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About Critical Endeavour 2012 – evaluation and ideas for future

Iva Nerina Sibila

Looking back at the experience of Critical Endeavour 2012, I can say it was inspiring and nourishing in many ways. However, there are several issues to rethink for the future.

Time and place

The fact that it was placed during ImPulsTanz Vienna and stretched over two weeks gave the participants valuable opportunity to see how this huge festival operates, what are the advantages as well as the traps of such format. The possibility to follow selected performances, to meet people, to be part of the one of the biggest gathering of dance scene in EU is a must for anyone who is in the dance world.  Organizing CritEnd during important festival is something that should be kept for the future. 

The format

To describe the format of CritEnd 2012 the most suitable word I can find is - generous.  Workshops with 5 different experts, sessions with the mentor, access to performances, informal discussions outside the structured time and exhibitions around Vienna offered condense information net for CritEnders. Such a rich experience demands time after the workshop to be fully appreciated, and to get slowly built in ones practice, whatever that practice is. 

The focus was, in my understanding, to get wide picture of what dance writing and criticism is, in what directions it could be developed, and to individually exercise and test new directions, during the workshop and after.

Experts

Each expert offered different perspective and strategy of teaching. I found valuable to observe different approaches to teaching, as much as I found interesting to see how the whole arch of CritEnd was structured and what the inner “dramaturgy” or statement of the whole project was.

Peter T’Jonck’s workshop was rich and firmly structured and he gave clear personal statements of what criticism is and how it operates. Unfortunately, his last session was cut short and left without finish, because of the preparations for Critical Salon.  

Claudia La Rocco gave softer and practical approach through her creative or “somatic” writing exercises. She opened new ideas of how to move freely inside the text, but her workshop, as well, was compromised time-wise by focus on preparation for Salon.

Angela Vadori had the shortest time assigned. Her workshop was very practical and focused on writing, better to say she positioned herself as a facilitator or host of the writing workshop. She was very organized and made clear point of offering her time and expertise to our personal interests and needs. That gesture was received with great appreciation by participants.

Boyan Manchev’s approach started as an academic lecture but he turned it towards the very core of critical practice.  His high standard of teaching with lots of links and digressions gave strong base for our future collaboration; there is an initiative inside the group to work on our Critical Dictionary on-line, what came out directly from his workshop.

Marlon Barrios Solano was assigned a lot of time since it was planned for him to lead the group towards the final showing. Possibilities of new media and internet as a tool for new formats of criticism provided dynamic and parcipatory format of teaching in the begging of workshop. As the final public sharing didn’t happen at the end, practical side of it didn’t come to completion, what was  slightly disappointing.

The Salon

The idea of public appearance in format of Critical Salon was excellent, since the field of dance criticism by no means exhausts itself in the written format. Our  Salon, in spite the fact that  we had to struggle to find time to organize it,  was great and inspiring, but disbelief from my side goes towards organizers who schedule it while all dancers were in classes and workshops. So we had 3 or 4 visitors in the event that drained a lot of our energy and time.

Summary

CritEnd in the frame of Vienna festival gave great and rare opportunity for any dance writer to rethink her/his own practice. The wide spectrum of approaches that dance criticism includes were all addressed in the “dramaturgy” of the workshop – from short history lesson given by Franz Anton Cramer via philosophical approach of Boyan Manchev, finishing with new media of Marlon Barrios Solano.

The issue that I suggest for rethinking is overly general goal of the project: is CritEnd structured as a summer school for dance writers with no commitment after,

or

is it a selection of critics with personal drive and articulated discourse that already have a commitment to innovate this field, the same way the artists do on stage? 

Both approaches are valid and needed, but this distinction should be communicated more clearly, since it gives the focus of the process. Both for the participants and the people who are leading it.

 

Future

Personally, I am more inclined to see CritEnd in the future to raise the expectation of its participants. Why not use this unique resources and set a strong new network for dance and performing art criticism with the goal of re-thinking the formats, the accessibility, the visibility, the responsibility…. of criticism today? Having in mind the overproduction of performances, the variety of forms and the often problematic issues of curatorial practices, critics are “in demand”. Yet, in practice, we are in no man’s land between press reporting, blogging and high theory, and desperately in need for new spaces. Why not use CritEnd to really make a long term impact, rather than a summer workshop?

I would like to think in a direction of co-curated on-line journal, focused on performances and festivals on European level, a Critical Endeavour as a reference point for criticism of EU dance scene with the workshop being a highlight of an “endeavor”. It is an ambitious vision, but with all the people that passed through the CritEnd in last few years, maybe not totaly impossible.

 

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