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Silesian Dance Theatre's XII Annual International Contemporary Dance Conference & Performance Festival

by Catherine A. Peila

July 2005 -- Bytom, Poland

This year’s twelfth edition of Silesian Dance Theatre's International Contemporary Dance Conference/Festival is once again an eclectic mix of intriguing educational and performance programming, providing a taste of the far-flung cultural interpretations of how a body moves and communicates through choreography.  The curators of the performance and educational programming include SDT Executive & Artistic Director Jacek Luminski, the SDT curatorial staff and producing/artistic partners, such as myself. 

Each year we take into consideration the educational interests and needs of the Polish community and find the technique teachers and contemporary arts educators who can tackle the areas that needs to be strengthened.  We also make a connection between the educational programming and performance on multiple levels by taking into consideration the interest in performance styles and also the patterns that exist within the global and Polish dance and creative communities.  However, we also work to break any stale patterns that have become set within the dance world, by presenting things that counter the trend and we endeavour to question what the audience, experts and arts community feel should be the “way” of contemporary dance.  We expect this conference/festival to be a place where the dancer, critic, educator, and audience is challenged to look deeper into their approaches. 

Emerging from this post-modern creative community, this year’s gathering brings to the stage and the educational studios cultural interpretations of traditional and contemporary life and ideas.  This year we have over 40 cultures represented from over 25 countries, over 500 students from across Poland, Western Europe, the US, Hong Kong and Canada, more than 60 educators and full houses for main stage performances, overflowing houses for offsite venues and much media interest:

There are 22 professional companies and a number of solo artists along with 8 emerging and student dance companies from over 14 countries including: Poland (11 cities across Poland), Israel (2 regions), Germany, Slovakia, Korea, the United States (7 States), China (2 regions), Russia, Switzerland, Austria, Lithuania, Canada (2 regions), Japan, and Portugal.  Performances take place in over 4 sites in Bytom and 7 cities in Poland. 

There are over 32 dance teachers each specialising in a different movement technique, including yoga, Limon’s American Modern, Luminski’s Polish Contemporary, Nai Ni Chen’s Peking Opera/American contemporary, Gerard Charles’ contemporary ballet, Reggie Wilson’s hoodoo movement, Ultima Vez’s physical contemporary and master classes for advanced students by leading international choreographers.  In addition, we have a community outreach program with 5 year-long programs enhanced by 3 dance specialists (New Mexico) and 4 choreographers leading dance movement workshops for community members with disabilities and care professionals. 

The dance writing and history workshops include 10 internationally known dance critics, anthropologists and historians leading seminars with young writers and supporting their publication of a bilingual festival newspaper, together with the continued development of Poland’s first contemporary dance library.  

The management workshops bring together 12 fund raising, marketing and administrative specialists from the European Union, Poland, the United States, Holland, and Australia to lead discussions on a range of current themes.  To further develop dance support areas, there are workshops in dance photography and the use of radio as a medium to publicise dance.  This year the SDT staff has created a special festival called the Little Festival for Children which includes a week of dance workshops for young people with artists from 6 countries and techniques…and the list continues to change and grow as the needs emerge.

This only gives a flavour of the expansive reach of the conference/festival and we hope to move these innovative activities into a more permanent educational and performance setting.  It’s an exciting time for SDT and its partners, who are very pleased to be a part of Poland’s creative culture.

Catherine Peila is the executive and artistic director of  MindFields Unlimited, Inc (SDT’s international programs partner) and co-founder of SDT’s Annual International Contemporary Dance Conference & Performance Festival. 

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