European DanceHouse Network Symposium: ‘Working Together Transnationally

Dance Ireland Programme Manager, Hazel Hodgins, recently visited our partners at K3 – Tanzplan Hamburg to celebrate their tenth anniversary and to represent the organisation at their European DanceHouse Network Symposium: ‘Working Together Transnationally’ (31 March – 02 April).

Facilitated by Feargus Ó Conchúir and curated by Brussels-based sociologist, Rudi Laermans, this Symposium focused on two distinct but symbiotic elements on the nature of working together: 

  1. How to Improve Artistic Working Conditions
  2. Media of Collaboration 

The third day offered a choreographic perspective on these topics. Here we focus primarily on day one of the Symposium which concentrated on the topic of Improving Artistic Working Conditions as this is particularly relevant at this time given the aims of the recently released Creative Ireland programme.

Fearghus opened the first day by highlighted methods for communication, which is particularly relevant for us given our 360 Degrees project (which we are working on with K3 and others).  He highlighted that in Western civilisation, our general method for communication is to adopt a position and defend it.  However it was agreed throughout the Symposium that we would  aim to use the method proposed by anthropologist William (Bill) Isaacs (Dialogue and the Art of Thinking Together, 1999), we will have a much more fruitful dialogue. 

This method asks for three things from each exchange:

  • Look for the positive intent
  • Look for coherence
  • Use your own voice

This strategy was particularly relevant for this format, as each session ended with table discussions on a particular question raised by each of the speakers in order to generate knowledge from our collective gathering.

Improving Artistic Working Conditions

Contributors for the sessions on this day shared best practices and innovative concepts that promote models of solidarity, fair practices and sustainable and reliable working conditions.  Together, we identified key issues, as well as basic standards in order to improve artistic working conditions in Europe.

Key questions arising:

 Minimum fee recommendations for artists. (Arose from presentations by Janina Benduski and Annelies van Assche)
What does it mean to work together in a non-hierarchical way? (Arose from presentation by Jenny Beyer)
What are the spaces that allow collaboration to happen? (Arose from presentations by Kristin de Groot, Jenny Beyer and Steriani Tsintziloni)
Is nomadism actually fuelling artists and their influences or does it actually ask for more compromises than it gives artistic freedom? (Arose from presentation by Bettina Masuch and Walter Heun)
How can you be relevant for a non-resident artist for a local community? (Arose from presentation by Bettina Masuch and Walter Heun)
Integrating:  Accepting the role of bureaucracy in what we do as artists and making it work for you instead of against the project. (Arose from presentation by Roberto Casarotto)

Key findings:

The idea for a European-wide social ‘flexicurity’ system was discussed, inspired by the presentation given by Annelies van Assche who is doing her PhD research in this area.

We acknowledged that the struggle faced by many in terms of working conditions, payment, and making sure contributions to insurance etc. are all covered is not a dance or even an artistic problem, but a freelancer’s problem. 

This ‘freelancer’s problem’ exists as our structures are still mostly responsive towards those in the traditional model of steady long-term employment common through the last century.  However as the success of the EU has created more possibilities for a ‘European identity’ as well as a national one, and more people exist as a hybridisation of nationalities, the possibilities for these types of employment are increasingly less available, and equally less attractive to this modern, mobile individual.

Many artists are operating so internationally they can be viewed or they view themselves as ‘super-national’ – without one identifying nationality.  We need to discuss how hybrid mobile identities and freelance working structures can be better supported across Europe.

Many thanks to Dr Kerstin Evert and all at K3 – Tanzplan Hamburg for having us as part of these discussions over these very fruitful few days.

Annelies van Assche, Janina Benduski, Jenny Beyer, Roberto Casarotto, Kristin de Groot, Walter Heun, Bettina Masuch, Steriani Tsintziloni