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The Dance Congress, funded by the Federal Cultural Foundation, is one of Germany’s cultural institutions of excellence. In recent years, it has become one of the most important events in the German dance scene as a forum for reflection, networking and dance performance. For the upcoming Dance Congress in 2019, the Foundation has enlisted the renowned choreographer Meg Stuart to serve as its artistic director, and in so doing, has strengthened the experimental and international character of the event. Stuart is known for her genre-busting, thematically diverse works, as well as her innovative improvisational and collaborative formats. For the Dance Congress 2019, Meg Stuart is developing an experimental convention format which will explore contemporary dance issues – inspired by the utopian setting of the Festspielhaus Hellerau – in a praxis-oriented and community-spirited manner.
In the 1920s, dance artists in Germany gathered for the first time at the legendary “dancer congresses”. After a brief revival in the early 1950s, the tradition of the dancer congress was reactivated by the Federal Cultural Foundation in 2006. The first congresses in the Weimar Republic – in 1927, 1928 and 1930 – focused on reflecting on the social and aesthetic potential of modern dance. Initiated by the dramaturge Hanns Niedecken-Gebhard and the choreographer Rudolf von Laban, the congresses served as an expression of self-empowerment and celebrated the ideals of modern dance in a public setting: new images of the human body, free movement and social utopias. In addition to debates on the aesthetic and artistic qualities of dance, the congresses also negotiated working and training conditions for dancers. Several events also highlighted the fascist potential of modern dance, as both Niedecken-Gebhard and Laban later played an integral role in shaping the dance politics of the Third Reich.
Aware of these paradoxes of modernism, the Dance Congress 2019 plans to revisit the artistic utopias of community, anarchy and spirituality. These themes are embodied by the venue of the Dance Congress 2019 – the Festspielhaus Hellerau in the garden city of the same name located on the outskirts of Dresden – as well as the artistic exile colony Monte Verità in the 1910s, the legendary finale party of the first dancer congress in 1927 at a club in Magdeburg, and the happenings staged in the United States in the 1960s.
Directed by a female choreographer for the first time, the Dance Congress 2019 is conceived as a gathering for international dance professionals and dance enthusiasts. Meg Stuart and her team are creating a spatial and temporal structure for a community-based experience. Together with experts from the arts, sciences, politics and esoterica, the participants will explore a diverse range of physical techniques, discuss philosophical and natural-scientific concepts, and examine political activism from various times and places in hopes of gaining inspiration for contemporary dance. The Dance Congress 2019 aims to go above and beyond conventional congress formats and create alternative environments for sharing and gaining expertise, navigating conflict and mediation, meeting and healing. The entire grounds of the Festspielhaus Hellerau, including the large hall and surrounding gardens, will be converted into modular working spaces in the form of a club, cinema, dormitory, library etc.
In addition to the main programme from 5 to 10 June at the Festspielhaus Hellerau, the Dance Congress 2019 will also include salons from around the world which will lay the thematic groundwork for the Congress. In the weeks leading up to the congress, various satellite events will take place in Dresden which highlight the ideas and concepts of the event in public workshops, concerts and lectures. These include the specially curated event "Down by the Water" during which Dresden’s residents will have the opportunity to meet the participants of the Dance Congress in person.