Yücel Cultural Foundation (Yücel Kültür Vakfı) received grant support from our Culture & Arts Fund to host a project implemented by the independent artist initiative Improdancefest to organise the 2nd International Improvisation Dance Festival. The Festival took place between 10-19 June in Istanbul with 40 international performances, 27 workshops, 4 creative projects and 3 dance film screenings.
Read below our interview:
We know that the COVID-19 pandemic, economic crisis, and social problems have seriously affected the field of culture and arts. Can you tell us about your observations on the effects of the pandemic and these crises on performance arts?
Our festival was born in May 2021, when the pandemic was still ongoing. We were not motivated to come together and produce, and the quarantine measures also affected us. It was a time of uncertainty about where our performances would be staged, whether they would generate income, and so on. At that time, organisations and festivals that actively used online platforms were meeting with the audience through different methods. For example, Moda Stage (Moda Sahnesi) was performing the plays live without an audience, and ticket holders could watch them online.
Another example is the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra shared its concert recordings on online platforms and enabled audiences to watch them free of charge. We also organised the first year of our festival through free and online multimedia platforms. Online platforms offered us new tools to work on when designing our performances. With these tools, we saw that we can improve the audience experience and the performances with creative solutions despite obstacles. We would like to mention two online performances that took place during the festival:
We are in a period where dance artists work together with engineers, experience designers and artists from different disciplines.
Sabina Andre Allen, one of the artists who performed at the festival, performed live from the terrace of her house in Athens. In Andriana Plessa and Sabina Andrea Allen’s “Rising From the Ashes”, we watched the performance of two female dance artists dancing in two different spaces without seeing each other. In Kamola Rashidova’s performance “Where The Heart Leaves”, cameras created an experience for the audience to watch the performance from different angles in Belgrade Forest. You can watch these performances on our YouTube account. Currently, we follow projects that design avatar dance artists who connect from different countries with virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality technologies with new software programmes.
We are in a period where dance artists work together with engineers, experience designers and artists from different disciplines. This new era, the rapidly developing software around us and the transforming exhibition practices make us ask the following questions: How does the performance of dance and performance arts in virtual spaces affect our experience? What equipment do we need to develop when working with new forms of exhibition? How can we develop these new forms of exhibition, communication, and income-generating models? Questions such as these enable us to think about the developments in performance arts in our country.
Can you tell us about the activities you carried out within the scope of the International Improvised Dance Festival project that you realised with our grant support?
Our festival took place between 10-19 June 2022 in Istanbul and for the first time in person. While preparing for the festival, we had interim training and performance activities. In the festival, which included choreographers, dance artists, academics, dance enthusiasts and professionals and spread to both sides of Istanbul, 40 international performances, 27 workshops, 4 creative projects and 3 dance film screenings took place. While the performances took place on the stage in public spaces, the workshops, named HemZemin dance, were aimed at professionals and individuals aged 65 and above who wanted to improve their workshop experience.
In the festival, which included choreographers, dance artists, academics, dance enthusiasts and professionals and spread to both sides of Istanbul, 40 international performances, 27 workshops, 4 creative projects and 3 dance film screenings took place.
Our workshops consisted of different dance genres. In the creation workshops, guest choreographers from the United States, Sweden, Germany, and the United Kingdom produced and exhibited their works with professionals and amateurs. The dance films, curated by Onur Topal Sümer, were screened on the open-air stage of the Museum Gazhane. Our platform continues to conduct dance workshops, apply for partnerships with international projects and take steps towards new collaborations.
You have collaborated with various institutions and stakeholders within the scope of the International Improvisation Dance Festival project. Can you tell us about the contributions of these collaborations you have realised in Turkey or internationally to dance and performance arts in Turkey and to your organisation?
We are in a period when the needs for representation, new project development and international visibility of the communities, individuals and organisations working in the field of dance are not being met. In such a period, we have rolled up our sleeves to bring dance artists and dance enthusiasts together again with the festival.
This gathering showed that for the first time in a long time, we were able to create a space for contact for dancers who produce together. In line with the feedback we received, we can easily say that the festival has breathed new life into dance artists who passionately work in this field. We observed that the steps we have taken as a young generation of artists who have spawned the field of dance are promising. With the momentum created, we were recognised internationally and we became a partner in the Go Towards project of the Company Area in Italy. We started to prepare our applications to be a part of international platforms. At the same time, we continue to plan our events throughout the year with our local collaborations.
We observed that dance has purifying, healing and transformative effects on individuals.
How has the grant support from our Culture & Arts Fund contributed to your work? Why do you think donors must support work in the fields of dance and performing arts?
Unfortunately, dance is neglected in our country, and there are only a few organisations in this field. However, through our platform and the festival, we saw that the demand and potential for the field’s development are high. Funds are predominantly directed towards visual arts, music, and theatre disciplines. For this reason, fund transfers to the field of dance are very effective for the visibility and sustainability of the field.
At the festival, the participants did not remain only as spectators but were active in the activities. We observed that dance has purifying, healing and transformative effects on individuals. Different organisations and sponsors supported the festival, which made it possible for all events to be free of charge. Thus, it enabled new audiences to meet with contemporary dance and individuals to include dance in their lives.
Can you tell us about the activities and priorities of Improdancefest in the coming period?
First, we started to organise “Prop Jam” meetings monthly at Hope Alkazar. We have identified three main areas of activity until the festival. Our primary goal is to organise a meeting where there will be discussions, academic presentations and networking on topics that have not been discussed before in the field of dance. Our second area of work is to develop a project in which we capture new technologies and developments in dance. In addition, we organise workshops with dancers from abroad. We continue to interview artists who are active locally and identify the needs of the field.
About Yücel Cultural Foundation
Since 1969, Yücel Cultural Foundation has been providing opportunities for young people between the ages of 16 and 33 to develop and express themselves through arts and cultural activities. The Foundation provides in-kind and financial support to art communities and works with volunteers through social responsibility projects. The Foundation also aims to bring together youth from all over the world for social and cultural activities with international and domestic student exchange programs to develop cross-cultural communication.