The challenges and possibilities of a large stage discussed in SPARKS Talks
The SPARKS TALKS online seminar gathered together international dance industry professionals, SPARKS artists and other actors in the field of dance.
The topic of the SPARKS Talks online seminar on 7–8 August 2020 was working on a large stage. The speakers included the SPARKS project’s four international advisors: choreographers Mathilde Monnier and Antony Hamilton, Bia Oliveira, Head of Producing & Touring at Sadler's Wells, London, and dramaturg Katherine Profeta.
The eight artists and working groups, selected for the second phase of the SPARKS projects to plan first performances for Tanssin talo’s Erkko stage that seats 700 people, participated in the event. In addition, registrations were accepted from 30 actors in the field of dance who were interested in the topic.
“The Seminar was an important start for the SPARKS project as it was a gathering between the house and artists, to reflect and consider very concrete aspects of presenting larger scale productions in the house from multiple perspectives.”, says Faith Tan, Head of Programme Development at Tanssin Talo.
Relationship with the audience is based on several factors
Mikael Aaltonen, Tanssin talo’s Programme Manager, who was involved in the planning and implementation of the event, is extremely satisfied with the event as a whole.
“The advisors’ addresses were well prepared. They showed genuine interest in the opportunity to engage in dialogue with SPARKS artists and the field of dance. The audience was particularly interested in the advisors’ experiences of the challenges and opportunities involved in working on a large stage,” Aaltonen says.
Aaltonen and Tan report that the discussions repeatedly referred to, for example, the relationship with the audience, artistic collaboration and dramaturgy. Finnish dance artists’ opportunities for touring, both at the general level and in relation to the SPARKS project, were also discussed. The advisors provided a most welcome international perspective to the discussions.
Questions on audiences, touring, artistic collaboration, dramaturgy, context, and translation to a larger scale were high on everyone’s mind. Having the advisors share their professional and personal experiences with larger spaces, brought points of view from outside of Finland. As we enter this phase of less than 18 months to the physical opening of the house, conversations such as these, which are grounded in the current realities and inherent logics of supporting and creating work for stages such as the Erkko Hall, are useful in moving forward the development of how we all relate to this new proposition.
“The conversations are important and useful in many ways. They relate both to the present times in the field of dance, and our joint development work that will be enabled by the Erkko Hall, to be opened in 18 months from now,” Tan points out.
The SPARKS Talks seminar, open for the audience, was followed by a free-form round table discussion between the SPARKS artists and advisors, focusing on the artists’ ideas for performances. All four advisors will support the artists throughout the project.
Three performances to be selected for the Erkko Hall stage
The next phase of the Erkko Hall SPARKS project will involve requesting the artists to produce an elaborated proposal for a performance. Based on that, five of the eight artists and groups participating now will be selected for the residency phase, which will involve three weeks of work on the performances.
Finally, three performances will be selected for the Erkko Hall stage. However, Aaltonen points out that the key idea of the project is to offer everyone involved the opportunity to develop their skills, regardless of whether their work of art is accepted for the production phase or not.
“I sincerely hope that all these proposals will be realised at some scale on stage,” Aaltonen says.
The SPARKS project will produce three first performances for the 700-seat Erkko Hall and 250-seat Pannuhalli stage. The productions will be seen on stage in 2022–2023. The open call for applications for the Pannuhalli stage will begin in November 2020.