In the wings of Schrittmacher Festival
Having started out as an experiment, the Schrittmacher dance festival in Aachen is now in its 19th year. Five years ago, the neighbouring municipality of Heerlen (NL) also joined in, creating the only festival in Europe that takes place in two countries at the same time. And it has enjoyed great success. Again this year, there is plenty of public interest.
Twenty years ago, Rick Takvorian organised an exhibition of dance performances in Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst. That marked the start of the Schrittmacher Festival. The festival soon made a name as a platform for innovative, small-scale international dance. With a small budget, Takvorian was able to offer an interesting programme. “In Germany, a director of a festival tends to be visible. So I figuratively took the audience by the hand by organising introductions to the performances. That meant that we soon gained public trust.”
As a famous ballet and dance critic, Takvorian, who now works at the Kulturbetrieb der Stadt Aachen, succeeded in attracting interesting names to Aachen. He also liked to select innovative dance productions by young talent from less obvious countries like Hungary and Korea. The intimate, 400 capacity auditorium of Fabrik Stahlbau Strang, forms the backdrop for the dance performances.
At least until 2010. This was when Rick Tavorian met Bas Schoonderwoerd, director of Parkstad Limburg Theaters, which includes Theater Heerlen. Several years ago, this 1000 seater theatre was adapted to be able host large-scale productions like musicals. Both men decided to join forces in order to expand the performance opportunities of the Schrittmacher Festival and offer modern dance an international platform.
The tasks are shared. In Heerlen, Schoonderwoerd programmes large auditorium productions by big names like the Nederlands Dans Theater. In Aachen, Takvorian organises the artistically strong, small-scale performances by relatively unknown, often young makers. Besides the performances, there are various dance workshops and the ‘dance meets film’ programme in both towns. This formula has proved to be a hit. As in other years, various shows have been sold out weeks in advance.
There are several reasons for this massive growth in public interest. First of all, the programme is not just interesting for dance lovers, but also for a wider and more general theatregoing public. There has also been a great effort to simplify ticket sales. Visitors can buy tickets for all the performances in both Aachen and Heerlen, with transport if required. Finally, the location in Aachen plays an important role. Fabrik Stahlbau Strang has become a cultural hotspot, not only attracting dance lovers but a varied young audience that likes surprises.
The reason why ticket sales were separate earlier was because there was no joint budget. In Aachen, the dance programme is part of the municipal Kulturbetrieb. Money for the festival comes from the municipal budget, supplemented with the revenue from ticket sales and a small additional contribution. In Heerlen, the festival performances are part of the regular theatre programme. Schoonderwoerd: “Without Schrittmacher, we would obviously include dance on the programme, but there would be fewer performances and more spread out over the season. Thanks to the festival, we can now attract several good dance groups in a short period, because we know that there’s an audience for them.”
That is also the reason why the festival will be expanded in the future to include more matinees and a more varied fringe programme. This year, for the first time collaboration has been sought with the prestigious Internationale Tanzmesse in Düsseldorf. This biannual dance exhibition, to be held in August this year, attracts hundreds of professional dance companies from all around the world.
The Schrittmacher Festival 2014 takes place from 6 March to 8 April
420People (CZ), Vuyani Dance Theatre (ZA), TanzFenster / DansRaam (Internationale Tanzmesse), Emanuele Soavi incompany (I/D), Richard Alston Dance Company (UK), Compagnie Pal Frenak (H)
Ultima Vez / Wim Vandekeybus (B), Project Sally (NL), Eastman / Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (B), Danza Contemporánea de Cuba (C), Sofiane & Selma Ouissi (TN), Richard Alston Dance Company (UK), Introdans (NL)
- Reportage über die Internationale Tanzmesse 2010 in Düsseldorf
- Eastman / choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui ( Antwerp) - Puz/zle (Official trailer)
- Eastman / choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui (Antwerp) - 4D (Official trailer)
- Choreograaf Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui over \'diversiteit, de kracht van het verschil\'
- Report on the Internationale Tanzmesse Düsseldorf 2012
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