In the period after the epidemic closure, when physical contact was drastically restricted, the whole spectrum of performing arts and concert music was confronted with the fundamental issues of its existence. The dance arts were deprived of the practical work without which there can be no art of dance. Recognising the social responsibility and solidarity that are linked to our common health, and how in times of pandemics or epidemics our self-limitation is inevitable and necessary, we are also well aware that individual and collective dance stories are different, and that certain gaps and discontinuities can never be compensated or filled. Ultimately, isolation has consequences for our mental health.
With the abundance of non-contact time that has occupied our lives in the last year and a half, we decided to focus this year’s edition of CoFestival, the international festival of contemporary dance, on a particular contact and relational time, which in contemporary dance was named Movement Research about half a century ago. These interests did not arise out of thin air during the mentioned period but were for various reasons already studied by kinesiology from the second half of the nineteenth century onwards as we entered the modern era. Primarily for health reasons, to reduce the number of injuries and treat them appropriately, or to optimise the physical work of manual industrial production with insights into the motor skills of the body. But very soon, contemporary dance art and kinesiology started to make pacts, to (un)officially meet, inspire each other and assemble their different knowledge and competences in order to benefit each other. The time of experiences could not be accelerated, it required duration and in some cases even outpaced the development of technology, which could only confirm the analysis of such bodily experiences.
However, in order that movement research would become part of the works of art and their reception, a whole range of intentional and accidental situations, circumstances and conditions had to coincide in contemporary dance, which we cannot address here, but we will tackle them with our programme this year. One of the key ones, however, was the conviction of the public and dance artists that in event-based art practices (or forms) in a space and time that the audience and artists are willing to share, something can gradually develop that did not have a final form before the event. Even if today it seems somewhat obvious, this was not the case in the mid-twentieth century. At that time, it was exclusively jazz music that had its open form within relatively clear and variable stylistic frameworks; it was only when aleatoric modes of musical composition gained public legitimacy, which, through unusual notations, required the composer to invest a greater share of his or her own interpretation in the performance of the composition, that the available and relatively successful artistic knowledge could be incorporated in a procedural way into the field of contemporary dance and modern sculpture.
The developments that these artistic fields underwent from the mid-1950s to the end of the 1970s fundamentally changed their production and reception. From the immediate synchronisation of artistic styles and audience tastes, which either rejected or embraced the works, the interest of artists and audiences has focused on what is emerging and evolving in front of their bodies and eyes, usually according to initial agreements, commitments or concepts. A developmental or procedural time entered into the production and reception of dance, and with it a language that expressed an interest in translating the experiential layers of dance into words, expressions, terms and concepts that would provide them with an inherent rationality. A research orientation.
CoFestival, the international contemporary dance festival that we first presented in 2012, has so far featured a wide aesthetic and practical spectrum of contemporary dance arts and practices in its previous editions, so movement research in our programmes is not a novelty. Nevertheless, we have decided to pay special attention to this topic this year also in order to retrospectively highlight our curatorial decisions so far and to affirm the work of dance artists who pay special attention to this kind of contemporary dance practice in our country. There is quite a lot of them, and we believe that their work does not have the visibility and recognition it deserves in the domestic cultural space. At the same time, we consider it crucial to help the domestic contemporary dance public to articulate specific theatrical experiences related to the exploration of movement, since it is essential that our programmes also develop procedural views of dance with their possible formulations, which, of course, are never without their inarticulable remnants.
In this year’s CoFestival programme we have included open, procedural dance works as well as more stable choreographic structures, but neither would have been possible without very detailed and original movement research and the specific methodologies involved. Some of the choreographers have been doing this kind of research for decades, so their knowledge is extremely valuable and interesting. Like the audience, they gradually develop their own receptive instrumentarium, linked to kinaesthetic empathy and intelligence, both aware that this process is never finite, that it is not a matter of production growth but of creative development, that experiential time cannot be outpaced by immaterial information, and that it is the time of contact (or even touch) which is crucial if we are to get beyond the ready-made and visible bodily shells which cannot move without choreography of one kind or another.
This public contact-fullness of contemporary dance, which takes place between the audience and the work of dance art is, at the same time, in our conviction, in the current moment of the global world, a communal potentiality that contains an inherent political character due to its physicality. Above all because it reveals our immaterial, segregated and virtual modes of labour production with its material (physical, spatial and temporal) negative, with which our lives can no longer be so effortlessly virtually controlled, disciplined or their desires choreographed. This is why, from the very beginning of CoFestival, we have felt it is necessary to affirm a broad spectrum of dance work that is not exclusively represented by fixed and unchanging forms of stable choreographies. We are not only interested in what our individual or collective bodies are, but what they can only become; we are not only interested in identity, but above all in difference; we are not only interested in how skilfully the body can move, but whether it is capable of responding to our body by touch or contact, of taking its own time, of opening up the space of the common, and of using unpredictable ideas to find shapes or transitions of intersections that it cannot plan for itself.
Of all that is scheduled to take place at CoFestival 2021, we are most excited to be hosting compelling, fascinating, viewable and successful performances, which perhaps have in common the fact that the gaze and dance meet on stage as well as in the auditorium. What has been constitutive for movement research in the history of contemporary dance is that the gaze and dance have taken a common, inseparable place: that each dancer is also a precise spectator of her own doing, of her own experience, and that the experience of the spectator is at a crucial moment in the midst of dancing or choreographing of the aesthetic experience. This is where the story of the emancipated spectator begins in dance.