August 2010 – April 2011.
(With a 3 month break between November 2010 – January 2011.)
Report on the SuSy – Support System programme of Workshop Foundation Budapest & Jardin d’Europe
After finishing my college studies majoring as a cultural manager I could not find a job in the cultural field due to the lack of practical experience. Therefore I took on a job in the for-profit field. In 2010 I decided to apply for the trainee internship programme for cultural managers announced by Workshop Foundation because it was an opportunity for me to put my academic background and interest to good use. This programme offered me a chance to get closer to the field of contemporary dance not only as a spectator or participant of dance courses but as an active organiser as well.
I. The Organisation(s)
I.1. Workshop Foundation (WSF):
Workshop Foundation was founded in 1992 with the aim of providing support for independent artists, encouraging their artistic development in order to facilitate the development of the Hungarian contemporary dance scene as a whole. The Foundation provides different kind of support for independent performing artists as assisting in their education, production, applications and other types of professional help. WSF offers programs both in Hungary and internationally. They intend to assist young artists in active networking, provide organizers with information, and create opportunities to change experiences, and support research, travel, as well as provide opportunities for artists to perform in front of a wider audience. The Foundation provides applications not just for dance artists, but for managers, and critics too.
The Foundation is working with only two permanent employees. To deal with its numerous projects and programmes WSF co-operates with one freelance project coordinator, and other professionals (like dance-teachers, coaches, technicians, translators, critics, managers, organisers etc). The Foundation involves young volunteers and trainees in its activities, for whom it is a good opportunity to get to know more about the field.
I.2. WSF is a partner of Jardin d’Europe (JdE):
The Foundation is involved in different international networks and projects. The biggest of all is called Jardin d’Europe, which is a European project supported by the Culture Programme 2008-2013 of the European Union. Its focus is helping emerging dancers, choreographers, dance administrators and dance writers to gain professional knowledge. This international network unites ten cultural institutions from ten different countries under the leadership of the main organiser DanceWeb (based in Vienna).
II. Programs during my internship
II.1. During my 6 months internship I took part in the following WSF events:
At the very beginning of the season the so called Dancemarathon was organised, where amateur and professional dancers can visit dance classes for a weekend. Every year it is a good opportunity for people to try different – mostly modern and contemporary – styles and techniques. The featured classes can be visited all year long in the Studio of the Foundation.
Apart from the above mentioned dance classes the Studio is used by local dance professionals, or by artists-in-residence as a free rehearsal space offered by WSF. It is really a curiosity in the city, and it is fully reserved during the whole year. The fact that it is booked continuously shows how big is the need for it.
www.wsf.hu 2 www.jardendeurope.com
I visited the International Dancefilm Festival no 6., named EDIT. At this event I could discover how wide the interpretation is when it comes to the genre ‘dance film’. Among the movies there were different kinds such as: simply a performance was recorded, a project made for film, a work which showed how a dance project was evolving, and some experimental works.
I had the opportunity to follow the research process of two artists in the frame of Research into the Unknown – improvisational laboratory. This program provides artists, and their partners (who come from a different field), a unique opportunity for research and experimentation by imposing a minimum of requirements on them. On the same called Festival there was a selection of the best researches of the last years.
WSF is a partner of the international organization On-AiR, funded with support from the European Commission. On-AiR is a European tool for artists; mobility workshops and training programmes on artist-in-residence (AiR) opportunities3. It is a networking opportunity for organisations and a useful information platform for artists. The last On-AiR Seminar, organised by WSF, was in Budapest in March 2011. I took part in the program both as organiser and participant. The main subjects were the followings: artist-in-residency programs (organization, participation, application, hosts), EU culture policy, networking.
II.2. ... and further programs related to Jardin d’Europe Project:
As a trainee of WSF I spent most of my time with EU projects, particularly with JdE projects. JdE implements a wide range of activities in the field of further training, co-productions, scholarships, residencies, dance journalism and dance administration. During 6 months I had the opportunity to work in different projects being in different phases, so I could gain experience in carrying out various tasks during an ongoing project.
With the WSF staff we visited Vienna, and spent one day there on the ImPulsTanz Festival 2010, organised by DanceWeb. The closing event was very impressing for me. The participants, young dancers, came from all over the world. There I felt, that the common artistic training and the exchanges of the ideas and knowledge can really cross cultural and national borders. I felt there that dance could be a common language. It was an opportunity for me to meet the leaders of the JdE project as well. It was really an impressing beginning to start my internship.
The first JdE program I worked at was the one called ttt. The Teaching The Teachers (ttt) is a forum for dance teachers where they can share experiences, discuss theoretical and practical questions and initiatives concerning contemporary dance education. After watching the photos, films and reading reports of the teachers made on the methodological seminar in 2010 (hosted by WSF), I joined the action research program, and took part in the publishing preparation of a booklet on the ttt- Budapest event.
