The Real Story: Between Gestures — Connecting Chicago to Europe Through Performance and Dance
Together, they’ve designed an extaordinary ten-day event …
Dance travels well. Because dance — and its design — transcend the limitations of language, the arts of movement can be one of the sturdiest bridges between different countries and different cultures. But it’s a bridge that still must be built, bridges don’t build themselves. Someone has to take the initiative to actually construct a way that an audience in one world can experience the dance and performance of another.
That’s exactly the kind of creative initiative that Tanguy Accart, who is the Cultural Attaché at the Consulate General of France in Chicago, and Petra Roggel, Director or the Goethe-Institut Chicago, imagined together. The project they’ve created, Between Gestures, is as meticulous in its design as it is expansive in its scope. It’s not just an opportunity for audiences in Chicago to experience dance and performance from Europe, it’s many such opportunities, spread across the city, in collaboration with an impressive group of partners.
Between Gestures is a project of the Goethe-Institut Chicago, which is the world-wide cultural institute of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the Cultural Service of the Consulate of France in Chicago. But importantly, it was created in dialogue with two major European cultural institutions —the Centre National de la Danse in Paris (actually in Pantin, part of the greater Paris metro area) and PACT Zollverein in Essen, Germany. Each of these institutions plays an invaluable and central role in the support and development of dance in their countries.
It’s not just an opportunity for audiences in Chicago to experience dance and performance from Europe, it’s many such opportunities, spread across the city …
Roggel and Accart both have extensive professional experience in dance and performance in Europe, and combining their expertise with the involvement of two major institutions so central to dance on the continent was always going to bring an impressive level of authority to the project. It didn’t end there, though; Accart and Roggel have collaborated with a impressive list of partners in Chicago — the Dance Center of Columbia College, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Poetry Foundation, the Stony Island Arts Bank, the School of the Art Institute, the Chicago Architecture Biennial and the Chicago International Film Festival.
Together, they’ve designed an extaordinary ten-day event that includes eight performances, four events they call “Public Conversations”, four masterclasses and a series of screenings of dance films and documentaries from Europe. The eight performances are all by groundbreaking artists and choreographers based in Europe, while the Public Conversations bring together European and American experts to explore dance, its context and its history from both sides of the Atlantic.
We asked Tanguy Accart if he would share with us more about how he and Petra Roggel developed Between Gestures — where the idea came from, what they imagined and how they accomplished it. Here’s what he told us:
For us, the main question was how we could create a space for the transmission and exchange of artistic discoveries …
Johnny Nevin: Between Gestures is a very imaginative project, whose goal is to celebrate and explore contemporary dance and performance from Europe. The series of programs that will take place — performances, master classes, organized discussions and film screenings — will provide an immensely varied opportunity to discover dance and performance from Europe. Can you tell us about how the vision for such a creative undertaking was developed?
Tanguy Accart, Cultural Attaché, Consulate General of France in Chicago: The Goethe-Institut and the Cultural Services of the Consulate of France share a common mission — to facilitate cultural exchanges between Germany and France, on the one hand, and the United States on the other. For Petra and I this is even more specifically between Chicago and the Midwest and our countries, and we seek to do this in a variety of fields. The idea is to promote cooperation, and to make all kinds of creative endeavors from Germany and France more widely accessible, and more readily available, in the U.S.
Petra and I both have professional backgrounds in the contemporary performing arts world, so it was natural for us to start a dialogue with the idea of working together on a program that would bring the European art scene closer to Chicago. There were a lot of factors that we found encouraging for this kind of idea. For one thing, Chicago offers a wide variety of organizations — art centers, theatres, and other networks — dedicated to performance and contemporary dance. Another was that the city has many universities and art schools with dance and performance departments, both practical and theoretical. Finally, a growing number of young American choreographers and performers are moving to the Midwestern capital. But we realized that despite the denseness of the local artistic landscape, it has somewhat limited connections to the international contemporary choreographic scene because opportunities for exchanges between the United States and Europe still remain concentrated mainly in New York, and in the major cities on the West Coast.
For us, the main question was how we could create a space for the transmission and exchange of artistic discoveries, one that would be aimed at bringing together Europe-based artists and experts from the Chicago art scene. How could we bring to younger artists, to other professionals and to the broad public a better understanding of this creativity — its context and history in Europe — from the perspective of Franco-German dialogue?
… we wished most of all to foster international cooperation between Chicago and Europe …
Johnny: The actual implementation of Between Gestures is exceptionally expansive. There are performances, discussions, masterclasses and screenings — events that will connect a number of European artists with audiences, students, and others from the Chicago dance community. What’s more, all of this is happening over ten days at venues across the greater Chicago landscape. What was involved in making all of this a reality?
Tanguy: With support from the Franco-German Cultural Fund, we started to work concretely on this project, with four main ideas in mind.
The first was that we wanted to be able to offer programs in several different formats, not just performances, but also public conversations between experts from Europe and Chicago, as well as masterclasses, and a series of film screenings. We felt that masterclasses in particular were very important to allow students and artists to experience more deeply the artistic approaches and processes of the invited choreographers.
We also wanted to invite two major and innovative Institutions, the Centre National de la Danse in Pantin (CN D) on the French side and PACT Zollverein in Essen on the German side, to be part of the programing process. The CN D and PACT share several missions: support for creation, programming, artistic education, professional training, research and the promotion of heritage, all with a view to opening all of this up to an international community, and to other artistic disciplines.
In addition, we wanted to gather together multiple partners in Chicago, to gather them around this festival in order to highlight the diversity and richness of these venues and organizations. All of them are connected to Dance and performance, and all of them embrace a spirit of international openness in their programming. We are particularly happy that so many diverse partners (from the Dance Center of Columbia College to the Museum of Contemporary Art, from the Art Institute of Chicago to the Poetry Foundation and the Stony Island Arts Bank, from the School of the Art Institute to the Chicago Architecture Biennial and the Chicago International Film Festival) have welcomed this project with such enthusiasm!
Finally, we wished most of all to foster international cooperation between Chicago and Europe.
As Ellen Chenoweth, director of the Dance Presenting Series at Columbia College has said, “It is a rare opportunity to get to see what is going on in the contemporary European scene without actually traveling there. This is a rare chance to see what is happening … and be exposed to new ideas.”
We are particularly happy that so many diverse partners (from the Dance Center of Columbia College to the Museum of Contemporary Art, from the Art Institute of Chicago to the Poetry Foundation and the Stony Island Arts Bank, from the School of the Art Institute to the Chicago Architecture Biennial and the Chicago International Film Festival) have welcomed this project with such enthusiasm!
Between Gestures will present a wide-ranging series of programs at venues across Chicago from October 24 through November 2nd, 2019. For the full program of performances, conversations and screening, please visit betweengestures.org/program and for a full list of masterclasses please visit betweengestures.org/master-classes