Image: Elina Pirinen’s work ”Personal Symphonic Moment” will be shown at the SPRING dance festival in Utrecht in May 2017. Photo: Timo Wright
Between 2012 and 2014, the Finnish information centre for dance Dance Info Finland organised a think tank with the aim to explore the meaning of sustainable development in the context of dance and the types of concrete guidelines that could be given to dance practitioners, funders and other decision-makers in the Nordic and Baltic countries. In the spring of 2015, we published a report offering suggestions for a sustainable dance field.
Our report concluded that sustainable activities are those that have a wide reach and long-term impact. Sustainable growth is more about strengthening structures than it is about quantitative growth. Sustainability needs to be understood in conjunction with life-cycle thinking and the multiplicity of the value chain in the dance field.
Sustainability in the dance field can be increased by building bridges between dance and its surrounding society, by increasing openness and accessibility in dance. Artists should be able to develop their competences and skills continuously as the demands of society and the arts field change. Intermediaries – producers, agencies, organisers and communities – need to be strengthened and supported. Funding bodies also need to be made more durable so that, among other things, funding can be multifunctional, flexible and transparent. The dance field is certainly in need of more resources, but more importantly, it needs to make use of existing resources more effectively.
One of the most important factors in increasing sustainability is promoting internationalisation and supporting mobility. The dance field is relatively under-resourced, the domestic markets are inadequate in relation to what is on offer and income potential is limited. The mobility of art works and artists, and international collaborations increase income potential for artists, lengthen the life cycle of an art work, and improve the balance between the open market and institutions.
The statistics of the mobility of Finnish dance show that Finnish dance performance and spectatorship abroad have grown somewhat over ten years. Currently, guest performances from Finland travel mainly to Central Europe, the Nordic and Baltic countries and Asia. About 10% of the spectatorship of Finnish dance comes from abroad.
The dance field is thus increasingly international, but at the same time, the global market is highly competitive, and according to many, Finland is outnumbered. Mobility is not as easy or straightforward compared to Central Europe. In addition, we have a lack of funding when it comes to touring and travel support is often insufficient. Because common practice in the international market expects artists or companies to source their own funds for travel, the lack of travel support can lead to guest performances being cancelled altogether. The TelepART Platform, which was launched by the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux, is likely to contribute to sustainable activity in the performing arts field, and more initiatives like these are sorely needed.
Guest performances abroad, however, are not entirely representative of true internationalisation. In the context of dance as an art form, mobility has many different dimensions: there are collaborative productions, auditions, choreographers’ exchanges, residencies, workshops, courses, professional meetings, networking events and mentorship programmes. Many dance artists who have studied abroad, have already formed an international network during their studies and move smoothly between different countries, chasing jobs or as members of multinational dance companies. In addition, dance artists and companies are increasingly involved in artistic work that cannot be categorised as performance. There is therefore a need for multifaceted and flexible funding that allows for other kinds of mobility than solely for the purpose of guest performances.
Mobility in itself is not always very sustainable from an environmental perspective. Instead of flying, one could, for example, travel by train, but this is time consuming and often geographically impossible. Rather, mobility should be approached more rationally and effectively: one should consider how one trip could yield the most value. Instead of once-off gigs, one could look at touring and longer stays in the target region, presenting workshops or conducting outreach, so that the visit would have a greater impact all-round. Residencies are often part of sustainable mobility. Festivals could work more consciously, and act as so called ‘hubs’ for artists and performances coming from farther away.
Sustainable development in the dance field also requires new models of thinking and a new culture of practice. Sustainable practices need time (and money) – our report shows that sustainability becomes lucrative over time, which requires perseverance. This is an excellent guiding principle for the individual artist, as internationalisation begins with small steps. I also call for the strengthening of a culture of sharing. Only by sharing knowledge and experience, trust, accountability and sustainable development can grow both on an individual level as well as for the whole dance field.
Read the complete report: Recommendations for a Sustainable Nordic and Baltic Dance Field. Keðja Sustainability Think Tank report 2015.
Blog post of January 2019: In 2018, the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux’s programme focused on Transition. In 2019, our theme is RE/definitions.
For some years now, I have tried to live my life with this principle in mind: because everything around us is constantly in transition, almost anything can become a reality. By this I mean our fears as well as opportunities, both the positive and negative ways of thinking about the future of our world. Personally, I would like to believe that we are capable of moving towards a better tomorrow, even if reality as filtered through our daily newsfeed often seems to contradict this.
Blog post of December 2018: How did you wake up this morning? Maybe to an alarm on your cell phone? What was your first thought? For many of us it’s “Can I sleep for another half hour?”. And, what was your last thought of the evening? Maybe you thought about whether you could watch just one more episode on your streaming service or whether it was really time for you to go to sleep. In fact, it is likely that these were the first and last risk management decisions of your day. Each of one us makes hundreds of risk management decisions whether we are at home, in our free time, or at work. Do you know the kinds of risks you are taking while navigating the digital world in our everyday life?
Blog post of June 2018: What if the future of music came from the Far North? There is no doubt that Nordic and Finnish musicians play an important role in the international music scene. Every category has a Nordic touch : vocal and instrumental music, metal, traditional and contemporary music, and jazz. Unlike here in the South, there are no fixed boundaries between musical languages in the North. Every musical genre finds its place between tradition and modernity, fusing into a fertile synergy without losing its own character. This is one of the cultural strengths of the Nordic countries.
Blog post of May 2018: For several years, this small international festival has been experimenting with new curatorial practices in a fierce and open way. The festival distinguishes itself by introducing co-curating, by politicising curatorship, and by rethinking the international. Baltic Circle hereby positions itself as a forerunner and is an ideal ground to visit with students who are themselves operating in the field of “expanding curation”. Three students, their tutor (Lara Staal, independent curator and publicist) and artistic director of DAS Theatre Barbara Van Lindt visited the festival and proposed some moments of exchange. In January we invited artistic director of the Festival Satu Herrala to visit us, and engage in a conversation where we reflected upon our visit (and already anticipated a next visit, in the autumn of 2018…)
Blog post of April 2018: Less than two months ago I moved from Tokyo to Brussels, straight into the heart of Europe and the Finnish Cultural Institute for the Benelux’s great programming for 2018! We have our excellent previous Director Aleksi Malmberg to thank for carrying out the preparations for the start of the year, as well as our amazing team, with whom I now have the privilege of adding new initiatives and ideas to the programme.
Blog post of February 2018: “Okay, so there’s nothing here on the Sami people”, I noticed at the end of an introductory tour of the House of European History. I was visiting the relatively new House of European History at the beginning of February as part of a group of twenty odd individuals involved in the Remembering 1918 programme. Each one of us had the task that day of leading our own public tours of the House of European History. After the introductory tour, we were given a few hours to prepare to offer our own views on the museum’s exhibition which deals with European history.