Bambi-Eyed in Pilsen
Sights to be seen at the closing party of Spring Forward 2016: hefty measures of free wine, fluorescent green lights and spontaneous post-festival performances (which were pointedly exempt from the official program). Somewhere in the midst of colliding bodies and explosive chatter, I was engaged in a half-hearted and somewhat dazed toe-tap. The vast space of DEPO2015 and several other Aerowaves platform venues had played host to (too?) many performances that weekend, and I was desperately trying to make sense of it.
Spring Forward is a springboard for debate. A symphonic buzz of discussion would erupt as we were shepherded to the next performance (and the next, and the next, and the next…), with each undergoing a rigorous analysis from producers, artists and writers. Pilsen’s art venues were quickly transformed into feeding grounds of people gorging themselves on bustling activity. What happened off stage, back stage and away from the auditoriums is what made this festival special. In fact, it was the times stood awaiting the next dance that resonated with me more than any performance.
As a critic, I write about what happened and what was there. I also try to write about how a performance made me feel and my general attitude towards it. - I often get stumped at this point. If I’m completely honest, I was Bambi-eyed when I arrived in Pilsen. As a new kid on the critiquing block, my opinion and I seemed like outsiders amongst this insider crowd. Yet I quickly found myself joining the tide of chitchat and saying goodbye to my critiquing cherry. Despite hosting nearly an entirely professional audience, Spring Forward isn’t a shindig that promotes exclusivity. The collective nature of the festival is an invitation to all - a congregation of different experiences and cultures with each party joining the fold.
A critical issues panel made up of myself and other Springback Academy members raised issues concerning the non-professional spectator and dance across Europe. This afterthought has stuck with me: that diversity and discussion are necessary for art’s continued development. Dance works at Spring Forward presented the body in its everyday functioning as well as in highly technical and specialised ways. As our primary interface, this immediately gives us all a “get-in” - we all have bodies, so we all have a capacity to empathise with dancing bodies. Arts can appear to be limited to the inner circle of industry professionals, but perhaps shifting focus to a culture of exchange and dialogue could give this outlook a new paint job.
Everyone has a valid opinion, whether you’re a long-time industry buff, a student or my mum. Art is simply a reimagining of cultural and social commentaries. There is no hierarchy and there’s nothing to understand. There is only you, the art and the debate. A frequent note from my loving Springback (tor)mentor, Donald Hutera, is to “own it” - own your opinion, and own your voice. It’s a useful, gently delivered slap on the wrist to receive.