Modul-dance experience. By Lili M

Lili M

How did the following aspects affected my work:

What has affected my work more than anything in modul-dance could be summed up with the word "tailoring".

As I have joined modul-dance a little less than 2 years ago my main topic (apart from my project proposal) was how to tailor this opportunity to my real needs. I suspect modul-dance as a supporting network is introduced differently to different artists depending on their own home venue by which they were suggested and the role and the production conditions of that venue. In short, an interesting realization was that artists adopt the kind of approach to this opportunity that is suggested or presented by the home-venue. I am mentioning this as my situation was a bit different – suggested by Plesna Izba Maribor as my motherboard organization, yet based in Germany, in Frankfurt at the time of being introduced to the network.

This presented me with an interesting insight at the very beginning, starting to understand that although modul-dance is an umbrella for independent dance artists, with a concrete proposal and a fixed system of nominating, awarding membership and supporting the production of their work, it is also an experiment, experiencing it much more alive when understanding it as proposals and suggestions, trials, showings, gathering and exchanging rather than rules and regulations, requirements and criteria.

Development / Modular system:
Personally I have struggled with understanding the scope and the concrete possibilities the network can offer. Although very suggestive with its name, modular system was something that seemed to me a “solution” to something. It sounded as if there was an estimation of the then current productions and residencies and perhaps an observation that the artists lack a clearer vision or articulation of their process, therefore a modular system could be something to give a little push or present a suggestion/advancement of their methods and processes. It would simultaneously help the productions houses themselves to get more suitingly involved. It seemed as an encouragement to deepen one's interest and work and go pass the one-month processes where things are rushed and squeezed in. That is how I perceived it at the beginning. In that regard I must say that “insisting” on one project for 2 years proved to be very fruitful in defying the normal time-conditioned production modes. However, I had some issues with it; extending a project over two years, with a residency in every 5-6 months affects the continuity heavily. My personal practice already incorporates involvement with a specific project for longer period of time, so sustaining the focus and engagement with the subject is not a problem. The purely practical level, hardware of it however is – the project grows and changes thorugh time and the venues cannot always meet these new requirements of one's development. I found myself often compelled by the conditions to rigidly insist on my initial proposal, when in fact the phases of research or residencies brought about new, more suitable pathways to pursue, demanding different conditions than speculated at the beginning.

I have envisioned my proposal with three people at the begining; I have then started a research phase alone, continued with a residency with two other persons, the next one with only one, ending with another research phase where I was working with a group of local dancers. An obvious break in continuity here was due to many reasons – the conditions and possibilities of the hosting venues, the misalignment of the time schedules with the performers I have invited to work with and similar. Although not leading me to the desired outcome, each of the opportunities was still a step forward, expanding and enriching my proposal. Tensions between the aforementioned factors resulted too often in a compromise I had to reach within myself to progress instead of an act of balancing.

Speaking of different phases (research, residency for example), as much as it seems like a good model, it hasn't proved to work well for me. A matrix how a process is unwinding comes across as a valuable suggestion, yet it is something individual, very specific in each case. As it may be beneficial for a group of partners supporting an individual artist to bring about a full-fledged production, I found the modular system a bit over emphasized as it had little correspondence with the phases my project would have undergone otherwise, more organically I assume. On the other hand, it has worked wonders to be practicing such adaptability – using conditions to serve you and not the other way around or simply looking for the best in every opportunity. To conclude on the modular system, I have found myself to start considering the needs of my project and design necessary stages a bit late in my “modul-dance time”, focusing more on how to meet the ends – my needs and venues' offers. So after a year and a half of residencies I am only now at the stage where I'm clear with what is absolutely necessary for the project to be realized and what is less urgent and can be compromised.

Community of artists / Network of trust and colalboration:
Another point I would like to comment on is the community of artists. I have to say it was something I would have wished for more opportunities to engage with others. Meeting people at conferences made sense for me when the format was flexible enough to allow both – a presentation, performance as well an insight into individual's ways of working. I have been inspired by so many artists, connected with few and will for sure keep in touch with them in the future. It has been of great help to meet the rest of 50 something artists and exchange a bit on our development during the modul-dance support. This was the eye opener on how to use or benefit even more from the network, how to “tailor” it individually as I mentioned before. It seemed to me a bit like hearing the testimonies of other's “rules of the game” they have created for themselves.

Also very important was connecting to the programers or let's say everybody else involved that are not the supported artists, from different environments. It was definitely “insider's” information in sense that I got to learn how production is approached to and tackled. What is the venues' approach, values, requirements and criteria, how they treat the audience, and similar for sure expanded my own understanding and influenced not only my future management skills, but artistic approach to some degree as well – be it opening it up to new factors considered in what contributes to dance-making, be it becoming more protective and appreciative of my own artistic visions and beliefs.

However, not only community of artists, but the whole modul-dance community is something I did not expect to start to feel part of. Having heard negative experience of the past generations, jokingly naming it a "market for the programmers", I had my doubts of course, left a bit confused about what to expect. In retrospective, believing one only gets what one expects, I did get confusion, but also and most importantly got the support to develop my work. Both through time & space enabling 'em to work as well as developing skills needed for independent dance maker to create and expand. Although the premiere is not on the horizon yet, I can see already the development of my work and the side-effects of it on a broader scale – how I communciate and integrate in my current environment. All these changes and opportunities were however possible only through a good personal contact I had with each of the partner, mostly finding a common interest and therefore a good connection purely on a personal level, engaging in a chit chat, sychornizing energetically more than any kind of pre-concieved plan and aimed for connection.

The only thing left to add is that this experience has vastly influenced my “positioning” in the most broad sense of the word, to even think of it as a part of my vocabulary when reflecting on my work, it had been testing the range of my permeability – how, when and for what purpose am I exposing my artistic process intentionally or unintentionally and it added sparks to the already ignited desire of mine to have a future opportunity to be part of a tighter artistic community, where the flow of exchange is the motor, curiosity the fuel and integration and support the destination.

Picture: © Zoe Alibert

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