#VIENNALOVE| Christine Standfest

ImPulsTanz‘s dramaturgical advisor and member of the artistic team Christine Standfest talks about upcoming projects, exciting vs. boring Vienna, the citie’s young contemporary dance scene and where to go to dance all night.

What are you working on at the moment? 

Apart from already thinking about ImPulsTanz 2018 (after the festival is before the festival, as they say) we are currently preparing two great specials events kicking off Vienna’s dance season in October.

First, Vienna based performance group toxic dreams will add another and the final chapter to ImPulsTanz’ 2017 cooperation with the mumok on October 7 in the frame of ORF’s Long Night of Museums at mumok. Moby Dick Vienna Loomings is the title of their presentation, which is basically a first encounter with performance, film and musical material the group gathered through their 3 weeks journey through Austria On the Road with Moby-Dick during the summer. I am really curious how this live-art and lively show will enter into a dialogue with the newly opened exhibition Natural History – Traces of the Political!

And then, between October 17-27, ImPulsTanz proudly presents a suite of eight performances of one of the seminal pieces of contemporary dance: Rosas danst Rosas by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker and her world famous company Rosas.

The piece premiered in 1983 and it was a game changer in the world of something called (at the time) postmodern dance. Since then, those „five movements for four (female) dancers“ tour the world, and the movement language as well as the overall aesthetic of the piece are still so powerful and influential, that Beyoncé imitated some sequences for a video of hers of the as well famous Rosas danst Rosas movie from 1997 by Thierry De Mey. We are all looking forward to seeing the piece now again here in Odeon (and honestly, I may watch it not 8 times again, but for sure more than one) – which is the perfect venue not only because of its architecture and atmosphere, but also because it was Erwin Piplits, who heads Odeon theatre, who invited the piece already in 1984 for a three weeks stay at their former small theatre at Wallensteinplatz, hence introducing a whole new art form to Vienna.

We had an installation with the interactive Re:Rosas project in mumok during the summer (which will be re-staged now at Odeon) as well as screenings of the movie in the mumok-Cinema, also as a response to our dialogue with mumok’s „Woman“ exhibit of the Feminist Avantgarde of the 1970ies. Rosas danst Rosas seemed to expand artistic positions from the exhibition not only into time, but also to let the bodies and their energy explode into space – and this is a quality, which is brought across now by a cast of four extremely powerful and gifted new young dancers.

How did you come to live in Vienna?

My original plan was to be here for two years, to do a project with this weird, crazy theater group. We were working at Schlachthof St. Marx, which was basically a ruin back then. We – theatercombinat, with Claudia Bosse and Josef Szeiler amongst others – spent these two years at this former slaughterhouse, working on the chorus with texts by Aeschylus and Bertolt Brecht. It was 1999, 2000, the beginning of the center-right coalition government, the EU boycotts. My friends in Berlin said, ‘How can you go to that fascist country?’ The perception of Austria was completely different back then. It’s an interesting development, how Austria’s image has changed – if not the situation. The performance, dance, and independent theater scene started to organize themselves in a political way at that time. There was a project called “Performing Resistance”, they were a very active part in the anti-government demonstrations that were happening at the time. For me, coming from pre- as well as post-wall Berlin, arriving to Vienna was a shock. It was way slower, very centralized. Even more than 10 years after, it was hard for me to give up my apartment in Berlin, but I also realized: This time is over, even if I was to come back, it’s not the place it used to be. Now I’m in Vienna for 17 years, a really long time (laughs).

Would you say Vienna is internationally on the map when people think of contemporary dance? You’re working with many young choreographers – is this a place where contemporary dance develops?

There is a very strong scene here, but it’s not that visible at the moment. Some performers are more well-known outside of Austria than here. And it’s not that easy to encounter a younger scene in Vienna. I think it has become more difficult for today’s young performers to find a community and conditions to perform here. It also has to do with the education, many leave for dance schools in other cities. Dance taught in Vienna is a bit more traditional – it’s a bit disconnected from what’s going on in the contemporary, maybe post-contemporary dance world. It’s also hard to gain experience performing a piece multiple times or in front of bigger crowds here, to get feedback and change perfomances. But it’s changing slowly – tanzquartier is bringing in teachers from outside, and people like Bettina Kogler or Christa Spatt, who has been developing [8:tension], ImPulsTanz’ young choreographers’ series, are very curious to connect more with the local Viennese scene. And there are other approaches – like the initiative Raw Matters, which started out at Schikaneder, where people used to perform shorts on that tiny stage – which are extremely valuable. They are establishing a community and it’s always very lively and crowded. But it can be hard to move on to something more elaborate, to e.g. something like ImPulsTanz, where you are suddenly confronted with a huge and more diversified audience and international colleagues. We try to think about this and develop structures – like e.g. turbo residencies – to close those gaps, to enable people to work continuously.

So Vienna probably isn’t the most obvious place for one of Europe’s biggest festivals for contemporary dance. Why do you think it’s in this city?

Obviously, the success of ImPulsTanz has a lot to do with the people behind it – Karl Regensburger, Ismael Ivo, Rio Rutzinger and others. When Karl and Ismael founded it in 1984, Vienna had the State Opera and Volksoper performing Ballet and the conservatory focused on Modern Dance – which was already ancient at the time. Meanwhile, a lot of things were happening socially and politically. It was the right time and place for ImPulsTanz – nobody did anything like that at the time – but it was also the enormous willpower, and I think also friendships between the people in charge. Even today, I’d say the people working for the festival have extreme dedication. And for all the artists and teachers to get involved in the way they do – they don’t do it for purely professional reasons, and certainly not for money, but out of a huge commitment to the festival and the people who run it.

