Surf the Wave: harbinger of Brexit or dance showcase of the future?
by Gustavo Fijalkow
The timing of the announcement of the new Surf The Wave (STW) format could not have been more particular: Three months prior to the Brexit referendum. This context provoked two almost opposite interpretations of what turned out to be a radically new format.
A fine line between internal strengthening and isolating yourself
Rather than showing products in a one-off fashion it concentrates on processes; instead of creating an atmosphere of competition it is pro-active in community-building and yes: instead of curating a shop window for mostly foreign programmers its focus is directed inwards. Was the new paradigm, conceived and carried out by its creative producers from Pavilion Dance South West and enabled by the funders that had made monies available already picking on a not-yet-outspoken but about-to-crystallise desire to disengage from the outside world?
I was thrilled to be invited to two of Surf The Wave’s regional gatherings, despite me being neither a UK national, nor part of any regional production structure, but only a temporary local (I had been living in the UK for approximately three years at the time).
Getting the right mix: Inward focus with outside inspiration
What I found was an endeavour that had nothing of the insularity foreboded by the wider political climate. The workshops were led by experts both from the UK and continental Europe, and not all attendees were British-born. Hence, although the focus was clearly laid onto strengthening the capabilities of the regional professional dance communities – and as a result, of the British dance sector in its whole – the energy was outspokenly non-partisan, and the structure definitely promoted exchange and porous contours. Actually, the focus was clearly laid inwards, but the view was neither narrow nor disengaging from the wider, international dance-scapes that the British dance sector co-creates.
A role model for openness and inclusion
There is much to congratulate STW’s team for: their engagement and enacted responsibility, their intelligent choice of workshop leaders, their human-ness and presence, their willingness to learn from each experience and open-ness to criticism. But above all, they seem to have grasped correctly the spirit of the time and more than that, they have taken the right conclusions: By all means, the British dance sector needs a renewed focus to strengthen its creative skills and its capability to mediate the work it produces. This requires engagement, energy and a special focus onto the sector. At the same time, the British dance sector interacts with wider dance structures from other parts of the world (both formal and informal), and its healing does not lie in disengaging from them, but in open and constructive dialogue and co-creation
The wider political context would be well advised in taking a close look at the conduct of its dance sector.
© Gustavo Fijalkow
dramaturg | curator
researcher | producer