The multicultural Co-production project was the biggest and longest JdE program I took part in as an organiser. The goal of this program is to motivate international cooperation among young contemporary dancers. This JdE program offers a special opportunity to emerging dance artists to create a new performance. Other artists from at least 3 different European countries have to be involved in the international project. During my internship I could follow the development of the performance Forget it! from the beginning until the premiere of the piece.
Apart from the above mentioned projects other programs were announced by WSF. Two young Hungarian dancers could participate at Impulze Dance Festival 2011 with the support of DanceWeb. During the five week session workshops, performances and individual coaching were offered to the participants.
A lot of application opportunities were announced in the frame of Wild Card and residency programs. At JdE network there is a possibility to make exchange programs with co-organizers, delegate and receive young dancers, choreographers and offer them rehearsal places. They can go deeper in their own projects there, or can get involved in workshops, festivals, temporary projects of different dance companies. Such partnerships were realized with Ultima Vez, Cullberg Balett, 4Culture, CCN Montpellier.
At the end of my internship I was involved in the process of finding the next trainee for the Support System program. I facilitated the process of her getting acquainted with the work of WSF providing basic information about the tasks and the ongoing JdE projects of WSF.
III. Experiences, what I have learnt
III.1. Work method
The office of WSF is located at Trafó – House of Contemporary Arts, which used to be an industrial building. Trafó is an institution, a building, an organization which belongs to the contemporary arts (dance, theater, visual arts, literature and music).
Trafó has no company of its own; it is a place that hosts performances. It is an open place on different levels according to my experience there. Trafó provides an ideal place to WSF, where the most needed work equipment is available. However it would be useful to have an extra computer that could be used by WSF staff.
A dance studio is located in Trafó. It is run by WSF, and can be used by local or artist-in- residence dancers and choreographers as a rehearsal space for free. Workshops and classes for amateurs and dance enthusiasts are also organised there. The studio is fully reserved in general, and it has a key role in the realisation of WSF’s mission.
Despite the fact that WSF has numerous ongoing projects simultaneously, these are managed by only two full time employees and one freelance project coordinator. All of them work there for a long time, know the field well, and have enough routine to co-ordinate the programmes. In my opinion the success of the Foundation depends on their keen interest, openness, helpfulness and on the good professional relation they have among each other within WSF, and also with other experts working in the field of contemporary dance both in Hungary and internationally.
The other fruitful experience for me was to meet with an effective administration, and see how it is worth systematising data and archiving documents. I really liked the working environment at WSF, which was professional, the staff was reliable, punctual and at the same time the working style was flexible, friendly and there was no humour missing even in busy times. However at the busy periods, when it was necessary to manage various ongoing projects simultaneously, it was difficult to cope with the heavy workload. In these situations it would be beneficial to have more time previously for planning, and naturally more permanent employees could handle the situation better.
There was real team work at WSF where communication was as important as the organisational tasks. We had weekly meetings where we made clear what we had to do regarding ongoing projects, and who was responsible for the different tasks. These meetings were important since not all of us were permanently in the office. We had a virtual calendar as well, which also facilitated the planning process of our common work. These seem to be simple and basic stuff, but they served as key elements in making our cooperation fluid, traceable and making us possible to keep tasks happening according to schedule. There was a final feedback meeting at the end of my internship where I had the opportunity to summarise my experiences and reflect on the work: to point out the positive elements and the difficulties as well, and I also got a feedback about my work. I think it would be extremely useful for a trainee to have the opportunity to make such a conversation not only at the end but also during the internship, for example at mid-time.
The language of communication within the European network was English - usually via e-mail. Despite the fact that it was rear that the JdE partners had meetings it was impressing to work in a network where the cooperation was alive and I felt no cultural borders among the partners.
III.2. Becoming well-informed
This half-year was a very useful learning period for me. The beginning was a bit hard, because of the great amount of new information, from which a lot could be evident for people working on the field for years, but not for an “almost new born”. As time passed I realised that this internship offered me a lot of opportunity to get acquainted with the field of contemporary dance.
The beloved obligation of visiting performances week by week helped me to meet the most important dance companies and see the places in Budapest that are the centres of contemporary arts. I saw a great number of performances from choreographers who are significant in Hungary and quite a few foreign companies as well. The trainee at the WSF has the task to make a monthly collection of the performances in the city to be sent in the newsletter of the Foundation. Although after a while it seemed to be a mundane task to be done, at the same time it was a really useful activity at the beginning and it helped to become familiar with the names of the places, companies and choreographers. There is no other all-in collection like this, and it is definitely practical to check for anybody who is interested in the field. It would deserve to get bigger publicity.
