THE FESTIVAL IS FOR PEOPLE
Conversation with Catherine Peila from USA, director of international projects during the XIV International Contemporary Dance Conference in Bytom.
Ad Spectatores: How long have you organised this festival?
Catherine Peila: For 14 years, since I first met Jacek Łumiński, when we jointly founded the festival. I lived here for three years, then later I started to come to Poland during the preparations.
AdS: What kind of difficulties do you experience with such a large festival?
CP: At the beginning Jacek and I were doing almost everything ourselves: fund raising, finding the people, organising classes and arrivals. We had some people working in the office, but they had never been involved with this kind of activity before, so we were doing many things then. And now every person has own department: Roman Kuśnierz is managing director, Katarzyna Furmaniuk for public relations, Adam Kowalski is responsible for performance coordination, Katarzyna Rybok for community outreach projects, Marcin Wadowski is stage manager, Agnieszka Osman-Tura co-ordinates the dance workshop and festival office.
Now the problem is communication because I don’t live here any more and we have to communicate through the internet. I can’t support the staff as well as I could if I lived here and that's the hardest part. But it is great we have the internet now, because some time ago there were no computers and no tradition of fund raising in Poland, so I raised money and I still raise it in USA. Nowadays Poland also raises funds from the European Union and other countries.
AdS: How did the Conference develop over these 14 years. What are the innovations?
CP: We started the festival because contemporary dance was a new phenomenon. Lots of people in Poland didn’t feel they could do contemporary dance and become professional, as there were no teachers. Jacek had training and he developed his own style based on Jewish traditional dance and Polish traditions. When he invited me to come to Poland to help him develop the organisation, we brought teachers from different parts of the world to give small workshops. Students were training during the day and at night they had an opportunity to see choreographers on stage and to make connections between the two.
We began the festival with the idea that all forms are important to learn. Our goal was to develop a distinctive style for Polish students, we didn't want the situation where they copy other forms. They should know a number of different forms and think about their own technique.
We develop outreach programs because the community is very important. We go to them and try to teach them about contemporary dance. At the beginning we had very few participants and audience members. We decided to go to the community and show them that art can change their lifes, that professional artists are part of the community.
We have arts management classes because you can’t create art without people who can help to raise money. We have dance history and dance writing classes because we need people who will think about the art form, write about it and share their experiences with the public who couldn’t come.
It is very important to co-operate with people from another countries. This is the most professional festival in central-eastern Europe. We brought western styles here and now we invite asian dance forms. We want to help artists by giving them an opportunity to show their work and, to experiment with new ideas. Art is a very good means of communication when you can’t speak the same language. This festival is a microcosm, where different languages are spoken and sometimes if we have problems with understanding, the art lets us understand eachother.
AdS: Are there people who cooperate with the festival every year?
CP: We have a lot of artists from different countries we work with every year. We work with the administrators and they help us choose artists to invite. We try not to have the same artists every year, but we have people we started with, for example: Boris Čakširian and Gesel Mason - the festival grew up with them. We stay in touch with the people we work with, also with people from Poland, for example: Joanna Leśnierowska, Iwona Olszowska – participants and later artists; people from Lublin Theater. When they started their own festival we went there. This is a constant process: taking part, learning, developing their own style, working with us as a partner.
AdS: How do you promote this festival?
CP: In every way we can: using newspapers; we have interviews all the time; we talk to the television, to the radio; we have a website. We promote the festival abroad. We send information to the sponsors. We also using individual forms of promotion – we meet personally with our partners.