Jochen Stechmann on Spring Forward 2014

First impressions are often based on only superficial observations and might quickly lead to judgment – about a person as well as an artwork. 

Aerowaves was an extremely inspiring and exhausting marathon with about 25 performances in four days, but instead of leading to a series of quick judgments, the effect of the choreographic overkill was more a kind of pleasant relaxation. As if the limitations of time and the intensity of the whole experience created a mindset that refrained from jumping to quick conclusions. In that state, I was not just watching the pieces, but started to meet them from within, to befriend them and experience them as a string of short and dense encounters that opened my perceptions to the artistic quality and the power of creativity. Art is good. The more the better.

Spring Forward successfully facilitated exposure for choreographic works and created opportunities to sell. But it lacks a shared content-orientated collective artistic discussion. Collective after talks, feedback sessions and critical discussions are a vital tool to challenge the choreographer’s artistic approaches. In order to develop dance beyond what we already know, we need to speak collectively about our specific experiences as choreographer, spectator, programmer, critic; we need to find space to share our observations, our insecurities, our wishes, our doubt, our disagreements, our failures. The process of writing about the performance gave space to reflect on the events from a distance about the event as a whole, but I would have loved to find that within the event. So let me share some critical remarks about the way contemporary dance was represented in the festival.

The range of body types that we saw on stage was rather limited. If the pieces tried to address a variety of issues in a merely universal manner, and are meant to represent the broad array of contemporary dance, why does it seem that the dancing bodies on stage still (or again?) fit in certain categories of normality? There was an almost overwhelming presence of youthful, slim and well trained, beautiful bodies, but where was the imperfect, the old, the transgressive?

Choreography was mainly approached in a traditional manner: dance as the execution of a (mainly visual or aesthetic) concept, conceived and shaped through the inspiration of a choreographer into a score of prefixed movements that become staged in a traditional, frontal set-up. Hmmm. What about contemporary dance as a movement practice, as a live-research, a laboratory or a transference tool for knowledge? Or choreography as an ‘open format’ with mechanisms that become transparent during their execution? Not a single piece crossed the boundaries between spectator and performer, between watching and participating.

And on the level of content: where were the challenging topics? It surely can be interesting to explore formal notions of repetition or to observe people in their twenties to struggle with their identity, but why the shyness to show works that seriously dare to touch issues of nationalism, race, structural violence? Why not take such risk even if you fail with it?

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Spring Forward
23 – 25 March 2018
Sofia, Bulgaria

Watch on demand: aerowaves.org/springforward

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