How to react to the unsettling global situation?

"In 2005, the inaugural Inventur format took place. The conference was marked by euphoria over a newly forming Europe with the Eastern Bloc States, and people were celebrating dance. In the meantime, this enthusiasm, in the face of the current state of affairs, became overshadowed by a realistic seriousness. The three days at tanzhaus nrw are very similiar to a crisis meeting help by the creative stakeholders, among them renowned choreographers, dancers and art theoreticians who have to judge and debate their positions given present global events.

New panels with high-profile guest speakers describe the palpable problems brought about by neo-liberalism, racism and postcolonialism, to negotiate them within the plenum. This analysis aims to quest for constructive courses of action. How can ideas be implemented innovatively, how can one conquer existing, outmoded patterns to react to the unsettling global situation?

We have so much imagination

Existing boundaries must be overcome – geographical as well as mental ones. Despite a globalised, postcolonial world with its accompanying phenomena of distances growing closer and overlapping cultural identities, stereotypical thinking still endures. A strengthening identification with one’s own nation leads to the deployment of right-wing movements in Western societies.

This paradox lies within the regular experience of dances of African origin, like Nora Chipaumire and Opiyo Okach, on the streets as well as in their work routine. On the first conference panel, both artists, with support from a video contribution by theoretician Achille Mmembe, report on their experiences and the expectations brought forth towards a black, postcolonialised body. One performance by Opiyo Okach, who alternately works in West Africa and in France, was criticised as being “not African enough”, as related by Okach, because it did not adhere to the cliché-ridden notion of an African dance piece.

This set of problems and the question for identity that goes along with it forms an important aspect in Nora Chipaumire’s work. As a New Yorker from Zimbabwe, she deals with the female, African body in dance, as examplified in her video Afropromo #1 King Lady. The dancer and choreographer emphatically speaks out on the behalf of the meaning of the influence that other countries and cultures exert on Western dance:

“West, you’re tired. You need us, the South. Because we have nothing, we can only dream. We have so much imagination”.

Since pioneers who were influential in their time such as Trisha Brown, Martha Graham and Pina Bausch have died, Western dance is basically dead along with them, only kept moving by this heritage, defying reinvention. Through means of a realised transculturalism, future productions could profit from the merging of different influcences and adhere to the zeitgeist.

Reaching the audience

In this context, she indicates a change in thinking by the audience. How do we reach the people outside of an elite intellectual target group and introduce them to cultural institutions and contemporary dance?

Nora Chipaumire examines youth culture and its language, even beyond of big urban centres, and appeals to an early cultural education in order to make even small children sensitive to different art forms. Additionally, she demands free admission to all cultural institutions inorder to dissolve the financial barrier. The project Infecting The City by Jay Pather successfully brings those thoughts to fruition in the form of a public theatre festival on the streets of Cape Town."

This text is an excerpt of the report of Inventur#2 by Pia Bendfeld.