At the beginning of my internship I realised that it was essential to understand the language of dance, and know more about dance history in order to become a good organiser or manager, or even “just a simple knowledgeable and sensitive spectator”. At the weekly meetings at WSF we had discussions about the performances we had seen. Sometimes I missed the opportunity to go deeper in the subject, and dispute about one piece longer instead of speaking about more performances shortly and lightly. Next to the initiative classes for students organised by Trafó or by some dance companies, it would be exciting to have some kind of open classes for adults led by aesthetes or critics. I think there is a need for it. It was helpful, that there were reviews and websites recommended by WSF so that I could read in more detail about the subject there. It was also relevant for me to read artistic statements and plans of the young dancers or choreographers who were applying for the different projects of WSF and JdE.
The different projects of WSF I took part in involved me in the life of contemporary dance. Thanks to the Support System program and the different projects related to the international project of JdE I got acquainted with dancers, choreographers, coaches, managers, organisers and other important experts on the field. It was an ideal situation that WSF is located in Trafó, which works with cc. 15 experts. The fact, that the two organisations were physically so close made an effective flow of information in the house.
Thematic seminars were delivered by WSF to the trainees. They supported me to get a deeper knowledge in various topics, for instance I got information about the different levels and types of education in dance art, the non-profit field and its juridical regulation, about the cultural funds like National Cultural Fund, the different ways to financing art, and about the application systems. These pieces of information gave me deeper understanding and facilitated the process of managing the mass of information I received. My suggestion is – in case of having enough capacity – to continue this series and open them to a wider audience and invites other professionals to lecture.
Taking part in EU projects was a great opportunity for me to practice English, and working on the field of contemporary art has definitely expanded my vocabulary. The internship was a good motivation for improving my English, which I plan to continue in the future.
IV. Subject of my research - Criteria of a successful application
I spent most of my time with JdE projects, particularly with international applications. These applications were intended to young dancers and choreographers who could create co-production performances. The applications were also submitted for different artist-in-residence programmes5 so that participants could visit special workshops, festivals or rehearsal places in order to go deeper in their subjects.
I took part in the whole process: my tasks were publicizing applications, creating information flyers, newsletters, making information available to the target group. I provided information to possible applicants who were interested. I received the applications and kept contact with the applicants and the partner organizations. I was there at the consideration of the applications. My task was also to inform applicants about the decision, and give them feedback. I helped the arriving artists-in-residence to organize their travel, accommodation and reserve rehearsal place. In case of the co-production project I kept in touch with the artists and the manager of the production discussing practical questions like the schedule, financial, promotional issues and the documentation.
As I read plenty of international applications and was there at considerations as well I realised that the way of writing an application was crucial, and it is a field where a good manager could give useful advice to an artist.
The importance of the way of applying is shown by the fact, that there were workshops and seminars organized dealing with this topic – for instance in the frame of ON-AIR Conference, and WSF’s Forum called “KIÚT” (Way-out) during my internship. However all calls for applications are different, there are plenty of typical questions or problems appearing during the process. In my research I intended to summarise what the most important elements are which need to be taken care of when applying.
“Artist-in-residence programs allow artist to stay and work elsewhere ‘for art’s sake’.” (Manual Workshop of ON-AIR p.4.) Residential places are far from everyday life of the artist, and offer hospitality for a specific period. The program can provide different benefits and opportunities to the artist (like rehearsal place, accommodation, coaching, board - opportunity for performing, participation in a workshop etc.) Mobility programs are important in the international art world today, connecting local with global and vice versa.
Participation needs to be planned in advance. Before applying it is useful to ask other artists or organizers who have experience about similar kinds of applications, about the host organization or the place. It is crucial to make clear if the program and the circumstances, conditions offered by the host organization are fit to the interest and motivation of the artist. The artist should take pay attention to various factors during the application procedure especially to the provided information, deadlines, selection criteria, and requested documentation to be submitted. Usually there is an application form, a working plan, a CV, a motivation letter or an artistic statement need to be submitted depending on the proposal. Supporting or invitation letters could be beneficial to submit.
According to my experience the best applications are well structured, relevant to the point and of course unique and honest. The application should be clear and easy to read - it is better if the artist keeps in mind that the decision-makers have to read plenty of applications and it is more impressive if the most important details in the text are easy to find.
The CV should contain the relevant experiences (studies, workshops, projects, other work experiences and teachers, working partners, who can be also good references). It is unnecessary to put irrelevant information in the CV. The artistic statement should differ from the CV – to think that the two are the same is a typical mistake. A good CV shows the details, but the artistic statement can be more philosophical: it is a kind of confession, which says something about where the artist is on his/her way at the moment, what kind of questions he/she is interested in, what the artist’s plan for the future is etc. The motivation is an important part in the application and it could be put either in the CV or in the artistic statement. The best motivations are strong, specific, and show that the program applied for can really help the artist in his/her development at the time. Personal reasons for applying can also be mentioned next to the professional ones as well. In case of a plan for achieving a collaborative project the partners (artists and managers) and the background of their partnership should be introduced in the application as well.
