“You are provoking; you must be a journalist,” says one of the participants of the discussion after listening to couple of my questions to the group of choreographers of “45+” project gathered in their final lab in Hammerfest, Norway. Tonight “45+” members are discussing the future of the network. “It is good to ask questions but you are asking them to wrong people. Politicians are the ones to be asked!” he continues. I said that I have been doing also that and I know how complicated it is, how easy it is to make enemies just because of asking simple questions. At the same time, I believe that there are not wrong people to be asked. There are two reasons. First, I am interested in answers. Second, yes, I do provoke sometimes but it is for the sake of stimulating situations where I am more or less outsider. I am allowed to be the one thinking (or pretending to) think differently, to question and to doubt.
I was very happy to participate as an outsider in this exciting conversation of the group of amazing artists from Sweden, Estonia, Norway, Lithuania and Latvia. I met the group – Solveig Leinanen-Hermo, Tiina Ollesk, Rene Nommik, Irina Pahn, Olga Žitluhina, Ramona Galkina, Aira Naginaviciute-Adomaitiene, Benno Voorham, Sybrig Dokter, Vilnis Birins and Arnis Silins, already in Riga (http://journal.dance.lv/eng/lifelong-dance-practice-project-45/). Now I was curious to listen about wishes for the future. I am sure something nice will come up.
A good performance
Despite quite different visions and wishes for the future, almost all members of the group expressed a wish to create a performance. People feel that now the group has become a collective; and shared ideas and problems have been clarified. Several members as the main reason for this suggestion mentioned the fact that this is the best way to spread a word, to be noticed and bring issues to the surface. Though regarding the more specific process of how a dance piece could made quite opposite ideas were expressed: to hire somebody from outside to choreograph work for their group; to have one person from the group leading the process; to immerse into extremely democratic process of creation. The discussion around the statement “it has to be good!” was also quite passionate.
Olga Zitluhina who is the initiator of the whole project proposed focusing on environmental performances and having deeper dialogue with the specific locations. She also sees the future of network in not only creating a performance but also developing a reciepe that would be continuously applied in different locations as a collective practice.
Vilnis Bīriņš says that the best answer is art and there are important things to talk about. He thinks that without a good performance there will be no answer. Artists’s’ manifesto should take place on stage and then it has to be followed by a discussion.
Arnis Siliņš stresses that it is very important not to skip artistic aims. He says that inspiration should come from artistic and not from social context.
Open up and stay exclusive
Several members of the group said that it is very important to collaborate with local artists and partly open up the existing group. It was done already because in every location of the three meetings (Latvia, Estonia and Norway) several local or guest artists of the festivals joined the group at least for part of the time. The group agreed on this though when the question about the scale of opening up came up there were quite visible contradictions. Benno Voorham and Sybrig Docter, also partly Rene Nommik were into the mood of expanding the network, the rest of the group were more interested into development of the collective that has started to form over the period of last year. In general, there was a sense that opening up too much would bring to new start instead of continuation and growth.
There was complete agreeing on wish to meet again. Some people stressed the great atmosphere of full acceptance of everybody, which is not the case when working with younger people.
Tiina Ollesk says that group has went through some problems already; they know each other, so she would like to continue working together. Tiina sees the open network as another, perhaps parallel project that is not a direct future of this group.
Aira Naginaviciute-Adomaitiene sees sharing of creativity and power as the most valuable thing within the group. She feels that it is important to take care so the network would not kill the art. This is why she thinks that the group should stay small enough to be administered mainly by artists themselves. The sharing among the group members is a great tool to get out of cooking in one’s own juices that can be truth especially in small countries.
Ramona Galkina reflects on continuous growth and developing that has already happened within the group. The encounters become richer and more profound with each meeting. She likes the slow growth of the network that happens already, some new people, “correct people” who fit the existing group spirit, keep joining and it is really enriching.
How to develop 45 / 50 + identity as a dancer and dance maker
Most likely, there are different visions about what would be the most helpful in order to maintain and develop professionalism for older (whatever is the age when this starts, probably quite different for dancers and choreographers and different in Baltic and Nordic countries). The ones interested in keeping the strong core of the group were most likely interested in group dynamics, certain even therapeutic effect of that helping to have more self-acceptance and confidence in communities where they (with or without reason) feel pushed aside from certain possibilities young dance artists have. The ones interested into opening up most likely saw their growth and opportunities in individual development that would be secured through regular residences, broader network that could also ensure touring. It would be in many ways the same support for older dancers just not within more or less closed group but within open and more dynamic environment that shares similar age, status and funding issues and perhaps doesn’t even search for shared artistic ground.
I believe that artists’ stand in this question also depends on freelance / NGO status or affiliation with certain institutions providing base for regular income and sometimes also access to premises, dance students as “cheaper” performers and the experimentation ground. As opposed to freelancers that can maintain their existence through the chain of residences, commissions, touring, guest teaching and growing network only.
Rene Nommik sees development in continuing exchange part and having more variety in formats that are also made more visible – smaller and bigger works, works in progress, sketches, improvisations etc. He says that t is important show that artists over 45 and 50 years are still valuable in their artistic choices.
Benno Voorham sees the future in need to provide older dancer makers with possibilities to focus on time for their work. He talks about harsh competition with so many people. Benno Voorham mentions also closed inner circles providing good working conditions a few “important choreographers in the country”. His vision is thinking outside the box and supporting older and still active dancers and dance makers.
Solveig Leinanen-Hermo says that over time it gets more and more clear that she wants to continue working. Though it is very important to reflect on what is important after age of 50 or more years. She asks how to make standards, how to figure out how we want to develop, how do we take care of our group and other people. It is interesting to bring together all the different tastes existing in the group and through that try to define what is 50+ identity. Solveig Leinanen-Hermo also says that already now younger artists are envious about the group and would like to join in some way.
At the end of the text just a couple of questions without any further comments. They were also asked there up north in Hammerfest. Those and many more will be on the dance floor and table during the future of “45+”, “50+” or “n+” project because I believe “+” is the most important thing.
There is no doubt that the future will be. To quote a choreographer Anna Halprin: “Aging means becoming more urgent about time”.
Why we are together artistically?
Who is making art: curators, artists, critics, funders, audiences …?
What you will do when you stop dancing?
To get to know the “45+” group even better, please, take a look at a very nice video on the website of Stellaris DansTeater.
*The author’s trip Hammerfest was supported by by The Nordic-Baltic Mobility Programme for Culture mobility scheme.