An important issue for all types of art is how to involve and approach people outside of the scene, not part of the bubble. Do you think ImPulsTanz can do that? How do you go about getting people interested in contemporary dance?

Yes, I really think so. I started out here in the midst of a bubble, coming to Vienna with a group of really dedicated people. But during all the years with theatercombinat, we mostly didn’t work inside theatres or studios. Most of our works were site-specific, for example on a construction site opposite the club Chelsea. We were rehearsing in the same space as the construction workers. This creates a specific relationship with the place, but also the people. It’s maybe not necessarily about the audience you attract, but to create situation were artistic and economic working conditions mix. Even though they need a bubble to develop their styles and techniques, most of the artists are very eager to not live in that bubble. Another thing I find interesting is to include non-artistic practitioners, volunteers, in a performance. This was an important reason for me to move from artistic to curatorial and dramaturgical work, and also into an institution like ImPulsTanz. Especially in our workshops there are so many people connecting themselves with dance practices… We call it the miracle of ImPulsTanz: A very rare thing that there are literally thousands of people attending classes, going to workshops, and then maybe seeing their teacher on stage in the evening. I think this is a beautiful way to enter the art form. Another thing I like at ImPulsTanz is that we have a festival celebrating the diversity of the field and the art form. I think we have something in the program for really, literally everybody.

You get a lot of visiting dancers, teachers and guests during your festival. What do you recommend them to do and see in Vienna?

If it’s sunny, I recommend taking a bicycle and going to the old part of the Danube, to Bundesbad oder Gänsehäufel. It’s still a part of ‘Red Vienna’, the socialist culture of togetherness and collectiveness. That can sometimes feel choking as well, but you can experience how socio-political circumstances, how socialist designs can have an effect on your surroundings and your life.

You told me you are – or at least used to be – a raver. Do you have a recommendation for people who want to go out dancing in Vienna?

I was used to going out 4 or 5 days a week in Berlin – in a very casual way, just walking through the city. When I came to Vienna in my mid-30s, I had to realize the people who go out dancing here are a lot younger. But I still remember some highlights from the early 2000’s, the Flex, Icke Micke in Künstlerhauspassage, or Club U and all the DJs following Kruder & Dorfmeister, like Patrick Pulsinger and Electric Indigo – they’re so important to the whole field. I think the ImPulsTanz festival lounge at Burgtheater Vestibül that we’re doing every summer is really important for us, and is also a present to the city – it’s on every night during the festival, and it’s always for free.

… and you can dance next to amazing, professional dancers! Which is not always a given in Vienna – it can be more of a sway-along crowd.

(Laughs) That’s true! When I first arrived here, I felt like a total over-achiever when dancing. The club culture is different – for example, all the dancers are facing the DJ. But there are places I came to love, like the Rhiz or Fluc, with great people and great music and sound. I’m also still trying out Grelle Forelle, or Meat Market at Fluc once in a while – I’m this techno girl! Das Werk at Donaukanal is for the more courageous clubbers – who’re not into pop culture, but more into electronic music. They offer some very advanced positions, and also a kind of fucked-up liberty to let go of certain behaviors.

A new interesting spot to me is Nordbahnhalle, in the area of the former Nordbahnhof train station. This is a case where urban planning managed to integrate art and culture into the developing structure. Sometimes Vienna can feel crowded, architecturally – being surrounded by all these small, commercial elements. And these wide, open spaces – like around Nordbahnhalle – are something I miss about Berlin, and about the countryside. I was very happy that we were able to show one of my favorite pieces of the past festival there. I also love the spaces we are using for classes and shows at Arsenal, the rehearsal stages and ateliers of Burgtheater, where they paint the scenery for the stages – I’d recommend everyone to see them for themselves. These kind of spaces are usually not accessible for non-professionals in other cities. What surprised me as well, in a way, was the cooperative spirit I experienced when working with other institutions here – mumok for me, but my colleagues said the same about other ones. You meet people who are in important positions in the Viennese cultural scene, who just want to do the best for what they are committed to.

Do you have a favorite place to have a drink?

Café Anzengruber –  per accident it’s the Stammkneipe of our director Karl Regensburger – was the first place that was recommended to me when I moved to Vienna. Coming from Berlin, I was like ‘What kind of scene is there?’ and my cousin, who told me about it, said ‘There is no scene’ – this was interesting to realize. Of course, a lot of people from the arts and journalism are there, locally well-known people, but it has a specific casualty. You can de-perform yourself there. As well as in Café Else near Praterstern.

How does Vienna move? For example, if it was a dance…

I think it moves like a “Schieber”, a Tango-like couple’s dance that sways very slowly back and forth. Like a Schieber on a crowded dancefloor. And if the music and partners are good, it can be super-erotic, relaxing, passionate or intense, and on the other hand it can be choking, ugly and repressive. There are these both sides, and I think they belong together… This is a praise of Vienna now (laughs). It’s really immersive.

7 October 2017, 20:00/22:00
Moby Dick -_Vienna Loomings
mumok, Museumsplatz 1, 1070 Vienna

17/19/20/21/24/25/26/27 October 2017, 20:00
Rosas danst Rosas
Odean Theater, Taborstraße 10, 1020 Vienna


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