OpenLab DaBY Round Table Talk vol.1 Case Study: Overseas Creative Environments (1)
OpenLab DaBY Round Table Talk
OpenLab is a program open to everyone that has been running since Dance Base Yokohama (DaBY) opened in June 2020, and Round Table Talk is a series of talks that consider sustainable dance environments from multiple perspectives through the Fair Creation Declaration. Round Table Talk is a series of talks on sustainable dance environment through the Fair Creation Declaration. The staff, artists, and audience will share their knowledge and awareness of issues to date and consider how a fulfilling creative environment can be created.
vol. 1 Case Study: Overseas Creative Environments
Guests who have experience working overseas introduced the social systems that support the activities of dance houses and artists in other countries. We compared the current situation in Japan and considered examples that could be applied.
Speakers: Saori Hara, Yohei Hamada, Takuya Fujisawa, Eri Karatsu
Facilitators: Chihiro Tokai, Yuka Kamimura
Click here to see the full video.
Tokai: Today’s theme is “Case Studies of Overseas Creative Environments,” so we would like to hear from you about overseas case studies, and then Mr. Karatsu will talk about the situation in Japan and the efforts being made at DaBY in comparison, and we will proceed in a discussion-like manner.
First of all, I would like to ask you about the type of environment in which you have been creating and training overseas.
What are the bases of each activity and how did they come to be active there?
Hala: I am usually involved in the performing arts under various titles such as choreographer, performance artist, and dancer. I am sometimes involved in so-called performance art forms of expression in museums and galleries as well as in theaters. For this reason, I am sometimes referred to as a cross-genre artist.
The reason why I have been able to continue my activities in such a way is because of my study abroad in Germany. To give you a brief history of my stay in Germany, I had an opportunity to go abroad on an overseas training program supported by a private company, and I stayed in Germany first. At the time, I was not a freelance dancer, not a professional dancer, not a student, and I stayed in Berlin with a very moratorium-like feeling. There, I first learned that dance was permeated with a fairly broad meaning, and I felt that this kind of dance would have the potential to overlap with my vision of expression. It was difficult for me to think about it in Japan, but when I went to Germany, I clearly realized that I wanted to be a dancer.
Until then, I had not had the opportunity to do any dance training or academic studies, but I thought it would be better to do a formal study in Germany, so I entered the graduate program at the University of the Arts Berlin. I was not a dancer, and there was not a single piece of theater piece at the time, but the reason why I got in is because I think dance is broadly defined. Anyway, I started from the premise that everything is dance. I think it was because there were quite active discussions about “what kind of dance should we look at here,” which gave people like myself a chance.
After completing the three-year program there, I stayed in Berlin as a freelance artist and began traveling back and forth to Japan. Since I also had Corona, I think I was only able to work full-time for about two or three years. During the year of Corona, the restrictions in Germany were quite strict. I had to stay at home for a long period of time, even though I was guaranteed to be there. I was traveling back and forth from Japan during those times, so I feel that my comparative perspective became stronger because of Corona. This is the flow of my stay in Germany.
Hamada: I have been working in Norway for about five and a half years. The reason I moved to Norway was when I went to visit my former partner, Bergen Dance Center （Bergen Dansesenter.) It was during the summer holidays, so I went there to say hello. It was during the summer vacations, so he gave me the key and said, “If you’re going to be here for a month, you can use the studio. I was given a key. I wondered if there was such a thing as heaven where you never know what is going on (laughs). (Laughs) At the time, I was living in Suwa, Nagano, in a guesthouse and searching for a place to live. I had originally gone to Berlin on a working holiday, and then I was looking for a route to get an artist visa. So I took the plunge and moved there, thinking this might be something I could do. After all, it was a working holiday at first, but that is how I ended up staying in Norway.
As Hala is a school graduate, I am an Austrian while everyone around me has a career in academia. Seed (Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance) I went to the Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance in Austria for a year and then quit. As for dance, I originally tried to do musicals, then I met Ryohei Kondo, and after that I continued with him while getting jobs, so I had a complex about not having a foundation. I was told by the Bergen Dance Center, “Make sure you apply for a grant.” So I wrote a CV (curriculum vitae) in English. So I wrote about my activities in Japan as a professional activity for which I received even one yen, and it turned out to be a huge volume. Then, first of all, a festival adopted my idea for a new work. That was the first time I received a grant from Bergen, the city I was living in at the time. Bergen was a region that was generous in its subsidies for culture and the arts. In addition, I received a grant from an organization that provides grants to performers, so I felt that this could be a job.
The other project, Mind the Gap, had an open call for applications to present a work-in-progress for the piece. That application was for the earliest applicants. The system was to be adopted in the order of application. At first, it was a gamble, not knowing if I would get paid or not, but as a result, I was allowed to use the studio for two full days and received about 200,000 Japanese yen for a 20-minute work-in-progress showing. That was my experience before Corona. After Corona, a lot has happened, and I recently moved to a town in the northern part of Norway, Davvi Performing Center （Davvi Performing Center) I am now trying out the capital city of Norway. I am now starting a two-location operation outside of the Norwegian capital to try it out.
