspire others. It is difficult to define the term “inspiring,” but a feeling and a gateway to the region represented comes close to what we have in mind. Besides our own programming, we also have international programmers visiting the festival. We all have a similar vision of our wants and it is captivating to come together with this common goal.

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HIGH FEST 2017

HIGH FEST was first established as a theatre festival, but since 2006 it has become a performing arts festival that welcomes all genres. I can definitely say that this change has been one my greatest achievements while working in programming with this festival. The performing art scene is so diverse and multidisciplinary that it is very difficult to distinguish between a dance performance and a theatre piece, a circus act or an artwork. That’s why we have removed boundaries in performing arts. However, I add here an unwritten rule to have dance shows take up twenty percent of programming.

We have been international in scope from the beginning, with the aim to support the artistic mobility of emerging artists. Each year we host around 20 countries and each time the festival becomes more diverse. The only country which has had a single participantion is Iran. Unfortunately, it is a very closed country to the international scene, but as our neighboring country we organize an Iranian theatre program to support its artists and have them internationally presented. For us, it is also crucial to keep a balance between countries, so if, for example, there are three shows from the same country, we try to limit any additional. From time to time we organize showcases of the participating countries; we have had experiences working with a Polish Dance Showcase and a Russian Drama Showcase. Additionally, we program small-scale shows on tour (up to seven people).

Those interested in participating in HIGH FEST should visit our website (www.highfest.am) to request an application (it is currently being updated and will be active after June 15, 2018). They can also send an e-mail to info@highfest.am to request an application. The deadline is the 30th of March of each year for that year’s edition, and the festival dates are 1-8 of October (the first week of the month). Applicants will be asked to submit photos and a full-length video of the performance. As an “open-hearted” festival, we also select pieces accompanied by rehearsal videos. The advisory board makes its selection by the end of April of that year. In May, the applicants hear back from us with their results and conditions of participation.

#Cleveland Havana Ballet

5 Apr

Guest Blog by Kate Webb, Verb Ballets Dancer

What do pointe shoes, dirt, and cafecitos have in common? They’re all integral parts of The Cleveland Havana Ballet, which just successfully completed its first edition of international performances in Cuba. The fusion company is comprised of young, passionate artists from Havana-based ProDanza and Cleveland-based Verb Ballets.

After only dancing together for four days, The Cleveland Havana Ballet premiered Yarini, a full-length ballet based on a well-loved Cuban legend, in front of thousands of people. The two-country company followed up four shows of Yarini with three mixed-bill performances featuring repertory highlighting each of the dance troupes’ strengths. Despite the varying styles of the two companies (Verb Ballets is a contemporary ballet company, while ProDanza considers itself strictly classical), it was hard to tell which company the dancers worked for by the end of the packed two-week residency. They wore each other’s ballet skirts, company t-shirts, and began to emulate each other’s dance style. 

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As a dancer, the exchange was both eye-opening and rewarding. The Verb Ballets company members were amazed by how the Cuban dancers could flourish in spite of countless daily obstacles. To make Cuban tap water drinkable it requires iodine tablets, something that makes even drinking water a commodity. Most of the Cuban dancers would go without water for a full day of rehearsals in the non-air conditioned studios so they wouldn’t have to use up more tablets than absolutely necessary. I have never felt so thankful to have an otherwise mundane plastic water bottle. They managed to perform jaw-dropping balances on pointe shoes that looked so mushy and worn that they didn’t provide an ounce of support. Yet they were able to execute endless turns on uneven, tattered, and dust-covered floors. None of these trying conditions stopped them from dancing with vitality and spirit.

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The non-dancing locals we met also showed us a lot about the ever-vibrant Cuban culture. Complete strangers would strike up conversations on the street and were delighted to converse about dance and art. The government subsidizes tickets to the ballet, just as it does tickets to the baseball game, so dance is something for everyone to engage in. It was surreal to be in a country where it was more likely that a person would understand a reference to Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” over Jeff Bezo’s “Amazon”. 

The Cuban people have built a beautiful island where the classics are revered and the present moment enjoyed to the fullest. With very limited internet access, Cubans understand the profound gratification that comes with slow, meticulous work. They take the time to appreciate attention to detail, and translate that appreciation to artists. Although we toured to a country with limited resources, every person with whom we interacted with gave us unending admiration. I think it is safe to say that half of my heart remains in Havana!

Read more about our adventures in Cuba, at www.verbballets.org/cubatour.

