DANSEatelier in practice

The young choreographers of DANSEatelier

DANSEAtelier is collective of artists and choreographers that began as an emergent idea of shared collectivity while attending the The Danish National School of Performing Arts.

Published: November 2, 2016Words: DANSEAtelier & J.Scott StrattonArtist Link: danseatelier.dk

When I was first introduced to the collective of choreographers that make up DANSEatelier, through shared friends and attending a number of the frequent events that they host at their space, I was immediately met with something that appealed to me. There is a definitive sense of individualism amongst the group, but a through a shared support and interest in the individual projects of each respective member of the collective.

Even in a Danish system, where financial support is far more extensive than I have ever experienced before, the constant and immediate pressure of finding your next meal is something that every artist is familiar with. To those brave individuals that forgo the idea of working a 9-5 and strike out with their own ideas of living a life of pure creativity, then the phrase “starving artist” is far more of an immediate threat. Thus, collectivity becomes a way to not only expand and share processes, but also a financial support system for those not integrated into the artistic funding system.

This DIY type of collective creativity is something that distantly familiar to me, as it is something that you often see in the States as a result of the overwhelming lack of artistic funding to be found and the continuous struggle with the falsity of the “American Dream”. It’s more practical in that regard, working more as a financial solution to the necessity of a workspace.

I can’t say if that is the case with those behind DANSEatelier, but the openness of their space in combination with their individual practice and a shared visual of creative process is beautiful to me.

Every morning, they extend this support and stability through conducting a physical practice together, which I had the pleasure to be a part of one morning and witness their dynamic of both physical and verbal conversation. Once they conduct this daily practice, the remainder of the day is often reserved for personal work, either through solo practice or collaborating with others on specific works. The co-habitation of multiple practices and creative processes occurring simultaneously within the space allows the member of the group to feed off each other’s work, often crossing into each other’s physical and artistic pathways and deliberately allowing interference. In this way, DANSEatelier is not about scheduling time to “own” the space, but co-existence within the space.

For us, it is also a space of non-work, a space of lingering in the state of the in-between. We feel this is a state that you often find yourself in as a freelancer. Lingering together with other people is different, it becomes valuable when multiplied.

DANSEatelier began as an emergent idea while attending The Danish National School of Performing Arts. Inspired by teachers and mentors that shared their thoughts on collectivity and shared authorship, the idea of creating there our collective blossomed within the walls of the Academy, and came into fruition when they graduated. In recent months, they have had two close collaborators, dance artists and friends of atelier, that bring their number up to 12.

DANSEatelier in practice

Hailing from four separate countries, but largely sharing the same education and history of friendship, DANSEatelier is, in my opinion, heralding in a more avant-garde generation of Danish based collectivity. While all of them partake in the notion of working and spending time with the notion of dance, they also reach out to the other respective artistic genres and invite them into their space-as they did recently by hosting installation exhibition based on the musical expression of sound-artist Alexander Holm.

Founded on the belief in shared responsibility, workload and knowledge, the collective structure of DANSEatelier provides continuity and stability when venturing off into unknown territory-something that all artists need to explore when first establishing themselves. It also gives them a way to create a community for each other which feeds into the wider Copenhagen community-which they have quickly established themselves as a facilitator of.

Knowing that the institutions in and around stage arts offer relatively cheap rental spaces to artist for practicing and developing their work, I was naturally curious as to why the collective took the financially difficult step of opening their own space. But there reason for this was one of total and complete independence. With 24 hour access to a space of their own, they have the freedom to experiment and explore rather than just produce.

“We are not defined by any big institutions or dependent on foundations and grants in order for to exist. There are many aspects of this precarious life as an artist that are project based, and we wanted a space with a longer vision.”

While still a fledgling collective, DANSEatelier’s “longer vision” of their space is definitely starting to resonate throughout the community, through their regular Performance Feast events, where they invite fellow choreographers to openly show vignettes or sections of the work that they are working on. The open a space where other artist can shed the burden of simply producing or only exhibiting finished work.

To me, as an outside observer to the collective mentality of DANSEatelier, it’s almost as if they are aware of the bureaucracy, and sometimes elitist nature, that exists within the artistic realm, and are actively rejecting those notions by freely welcoming anyone into their space. I might be projecting my own rebellious nature on this lovely young group of choreographers, but I for one happy to see a collective that, through welcoming demeanor and innovative thinking-are raising a metaphorical middle finger to archaic traditions, and ushering in a new generation of cross-disciplinary, genre-less and borderless creative expression.