Louise Ahl reflects on the Juncture Debate
“What do venues want from artists?”
Four invited independent dance and theatre managers, producers and programmers presented during this debate their individual provocations to render debate. Producer Lisa Wolfe’s provocation was that dancers should not write their own dance copy. From my understanding this was for the reason that dancers often make use of an exclusive terminology that does not necessarily communicate well with an audience beyond the dance community. According to Wolfe, words like “practice”, “process”, “embodied”, or “performative” should not take place within the few lines of a copy. Instead, through an embracement of a simplified terminology the words of dance would speak directly to its audience.
I am not sure I agree with the strategy to dumb the language down in order to create a dialogue, surely there must be a way to say whatever you have to say – complex or not – in a simple, yet creative way, without sounding like you are selling a new washing powder? Within my own practice (yes, I use the forbidden word) texts are immensely important and form a part of the process (again!) that helps me as a maker to understand the work (oops!) I am creating. It seems strange to me that somebody that is not involved within this process would write these texts for me. I am my own administrator, producer, funding body, light designer, performer etc. and could never afford hiring somebody to write my dance copy, even if I wanted to.
The debate was maybe more concerned with issues of well-established artists and companies. The image that was projected of ‘the artist’ did not echo well with my own practice. As a newcomer in this business, I am not expected to demand and I should always be grateful. I am fully aware of competition within the arts sector and the current financial restrictions within funding organisations. Nonetheless, I have a feeling that if I don’t set the standards for how my artistic practice is valued, nobody else will. I don’t believe in the structure of artists having to produce work that programmers will pick and choose from and that this piece of work is the foundation for the collaboration between artist and programmer.
I recently had a conversation with a producer that pushed the value of supporting the artist – and not the work s/he is making. This point of view appreciates and gives value to the artistic process rather than focussing on the product, and this is what I want from venue programmers and producers.