exchange meeting with nationwide initiatives and individual artists

For our first nationwide exchange and networking meeting on the topic of dance/art and parenthood on July 9, 2022 in the Artist Lab project “Mit Kind: Tanzkünstlerinnen zwischen Beruf und Abstellgleis” we invited guest artists from the dance scene who have founded similar initiatives themselves, are involved in them, and individual artists who have actively worked or researched on the topic, especially during the pandemic. In our search for such initiatives on the web, we did not find them in all federal states.

We shared strategies that the artists have found to continue working as dance makers during the pandemic with closed theaters, closed schools and daycare centers, the elimination of childcare, and the simultaneous “cut” of other professional life. We asked what needs and desires arise from this for a post-pandemic future: How should/can dance landscape structures, funding, theater, performance, education, and residency programs incorporate the conditions of dance-making parents? What do we need?

Positive and negative aspects of artistic work during the pandemic were named. Switching to online formats made it possible to stay in touch, network, and exchange online. At the same time, online formats were limited and made isolation more noticeable. The artistic practice as dance creators supported many of the participating artists in finding ways to deal with the exceptional situation during the pandemic, with interruptions and constant changes. For example, it was mentioned as positive that the pandemic invited the moment of reflection and that open-format funding (in NEUSTART KULTUR) enabled other ways of working and processes in which care work, everyday family life and artistic creation could be better reconciled. Some have taken time to question and reorganize their working methods and their projects, while others have been completely occupied with the simultaneity of home office, homeschooling. The latter came as feedback from single dance creators in particular. A major topic was the perceived inadequate security systems (unemployment insurance, pensions) for freelance dancers/artists.

The systems in France and Belgium, for example, were highlighted as better practice, as they provide better support for artists, especially during the widespread periods of unstaffed employment.

Experiences of discrimination due to pregnancy or maternity connect our different artist biographies, for example, when disclosing one’s own pregnancy, the contract is not renewed, the master’s degree is positioned as incompatible, the prospective contract for the next season at the theater does not materialize. The end of a “career” in the case of pregnancy is still formulated, expressed, thought about and perpetuated as a matter of course on many levels and in many places in the performing arts and dance.

During the lab, positive examples were also given of choreographers who, for example, take into account daycare and school times in their rehearsal schedules, adapt roles, rehearsal processes and choreographies to the physical needs of a pregnant dancer, as well as adjust their fees to increased living costs and workload (keyword: babysitter, retirement provisions). In the exchange, detailed information came together on the possibilities of paid childcare in marginal times, outside the “usual” kindergarten opening hours. The dilemma of working when others are off and only being able to pay the babysitter with your own work, but then having nothing left, was known to all as a frustrating experience. In the experience of one Lab participant, it had taken half a year of bureaucratic red tape to hire regular childcare, e.g. for performance evenings in her own household, and to bill it as an entitled service. In addition, the requirements for the professional qualification of a caregiver vary from state to state, which is a further hurdle given the prevailing shortage of personnel in the field.

The more format-open work through less result- and performance-oriented and more process-oriented funding was evaluated as positive, also with regard to less dependence on venues/ venue certificates, more self-responsibility in the selection of schedules, spaces, work processes. Working outside with dance was seen as both positive (“new spaces and conditions”) and restrictive (“movement material is often limited to walking, sitting, lying down, due to existing floor conditions, for example).
An important concern that came up again and again is the participation of children in all (dance) places, including training, theater, rehearsal, residency places, the desire that children can participate in these places and also inspire them. We are far from taking for granted that children of different ages have a place, space and (play) opportunities there. Many have reported experiences in which children were not welcome, were not taken into account, neither spatially nor in terms of processes.

The possibility to work solo during the pandemic was highlighted as good, but after a first phase, it became clear that dance absolutely needs a shared experience of movement in space and body contact. The experience of not being able to share dance together, as a way of connecting to one’s own body, to others, and to the environment, was felt to be a great loss.

How has our role as dance creators influenced our role as caregivers and vice versa? Points that were named in the Lab were, for example: The role as caregiver has partly interwoven with our own artistic practice, e.g. by including the children’s perspective in the choreographic practice, or also “caring” for colleagues in the rehearsal process; last but not least, the strong structuredness that arises with children and professional independence also came up. It was mentioned how much the perceiving, listening, connecting and networking, which we bring from our own dance practice, has supported us to manage the often even more complex family situations and professional conditions during the pandemic.

Invited Artists:

Invited Artists who participated online (Interviews):

Participating Artists from the Ag Dance and Parenthood: