A brief history of the dancehouses, part of a larger project initiated by EDN to look into the relevance of dancehouses and the role they play in the dance ecosystem in Europe and in the world

EDN started at tanzhaus nrw Düsseldorf a two-year project aimed to write the history of dancehouses in Europe. The kick-off took place in the framework of this Atelier (22-23 May) entitled “History of Dancehouses in Europe” during which different professionals worked together to discuss topics and establish an editorial board for a future publication.

Following up the historical process of the so-called “free theater scene” since the 1970’s a.o. in Germany, the development of the dancehouses in Europe shall be retraced. It is intended to formulate questions and gather knowledge within the context of a first meeting, called “atelier”, to make the relatively young history in the context of the aesthetic and cultural – and sociopolitical development comprehensible.

Parallel to the creation of these free theater groups which, amongs other things, were developed outside the support structure of institutionalized theaters, within dance there were also initiatives which developed new aesthethic concepts beyond the established dance companies, questioning the hierarchy within the give theatre structures and developing new production and presentation models. Some of the independent dance centers arouse from citizens’ initiatives, which formulated a radically democratized concept of culture beyond elitism.

Centers like Tanzhaus NRW in Düsseldorf or The Place in London, partially look back on a history of development of over 30 years. Places that once aroused within the periphery of traditional cultural stakeholders have now initiated new structures on their own, while also having managed to become well established in the cultural scene, competing with the dance companies belonging to municipal theaters and opera houses.

Topics discussed in the context of presentations and round-tables during the meeting:

  • Overview of the historical path of development of the movement of dancehouses in Europe in the context of exemplary developments
  • Relationship between established municipal theatre structure and independent dance scene
  • Institutional critique and institutionalization of “alternative” models
  • Building up international production structures and networks in the context of the regional orientation of dancehouses

After this first meeting, that had an emphasis on the development structures in Germany, EDN will continue the trajectory to consider the European as well as the international context. This meeting was the first within a series of editorial meetings within the next two years - directly followed by the Atelier in Bassano on Building a dancehouse.

Documentation of the Atelier: video report

Düsseldorf I Germany