A few months ago now, I attended a post show discussion at Cardiff Dance Festival, that posed the question "What is the function of a festival?"
I found this an interesting question.
At the talk responses seemed geared towards the experience and expectation of the practitioners involved. I also got the impression that the benefit of dance festivals where for the sole benefit of "dance enthusiasts" and professionals rather than general public and community.
This question has sat with me for a while now, and here is my response.
Looking at the meaning and origin of the word 'festival' - I think - gives us an indication of the usefulness it has on a cities culture and the society it impacts; the people it directly effects.
The Hindu's festival Diwali (for example) is a festival of light; all people come together to rejoice in all things related to it. So by this example should this be the same approach to a festival of dance. Surely by definition we are celebrating all things dance. Discarding individual objectives / expectations and preferences and celebrating movement and expression in all degrees of its glory. Whether this is the beginnings of creations or 'finished' creations; whether these be from established artists or emerging artist's. I see a festival as an even playing field where we experience dance as a whole with no hierarchy.
If when approaching the curation of a festival, these idea's of equality and celebration was at the forefront:
Would the response to the question be different?
Would the experience of festivals change for the cities they are situated in and artists/organisers involved?
What would be different?
I think seeing festivals of dance in this way is what makes it an environment where creators, practitioners, producers and dancers come to discover what is happening in our art form.
A point that seemed to be made very clear with in the CDF discussion. As an artist myself; and one who has performed in festivals as well, It has been highly beneficial to my growth as an artist and my art practise. It has given space for my work to develop and purpose for my work to be created. There is a great importance for artists to have space to create and make work that has risk and uncertainty in its outcome. Although festivals can be one of the best platforms for this, it is not the only platform. Workshops, research development grants, small scale performances / sharing's, scratch nights and residences, are all platforms in which artists and creatives can achieve all of the above and are perfect - for lets say - feedback from more like minded professionals.
With this in mind it takes me back to the question: What is the benefit of the festival as a platform?; what else do we get from it, when we have other platforms that give us very similar benefits?? I suggest that it is the wider audience, the community; the chance to share and celebrate dance with this wider audience (not just the creative community, but the general community).
Jodi ann Nicholson
I am a multidisciplinary artist. my training started at the Contemporary Dance School, TrinityLaban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Continuing developing my creative practice at Cardiff School of Art and Design in their Masters in Fine Arts course.