BRATISLAVA IN MOVEMENT
International contemporary dance festival
The Bratislava in Movement Festival was established in 1997 and shaped by a community of dancers and teachers from the Contemporary Dance Association founded in 1996. The aim of the association was to organize activities for the dance community and encompassed three areas: education, presentation of contemporary dance and its reflection. The association had the vision to create a centre – a venue in Bratislava – for the presentation and development of contemporary dance. Later ambitions included the creation of an information centre and establishing and maintaining international ties. In a sense, the festival drew upon the tradition of presenting high-quality French contemporary dance that had been started by the first director of the French Institute in Bratislava, Luc Bouiniol Laffont. On his initiative various projects were held here for the period of three years, aimed at promoting contemporary work including a festival entitled Bratislava en Movement. It was only natural that we wanted to build on what had been successfully launched in previous years and with great respect and with the approval of the Institute, we took over the organization of the festival.
In 2000 the festival detached itself from the activities of the Contemporary Dance Association and its organization was taken over by the newly established Bratislava in Movement Association. After the first three years, Miroslava Kovářová became the director of the festival and she remains at this post to this day. The personal background of the festival today consists of six people, the artistic and executive director (Miroslava Kovářová), executive manager (Katarína Figula), PR Manager (Dana Freyerová), graphic designer (Oleg Fintora), technical consultant (Juraj Ridl) and accountant (Ľubica Roháriková).
In the first year of the festival we operated in very basic conditions, still without internet, with just one phone and fax machine, but with great enthusiasm. Gradually the festival acquired sufficient administrative and organisational facilities. The preparation of such an event requires the year-round efforts of two persons – the artistic and executive director and the executive manager. The festival is member of various international networks and has for years cooperated with similar festivals abroad.
The festival systematically presents the work by Slovak choreographers and aims at showing their creations in international context. The selection is obviously personal and based on experience and taste, but on the other hand driven by an effort at objectivity, i. e. presenting latest trends.
Even today, after 18 years, I still encounter the question of what is contemporary dance. But the festival cannot be made for a small circle of people, for a professional and specialized audience only. Therefore when selecting performances, we also take into consideration the communicative aspect of the performance. When a performance is good, there is communication between the stage and the audience and even though uninitiated viewers cannot properly interpret or describe in words whatthey have seen, they will leave the performance satisfied because of the experience they have just had.
Among the driving forces of the Contemporary Dance Association was the need to create a venue in Bratislava for the presentation of contemporary dance – a task that has unfortunately not been fulfilled yet. During the eighteen years of its existence the festival was housed in different venues and made Bratislava and Bratislava´s theatres move in various ways. We started at the Nová Scéna Theatre and then moved to Aréna Theatre. There, we remained longest and it could be said that this venue was the most appropriate for contemporary dance. We succeeded in presenting great ensembles and productions at the Slovak National Theatre´s historic building as well. After the founding of the elledance theatre we began our cooperation and showed smaller productions at the T&D House and later at the A4 alternative space.
If asked to name some of the 177 companies and soloists from 25 countries performing at the festival during the 18 years of its existence, I would mention Akram Khan, Russell Maliphant, Charles Linehan, José Navas, Marie Chouinard, Xavier Le Roy, Susanne Linke a Urs Dietrich, Wim Vandekeybus /UltimaVez, The Peeping Tom Collective, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, Liat Dror a Nir Ben Gal, Rui Horta, Compagnie Drift, Ballet Preljocaj, Josef Nadj or Granhøj Dans.
Since its inception, the festival has launched projects that take place outside of theatrical venues, and enter the urban space of Bratislava. This is grounded in our cooperation with MAPA – Moving Academy of Performing Arts in Amsterdam, which provided education in the area of cultural management and lighting design. The aim of such projects is to bring dance out in the open and closer to the audience and to establish closer ties with international scene. The result were projects such as New Ritual, at first a Slovak and in the following two years an international project or the complex production project H2O/Danubiana/H2O. All were successful and well received projects that made the genre more attractive for the audience. To this day, the festival hosts the site specific project Dance in the Streets.
In the eighteen years of its existence, the festival has seen several phases of growth and stagnation. I personally see as the peak of the festival the year 2002, when apart from a site-specific production at Danubiana gallery a week long educational project Rozhovory tiel / Physical Dialogues took place, during which 14 personalities representing the world of improvisation, including Steve Paxton, Lisa Nelson and Daniel Lepkoff, visited Bratislava. Another interesting project was Borders, conceived in cooperation with TanzQuartier Vienna – the first project of the festival to be held outside of Bratislava. Some of the projects failed to create such a media uproar as the one at Danubiana, yet they played a significant role in terms of research and outreach to the artistic community, because they allowed for encounters between artists who might otherwise have never met or entered the world of dance (Laco Teren or Miroslav Marcelli among them).
From its beginnings, the festival aims at being proactive and in addition to performances it hosts community activating programmes such as workshops, discussions, screenings and exhibitions. We regularly organize educational programmes in cooperation with the Academy of Performing Arts in Bratislava, targeted at students and professionals. So far, 27 side events were held, the four already mentioned international art projects and two international conferences. One in the year 2000, reflecting on the ten years of partnership in performing arts between the US and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the second in 2006, dedicated to Rudolf Laban, under the title Laban for the 21st Century.