SPOTLIGHT on Education

3 Apr

A Recap of the Educational Programming at SPOTLIGHT: USA
By Isabel (“Izzi”) Wayner, festival intern for American Dance Abroad

In addition to the 11 performances that took place over the course of the festival, “SPOTLIGHT: USA” organizers planned a variety of educational events to facilitate connections between the American artists and their international audiences. This programming included film screenings, movement workshops, and panel discussions.

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Sally Sommer’s Check Your Body at the Door and Ron Honsa’s Never Stand Still were screened at the ONE Dance Week storefront site on Saturday and Sunday evenings, respectively. With the goal of showcasing major aspects of American dance history, we were pleased to have over 30 guests gather for each film showing.

Jonah Bokaer kicked off the festival’s workshop series on Friday with a repertory master class at DNK Theater in Sofia, in the National Palace of Culture. On Sunday, the local Plovdiv community had the opportunity to engage with Tahni Holt and Kate Wallich in their consecutive workshops held at Dance Station in the House of Culture.

Tahni’s class created a welcoming environment for all, bringing together 22 participants from both Bulgaria and the United States over the course of two hours. Holt’s class cultivated a wonderful collective trust and unity amongst the group through “Touch Therapy” and “Constant Contact” exercises, in which individuals developed strong physical connections with one another that far surpassed any existing language barriers. During a closing reflection circle, one Bulgarian participant commented that she never felt freedom in a dance studio until now; before Tahni’s workshop, she always felt a great deal of pressure and judgement in trying to appear “beautiful” in the mirror. She enjoyed every moment of the liberating class.

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Immediately following Tahni’s class, Kate Wallich’s “Dance Church” session only heightened the sense of community and positive energy that permeated the dance studio. 27 participants committed themselves to a 90-minute class described by Kate herself as “the dance party you wish you had last night.” Set to a high-energy playlist with an infectious rhythm, a series of challenging aerobic/conditioning exercises were disguised by the urge to dance out of joyful self-expression. Wallich created a therapeutic, judgement-free environment that even used Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody to unite otherwise separated communities from Seattle and Plovdiv. Kate Wallich offered a second chance for festival delegates to participate in her “Dance Church” class on Wednesday afternoon.

As a part of Tuesday’s festival schedule, Ana María Alvarez and her CONTRA-TIEMPO company members led an energizing, unifying Salsa Rueda class. 21 participants, including visiting international programmers and “SPOTLIGHT: USA” performers, came together to learn the basics of this lively Cuban social dance form and movement celebration. CONTRA-TIEMPO spread their contagious positive energy to everyone in the room as they invited the participants to partner while also revolving in a large circular formation (particularly fitting for rueda’s direct translation to “wheel”).

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Just as these classes provided a means of physically understanding the artists’ fundamental ideas and aesthetic styles, a series of talks and discussions were held to further this educational exchange. On Tuesday morning, the visiting international programmers were invited to attend two presentations aimed at sharing important background information on American dance, both historically and in the 21st century. Douglas Sonntag (former director of Dance at the National Endowment for the Arts) began the morning with “American Dance – The Big Picture,” in which he followed dance’s place within the culture of the United States from the time of European settlement in the 18th century through generations of modern and post-modern dance pioneers. His mapping of American dance history included valuable acknowledgements of “immigration making dance encyclopedic in scope” and the categories of commercial and concert dance within America’s perception of the art form. His talk stimulated eye-opening conversation amongst the attendees about what makes something “contemporary dance,” as well as how dance communities across the world continue to navigate and appeal to generations whose worlds are becoming more and more centered around technology.

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Carolelinda Dickey (co-founder/co-director of American Dance Abroad) then led a panel discussion on “Residencies, Education, and Exchange.” She facilitated conversation among Megan Bridge (director of <fidget>), Adrienne Bryant (executive director of Dance Heginbotham), Carla Mann (dance professor at Reed College and performer with Tahni Holt Dance), and Sara Procopio (performer/educational programming coordinator with Jonah Bokaer Choreography). This group of women shared their experiences in dance education, production, and presentation from both across the United States and internationally, providing important insight for their international counterparts. They highlighted the supportive role that American universities play in the development and presentation of the performing arts, and stressed the importance of framing and contextualizing work for audiences that otherwise may be unable to see it through its appropriate cultural lens. The opportunity for these American artists and arts administrators to share their personal perspectives on these three topics with an international audience was beneficial in improving the understanding between American companies and potential collaborators overseas.