If the application is about research or especially if it is about making a piece, the working plan of the project has to be written down. The reader of the application should be introduced to the idea, it should be clear in what state the project is exactly in the process, and all technical details are needed as well. (Photos or video records submitted with the application can perfectly demonstrate the style of the artist or show something about the piece in the making.) It is beneficial to see the potential future of a performance and have invitation letters submitted to the application from different theatres, festivals etc. saying that they are interested to put the piece in their program.
It has to be clear what the artist needs for the realisation of the plan - not just the equipment, materials required but also experts or any kinds of circumstances or help needed should be mentioned. In my experience it can be stated that sometimes artists are so much involved in their own ideas that it is difficult for them to write about them shortly and clearly. So it is recommended that an outsider reads the plan and the whole application before its submission to check if it can be understood easily.
The application has to include the expectations of the artist. In a mobility program it is useful to mention: “why there” - how the offered possibility (the place, the studio, the company, the local artists, teachers, other experts, the surrounding, the culture of an other country etc.) can help or influence the applicant’s life and carrier. On the other hand it is engaging if the artist can add what he/she can give to the place, to the local artists or community, or if he/she can induce any change there. “Hospitality is not the same as help! Hospitality is a complex responsibility also for the guest: an artist as a guest can offer its own knowledge and experience too.”
Financial planning is as crucial as the artistic one itself. The applicant has to check the offered funding and free facilities offered by the host organization and whether they cover the whole budget. Finding other founding is always recommended. In case of applying for making a production it is important to have a reasonable and detailed budget with a gross amount for the whole project. It has to include all the income, prospective expenditure and even set aside some money for unexpected costs. It is practical and advisable to have a reduced “B” version in case of having less sources of fund than in the original plan.
Generally it can be stated that it is beneficial for the artists to have strong motivation supporting an exact plan however at the same time they need to remain flexible and open for any new ideas and changes which can be inspiring for them during the artist-in-residence program.
It is a pity that there is no mobility program for managers inside the JdE network. After having some experience in Hungary and being involved in the work of an international network it would be exciting for managers to travel and see organizations in other countries with different circumstances, to see how they work, what their financial and professional background is like, and compare their work method and be inspired mutually. It would be interesting to visit JdE partners or any European organisation to exchange experiences.
V. The future
This half-year was a very useful learning period for me and gave me a chance to return to the field I had been interested in. Working with WSF and in its wide range activity and professional circle proved to be an ideal starting point to get involved in the contemporary art life as a professional organiser.
Even so the future is doubtful because of the upsetting economical tendencies which strike the field of so-called independent theatre included contemporary dance activities as well. From September 2010 there was less and less support for the field. This situation makes the life of the organizations and artists harder. Possibilities become narrower for all the experts working in the field. The cultural policy in Hungary raises a lot of questions: What is the function of art in a critical economical situation? What are the criteria for supporting art? What is the logic regarding the supporting system? What is the benefit of art, especially contemporary art? Should it be tangible or its function is to reflect on the present phenomena and to keep asking and researching and sometimes provocating? Can art be independent and what does it mean? Are there new ways to support art? If the colourful filed of independent theatre can be strong and have enough solidarity to articulate its interest and stand for it as a consistent group? ...
As a whole I can state about my internship that with the help of the Support System programme I became acquainted with the field of contemporary dance. During my internship I was invited to a Contemporary Dance Company to help the organisational tasks there. Due to the help of Workshop Foundation an opportunity was offered to me to co-operate in a dance festival as an organiser. After finishing my scholarship I was also recommended to a young artist to manage her application process in the tender of Co-production 2011 supported by JdE.
Regarding the future of the programme, my plan is to follow the activities of the Foundation, and I think it would be beneficial for both parties to keep contact between the trainee and the Foundation. It will be interesting in the future to organize a meeting for all the trainees (as we called SuSy-s), who have ever taken part in the Support System program.
However I feel that I have to stand on two legs in this economical situation and look for other working possibilities as well, I hope to stay in the field at least as a part timer or a freelancer and cooperate in different projects. I hope there will be doors left to open them.
Special thanks for:
TALLÓ, Gergely – Director of WSF PÉTER, Petra - Project coordinator of JdE, Budapest
Workshop Foundation, Jardin d’Europe, Culture Programme 2008-2013 of the European Union, National Cultural Fund of Hungary
............................... HUDÁK, Krisztina