Fujisawa: I am based in Gothenburg, Sweden. In Japan, there is a concentration of activities in Tokyo, and it may be easier to get grants in Tokyo, but in Sweden, the cities are scattered, and sometimes the budgets are higher in the northern part of the country. Stockholm, the capital, has more artists and projects, and is a better working environment, but when it comes time to apply for grants, there is too much competition for them to be selected. I originally lived in Gothenburg, so I continue to live there, but there are fewer competing artists, and budgets are relatively easy to obtain.
Characteristics of dance houses in various locations
Fujisawa: Returning to the topic of dance houses, Sweden has Danscentrum （Danscentrum) Danscentrum is an organization that has four studios in Sweden, each with its own base. There are four studios in Sweden, each with its own base, and if you think of them as freelance rehearsal spaces, a place for daily activities, a place to exchange information, and a place to meet new artists, I think it is easy to imagine what it is like. Apart from this, you have dance companies releasing their daily classes. If you contact a professional company and ask them if you would like to join on this day, they will let you go, unless they are very busy. Of course there are dance studios for freelancers, but I think the company itself also serves as a base for dancers.
Dance Centrum also regularly solicits applications for residencies and offers studios during off-seasons, such as summer vacations. I am a member of
Dance Centrum Väst
We have a small festival every year in February called Februrary Dance, where eight groups are given the opportunity to perform a 20-minute work-in-progress over two days. That gives us access to the theater and an opportunity to try out lighting and ideas, and we always have a professional photographer there to record all the performances. And that’s not just shooting from the front, either; they can use multiple cameras to shoot a very high quality video. We can freely use that as material for our own advertising. I think Dance Centrum can also serve as a place to encourage the freelance scene to become more active.
Hamada: In Norway, the only national contemporary dance company in Bergen, where I lived, offers morning classes. Carte Blanche （Carte Blanche is the only national contemporary dance company in Norway. When they are not touring, they basically open their morning classes to professionals.
Apart from that, there are other places that offer free training to professional dancers. In Oslo, the capital city, you have some kind of class every weekday. When it comes to the provinces,
Davvi Performing Center
and others are acting as dance centers. They are not as organized as in Sweden, but they are trying to connect what they have started and oversee it later. In some places, there are theaters, or they collaborate with local companies to hold a work-in-progress show-in festival twice a year.
Darby is a reintegrated and inaugurated 2021 location. This is where they will openly solicit residencies and cover domestic travel, food, and up to 4 apartments in the residency for up to 3 weeks. I think this is the competency center where the most money is being spent, although they are willing to pay some of the expenses and take the rest of the grant money. The same thing is happening in Norway, where there may be more money in the north. In addition, there is a project here to support the development of young people, and we are working with a local bank and Talent Norge (Talent Norge) which covers Olympic athletes as well, also provides money for performing arts artists. This is currently in its third term, and we are in the process of getting it adopted.
Hala: Now that I hear what you two are talking about, I wonder if this is different in Germany, because the land area is by far the largest in Germany. In Germany, you have laws and cultural systems that are completely divided by state. If you live in Berlin, you can never apply for a grant in Munich, and you have to prove residency. Each state also has a different percentage of the cultural budget, and Berlin has a larger percentage. Berlin is particularly strong in supporting young people. When you are mid-career, Düsseldorf is more likely to get a larger budget, but it no longer distributes a small amount to everyone. If you go to the south, such as Munich, it is more conservative, with a stronger neoclassical flavor, and each state has its own characteristics.
Berlin is so international that there are probably fewer German artists, so there are quite a few cases where physical identity and works are directly connected to racial background, gender, and so on. The characteristics of expanding the diversity and variation of artists in this way varies considerably within Germany, but since I was in Berlin-Brandenburg, I think that the dance houses I am about to introduce have a strong coloring of this kind.
First, because the website is easy to understand,
Tanzfabrik is a dance factory. The literal translation is “dance factory. I understand that a dance house is roughly defined as a place where classes, performances, production, promotion, and other dance-related activities take place.
The first function of Tanzfabrik is the “STAGE. The second is the “SCHOOL. There are classes for both professionals and amateurs. Some classes focus on technique, while others are workshops for creativity, such as improvisation classes or workshops on how to compose a piece, and guest artists sometimes come. There is always something going on every day. Generally, there is one for professionals in the morning and one for amateurs in the afternoon. During the summer and winter holidays, more creative workshops are held, and guests from abroad visit. Then there is the “FACTORY” function. It means that there is not only a program director directing the program, but also a production of Tanzfabric. There are roughly four studios, but they are already too small, so a branch school was built some years ago. Anyway, there is something going on from morning to night, Monday through Sunday. Basically, they also rent out the place, but it is not that expensive, and the price is such that even freelance artists can rent it. Anyway, the studios are big, maybe twice the size of DaBY’s, basically. But there is no funding system, it is just a place or hub.
Also in the Wedding District
is also located in the wedding district. It is a dance house that was originally converted from a factory and has 17 studio-like spaces. There are 17 studios, and Tanzfabrik rents studio 6 and 7, and various institutions use these studios as part of the hub. So the assumption is that the scale is different (laughs). The reason why I introduced this place next is that about half of the 17 studios are rented by the University of the Arts Berlin, which I attended. Students take classes and discussions here, and this is where they carry out their MA program.
