Taja Raman

Raman, Tanja

'We were first introduced to Myléne Benoit by Wales Arts International in September 2009 when she visited Wales to familiarise herself with the Welsh dance sector and to meet with local artists who WAI had identified to have something common with her artistic practice. Myléne saw our performance: traces at the Taliesin in Swansea and was interested in working with us. As the initial stage of our collaboration, Myléne invited us to see the premiere of her new work in Mons, Belgium in early March 2010 in order for us to become familiar with her work. This also provided us with an ideal opportunity to begin creating international networks. Myléne provided us with a list of organisations based in France and Belgium that have regularly supported her work and could potentially be interested in our work.

In preparation for our visit in France and Belgium, we had arranged meetings with some of these arts organisations not just to promote our own performance work but also to gain better understanding of the local dance industry in the areas we visited and to be able to place Myléne’s work in a relevant context.

We first travelled to Lille for a meeting with Catherine Dunoyer from Danse á Lille. The meeting was great and we gained very good insights into the operational context of the organisation and the current dance scene in the Nord-Pas-De-Calais region. Danse á Lille is a dance agency for freelance artists in Nord-Pas-De-Calais. It supports local artists through professional development schemes and it also programmes French and international dance in regular events. The organisation frequently supports Myléne’s work. Catherine expressed her interest in creating a partnership with a British organisation and establishing an exchange scheme. Danse á Lille will be an important organisation for developing our collaboration with Myléne into the next stage, as well as creating opportunities for us to present our work in France in the future.

After our visit in Lille we travelled to Mons in Belgium to meet with Myléne and to view the premiere of her new work: ICI, which was presented as part of the VIA 2010 festival. Witnessing her work live was a great way of gaining a better understanding of her work and working processes. It was also useful in order to develop our ideas of ways we could work with Myléne. Myléne creates work that focuses on process. In ICI, she had collaborated with choreographer Olivier Normand. The choreography in ICI was purely based on the interaction between the performers and time-delayed images generated from a single video camera placed in the middle of the performance space. The images were projected onto two screens at both ends of the performance space. The audience was viewing the work from two opposite sides. The concept of time-delay was introduced little by little by adding layers of meaning and setting more and more complex choreographic tasks until it became physically difficult for the performers to cope with the demands. It became apparent that, though our work and Mylene’s work share a number of common threads, we also have very different creative approaches. The transparent use of technology (live camera/Isadora/projection), use of collaboration and the process-led creation of work means that our practices share a common vocabulary. The work that Mylene presented has a strong identity, with content driven by process, and augmented by additional layers of meaning and context. Our work, on the other hand, has a more emotional context, with the meaning or concept embedded within the process. These intrinsic differences suggest that further research into each other’s creative processes could well be enlightening and beneficial for both parties.

In our meeting, we agreed that we would like to engage in a studio-based research project next in order to develop our artistic practices. The future project would involve an artistic exchange of our working processes on a practical level, sharing choreographic tasks and exploring each other’s ways of integrating movement, visual arts and technology. The research would be open-ended, allowing us to play, develop our skills and also positively challenge our thinking and artistic decision making. This would contribute to our professional development without the pressure of having to create an end product. It would, however, certainly feed into and support our creative process.

As part of the VIA 2010 festival we saw some other inspirational and thought-provoking work, such as Claudio Stillato’s dance performance ‘‘L’autre’’, Thierry De Mey’s infra-red video installation and a large-scale exhibition ‘‘Dance Machine’’. VIA is an annual festival which focuses on programming and promoting work that is based around and enhanced by the use of new technology. The festival run for two weeks between 2nd and 14th March and programmed a variety of performances (theatre and dance), installations and exhibitions mainly from France and Belgium. This festival seemed like a good example of strong and active partnerships evolved between French and Belgian artistic communities. The local organisations and venues in Mons (Belgium) and Maubeuge (France) presented the VIA festival in partnership and shared the programme. The VIA festival also led into another local performance festival in Maubege called Focus Theatre. According to Vanessa Vallee from CNEC – one of the organisers and funders of the festival – the local organisations are encouraged through funding from the government to develop connections between the two countries and to promote artistic exchange through schemes for local artists to network across the border.

On our arrival to the festival, Vanessa invited us to take part in ‘Recontres Professionnelles’ which was an event organised in conjunction with the VIA 2010 festival and provided a professional meeting ground for artists, producers, venue / festival programmers and managers. The ‘Recontres Professionnelles’ seemed to be French speaking equivalent to the British Dance Editions. This provided us with a fantastic opportunity to meet Belgian and French professionals in the field and promote our work. During the event, we talked with Yasmina Demoly from Ars Numerica, which is an organisation that promotes research, publication and production of new work that integrates arts and technology through its residency programmes and commissions. The organisation welcomes and encourages proposals from international artists, and Yasmina invited us to submit a proposal to the residency scheme. Ars Numerica is an organisation that could significantly further our research in dance and technology and help develop a clear strand in our artistic practice. This could also provide another way of taking our work to an international platform.

In conclusion, this visit was incredibly valuable for our professional development. It provided us with time to focus on the current context of our work and research practice and evaluating the direction we would like to develop it. It also sparked new ideas for future projects. The most exciting part of our trip was, however, to begin to create international networks with individual artists and organisations.'

Tanja Råman


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