The choreographers showcased during the festival engaged in a panel discussion led by Andrea Snyder (co-founder/co-director of American Dance Abroad) on the final day of “SPOTLIGHT: USA”. The creators each described the genesis of their works and revealed some of the challenges they faced during their creation periods and since premiering them. After introducing what future projects they are now working on, a lively dialogue ensued between the artists and programmers addressing pre-conceived beliefs of what “American concert dance” is, in comparison to what actually motivates the “SPOTLIGHT: USA” artists. Regardless of the programmers’ expectations and opinions of the work they witnessed, there was a resounding growth in curiosity for American dance inspired by the live performances and the chance to hear directly from the artists.

This conversation was followed by “Funding American Arts Projects,” led by Carolelinda Dickey, Doug Sonntag, Ana Maria Alvarez (artistic director/founder of CONTRA-TIEMPO), and Alex Hyman (executive director of Kate Wallich + The YC). Together, this panel explained the “American model” of how artistic endeavors are financially supported. They discussed its basic structural elements, removed from the cushion of extensive government support, and offered examples of how companies uniquely balance earned and contributed income. Ana Maria and Alex compared the primary funding sources of CONTRA-TIEMPO and Kate Wallich + The YC, respectively explaining their prioritized relationships with foundation grants and individual giving. Providing our international audience with a fundamental understanding of how complex it is to navigate arts funding in the United States heightened their awareness of the monetary restrictions that often frame and impact American artists’ work. As a major challenge faced by everyone making a career out of creative expression in the United States, this conversation was necessary in order to lay the groundwork for future negotiations between international programmers and American artists.

The educational events integrated into “SPOTLIGHT: USA” were crucial to contextualizing the American dance works being performed over the course of the three-day festival. The combination of film screenings, workshops, and panel discussions helped support the performances in guiding everyone toward a more comprehensive and inclusive definition of “American dance.”

Thank you to everyone who participated in this eye-opening experience!


A Special Thanks to Jody and John Arnhold for Supporting the
Community Classes and Humanities Program of SPOTLIGHT: USA!

Reflections on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, by Andrea Snyder

26 Dec

I can’t believe I waited this long in my life to experience Israel! What an amazing and thrilling trip to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. A week is clearly not enough time.

Atanas Marc, Mary-Louise Albert and me outside the Old City

Andrea Snyder, Atanas Maev and Mary-Louise Albert outside the Old City

I was invited to attend the Jerusalem International Dance Week presented by MASH (Machol Shalom Dance House) from December 2-6, 2017, which lines up conveniently in advance of International Exposure at the Suzanne Dellal Centre in Tel Aviv. The convening in Jerusalem is a fairly intimate gathering (approximately 60 international presenters and guests, only three of which hailed from the U.S.) focused on independent dance artists. Exposure is in its 23rd year of showcasing a range of Israeli companies and artists, some with international recognition, for several hundred international presenters and guests (including a larger group of Americans).

First, a few impressions about the cities themselves. Jerusalem is magical for its centuries-old history, the dynamics of four cultures (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Armenian) functioning in close quarters within the Old City, the light, sounds, smells, food, marketplace… every sight and moment is thrilling. Tel Aviv has a different feel, for sure, but still interesting. The city is more laid back than Jerusalem, and the beach/sea dominate the environment and focus. I was only there for a very short time, and spent 99% gravitating to the Dellal Centre, so my appreciation of the city was limited.

A participatory performance in the David Tower Museum

Participatory performance in the Tower of David Museum, Jerusalem

Although I saw more dance work in Jerusalem than in Tel Aviv, overall the choreography reflected the general environment and current climate – themes generated around aggression, relationship struggles, and gender politics. One or two works focused on healing, sharing, and trust. The dancing was rich with passion, intensity, honesty, humor, and great skill. Both festivals were lively with interaction, hospitality, and friendliness.

My purposes in attending both festivals were several-fold. First, I was able to inform international colleagues about American Dance Abroad’s upcoming projects, SPOTLIGHT: USA and American Dance Recon, both of which were met with great enthusiasm.

Presenting info to colleagues in Jerusalem

Andrea Snyder presenting information about SPOTLIGHT to colleagues in Jerusalem

Second, I had the chance to talk with MASH’s leadership about future efforts for international residency exchanges, a focus that American Dance Abroad has on its radar.

Third, it was a terrific opportunity to meet new international colleagues and introduce them to American Dance Abroad’s efforts on behalf of U.S. dance artists and companies, as well as to learn about and be inspired by their own initiatives. There were ample opportunities for striking up conversations – at the sumptuous hotel breakfasts, on buses to the various venues in Jerusalem, at receptions, or sitting next to someone new in a theatre, to name a few.

It was a great, intense, valuable and positive trip!