I used to go to, Soda (MA Solo/Dance/Authorship [SODA]) a department with only eight students per grade level. It is a program for self-production, in which students learn how to use, create, and perform with their own bodies as solo artists, and they are required to perform in the final production. Another separate program, the Choreography (MA Choreography [maC]) (MA Choreography ), which offers a master’s degree specializing in choreography, and these students are not allowed to perform in the final production. SODA and MAC are like twins. In addition Batcheller. (BA Dance, Context, Choreography) These three programs are running in circles in the UFA studio, and professional productions are running next to them, so academism and practice are always physically passing each other in the courtyard. I think that’s what makes it a really nice place.
Also, Marameo (MARAMEO) I’m not much of a fan of marameo, but it’s a place to work on technique. I haven’t had much luck with it, but it is a place where you can work on your technique. It’s like a guest choreographer teaches you phrases and you learn by imitating them, and there is a different guest artist’s class every week. Also, they are not supposed to have productions. I think there will be workshop showings, but there is no supporting touring role from there at all.
I used to go to Tanzfabrik and Ufa Studio because they are still very broad in how they define dance. They are very positive about formats such as artistic performance and durational work, where you can come and go as you please for 8 hours or so, and I get the impression that people come and go as well, like sound performers. Each dance house may have its own characteristics, but I have the impression that the city itself covers a wide range of dance.
Tokai: Thank you very much. I think the physical studio environment is very well-developed, and I think the fact that there are plenty of opportunities is probably different from Japan.
Current Situation in Japan and DaBY’s Efforts
Tokai: Mr. Karatsu, in light of what you just said, could you talk about the situation in Japan and your thoughts on creating DaBY?
Karatsu: I really envy you every time I hear something like this, and I have been living in the Japanese dance world for decades, but I would like to share a few assumptions about the Japanese situation. In the case of Japan, there are almost no theaters or creation environments dedicated to dance or music. The word “theater” itself is a new concept, and I believe that there are cultural facilities in every region, but they are basically “boxes” in a sense that are used publicly as places open to various people, not only for the arts, but also for political gatherings, local karaoke contests, choral competitions, and so on. In a sense, it is a “box. Inside the box is a place that is always under control, and the basic rule is to return it to its original state. Because it is a place like that, it is not possible to continue creation. Actually, there are about 3,000 public cultural facilities in Japan. Thus, there are buildings, but there is no software. Since there are so many dance schools in Japan, I have always felt that the lack of places to create is a major problem, even though the number of people who want to create and dance is increasing.
So, in order to see if we could somehow secure a place to create, I began to look around at dance houses as I went on overseas tours. In fact, there is one dance house that I am using as a model, Dance Base Edinburgh （Dance Base Edinburgh) I have a model for one dance house, Dance Base Edinburgh. That is why this dance house is called Dance Base Yokohama. As I mentioned before, there are many different types of dance houses. Some are mainly for classes, while others are mainly for creation. Some are open to professionals, while others are open to the neighborhood, and the extent to which they are open varies as well. Although I have only seen a limited number of dance houses, Edinburgh’s dance houses are relatively compact in terms of class, residency, and performance functions, and they are also Edinburgh International Festival （Edinburgh International Festival) The Edinburgh Dance House is also the center of dance performances at the Edinburgh International Festival, a major festival in Edinburgh. I thought that if something like this could be established in Japan, it would change the dance environment in Japan, so I decided to use it as a model.
In Japan, there are really not that many dance houses themselves, although there are Dance Box in Kobe and Session House in Tokyo. They are each operated privately, in a difficult environment where they have to subsidize themselves every time. In this context, in the case of Japan, what should be done is not yet defined. Anyway, there are so many things we don’t have, so we would like to do various things. I would like it to have classes, I would like it to be a residency space, and of course I would like it to function as a community where dancers and people who love dance can gather. Also, when we held seminars like the one today, we wanted the general public to be interested in coming to listen to them, and so on…we packed a lot of things into the start of DaBY.
But then suddenly I became Corona, and there were so many things I really couldn’t do. We are now just four years old, using online as well. Our initial concept was to be a dance house that planned and operated a business specializing in creating a professional dance environment and nurturing creators. In Japan, dancers, and then staff related to dance, are not able to make it their profession. Even those who call themselves dancers are more likely to pay their own ticket quota to perform in productions rather than receive money. In this context, I started this program with the hope of creating an environment where people can have a sense of professionalism and that this can become a job, even if only a little. Every year, we all think together and seek together on a daily basis what kind of place we should be in the Japanese situation.
You mentioned Scandinavia earlier, where there were originally “European-style dance houses,” and I think we are now in a situation where new dance centers are being built, dance is being subsidized, and we are working hard to fit that model into our own country. Japan is at the stage where the private sector is gradually creating and exploring Japan’s own dance environment, as it is not easy to do that in the country. In this talk, I would like to refer to various examples to help us think more about how we can create a better environment in Japan today.
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