Selecting work for the showcase by Eckhard Thiemann
Serving on a selection committee always feels like a privilege, but also daunting responsibility to me. On the one hand it is a real pleasure to be able to see and read so many artists’ proposals and hear about their latest plans and projects. It is an inspiring time of discovery and curiosity. On the other hand, there is always the knowledge that we will never be able to select all the artists who we would like to see exposed. And we know that any selection will be interrogated and critiqued. And finally, we know we will disappoint more people than we can invite to the showcase. As the chair of the committee it was my job to hold a wide range of viewpoints from the committee members and find consensus.
In our often lively discussions we always asked ourselves the question how the selection of one company would contribute to the overall programme. Inclusion was never just about the quality of each individual work (we could have easily chosen more artists), but also how each work contributed to telling the story of exciting dance practice in the UK right now. While looking through the nearly 200 applications I observed how dance reflected on important issues and themes in current society. Why would dance be untouched by politics and wider society issues? I was moved by the number of submissions, which dealt with mental health and emotional wellbeing. Equally, I was comforted by seeing a range of works, which celebrated a coming together and communitarian spirit (a reaction against the divisiveness of the Brexit debates?). And I laughed at the subversive spirit of much work, which used disarming humour to question identity and gender.
Artists may work in different styles and aesthetics and we react with different tastes. But I feel in our deliberations we encountered a real urge from artists to reflect on the world around them. This felt like ‘real’ dance for a real and often complicated world.
Eckhard Thiemann is Chair of the Curatorial Committee for Surf The Wave