Dance Dialogue: Focus on Dieter Jaenicke, Director, internationale tanzmesse nrw 

23 Oct

internationale tanzmesse nrw is a biennial international marketplace and festival for contemporary dance. Dance companies and artists from all over the world present their work live on stage. For choreographers, dancers, agencies, presenters and cultural institutions alike, it is a platform of vivid networking and exchange. It is an opportunity to meet roughly 2,000 professionals from all over the world, providing a space for topical discourse on recent developments in the field of contemporary dance.

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Photo © D. Matvejev

Six months ago, Dieter Jaenicke took over the artistic direction of internationale tanzmesse nrw 2018 and 2020. The experienced curator, festival manager and artistic director is the fourth director in Tanzmesse’s nearly 25-year history. He seeks to further develop cooperation with the international dance field as well as to curate a high-quality dance festival, both for international professional visitors and local audiences. As the current artistic director of HELLERAU, he draws on very diverse experiences in the dance field, as well as in the cultural field in general, including experience as curator for festival Boticário na Danca in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, festival director in Aarhus and organizer of the World Culture Forums 2004 and 2006.

First and foremost, he aims for holistic fairness and universality. To achieve this goal, Dieter Jaenicke seeks to provide a high quality artistic program and an open, welcoming attitude. Not only does Tanzmesse provide a broad space for the different genres and facets of contemporary dance, it also reflects societal issues by means of dance. Dieter Jaenicke values new ways of thinking and creating, cross-overs with other art forms, such as fine arts, new media or design, and particularly the fusion between tradition and innovation. To live up to this aspiration, all world regions need to be adequately represented at Tanzmesse. Jaenicke states: “It is international, global, and universal. We will especially take care that Africa and South America – who have had very little presence in the past – will be part of internationale tanzmesse nrw and its festival in 2018.”

Artists and choreographers who wish to participate are welcomed to send their proposals for performances until November 13, 2017. Artists need to be represented by a booth in order to apply for the festival program. Jaenicke encourages artists to “contact us personally if you have any questions, doubts, concerns!”

Find all the details at:
www.tanzmesse.com/en/tanzmesse/2018/exhibitors/performance-proposal/

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Photo © D. Matvejev

“Spotlight: USA” Press Conferences & Press Release

29 Sep

American Dance Abroad is pleased to announce “Spotlight: USA,” a platform of American dance in Bulgaria, from March 26-28, 2018. ADA Co-Directors Carolelinda Dickey and Andrea Snyder are currently in Bulgaria, formally announcing the platform in conjunction with our partner, One Foundation for Culture and Arts, at press conferences in Plovdiv and Sofia.

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A prestigious international jury curated the platform from a select list of 50 proposals, ultimately choosing a variety of artistic voices based in Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, and Seattle. Read the full press release for details on the artists participating from your area, as well as information on our jury, goals for the platform, and our sponsors. 

Dance Dialogue: Focus on Konrad Kurowski

22 Sep

International Dance Theatre Festival has been organized by Lublin Dance Theatre since 1997 and is one of the longest running and biggest contemporary dance festivals in Poland and Eastern Europe.

The Festival is built and reformed in relation to the ever-changing needs of both dance enthusiasts and the artistic community on every level: local, national and international.

The programming and organizational foundation of the Festival reflects the range and diversity of the dance phenomenon, both Polish and worldwide, their differences and common features, as well as possibilities for dialogue between sometimes radically different elements. As such, there is space for understanding the evolution from traditional and classical dance to its more contemporary forms, to present both young artists and the dance icons on which these choreographers have been brought up, to showcase both intimate solo works and large scale performances, to describe the way of dancing in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as grasping the ideologies and concepts of dancing in the West.

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Photo: Chunky Move ©Rom Anthonis

Lublin Dance Theatre is a partner in the European dance network Aerowaves – dance across Europe. In 2013, with support from the Institute of Music and Dance, LDT acted as an organizer of the meeting of the Aerowaves experts committee and since then regularly presents chosen performances from the priority list of “top twenty” artists.

From 2016-2018, International Dance Theatre Festival in Lublin is focusing part of its programming to showcase particular national dance scenes from all over the world. It started by highlighting Israel, this year the focus will be Scandinavia, and in 2018 artists presented in Lublin will be invited from the USA.

Dance workshops, movie screenings, photo exhibitions, book publications, and panel discussions with audience participation are organized within the framework of the Festival. All these elements are creating a vast socio-cultural contest for the presented performances and artistic events taking place during the Festival.

To reach Konrad or other members of the collective:


Peowiaków 12 str., 20-007 Lublin
Tel. + 48 (81) 466 61 46
http://www.20.mstt.pl
www.dancefestival.lublin.pl
www.ck.lublin.pl
www.ltt.art.pl