Dance as a universal language

International Dance Day

For almost 40 years, Jean-Georges Noverre's birthday on 29 April has been the occasion for the International Dance Day., which celebrates dance in all its forms and its unifying power. Newly appointed ambassadors from all over the world stand for its global and transnational significance. Now we do not have to think far geographically, because in 2021 the Stuttgart ballet dancer Friedemann Vogel will be the ambassador. Dance is universal, dance is important - also at the Ludwigsburg Festival. [This text has been translated electronically.]

On the International Dance Day 2020, hardly anyone could have guessed that culture would have to endure a whole year of pandemic-related perseverance. The special challenges in this year's message for the International Dance Day highlights the inner strength required: »Dancers are often celebrated for their physical abilities, whereas in reality we are even more carried by our mental ability.« In the »combination of physical and mental agility«, motivation and hard training are the way to overcome this crisis, he said. Quite in the spirit of International Dance Day, which celebrates the unifying power of dance and the overcoming of political and cultural borders, the Stuttgart chamber dancer and first soloist also focuses on the collective. Corona is anything but an individual crisis; after all, the dance community is »collectively challenged«. It depends above all on the »common storytelling with the body«, as Vogel is quoted in the SWR2 portrait, and he would not be a dancer if he were only a soloist. The director of the International Theatre Institute, Tobias Biancone, also emphasizes Friedemann Vogel's »respect and affinity« for other dancers, which made him a »formidable« ambassador for 2021.

UNESCO founded the International Theatre Institute (ITI for short) in 1948. In 1982 the the ITI's international committee proclaimed International Dance Day for the first time and 29 April - the birthday of ballet reformer Jean-Georges Noverre - as a suitable date. As a sister event to the World Theatre Day (27 March), the focus in this case is explicitly on the art form of dance. Noverre advocated naturalness in theory and practice, passion and closeness to the people in dance and consciously set this against the usual courtly dance, whose divertissements, virtuosity and masquerades Noverre dismissed as shallow. A perfect art of dance does not result from pure virtuosity, but from a broadly based education in areas such as poetry, painting, history, music, etc. The friend of Voltaire published his »Lettres sur la danse et sur les ballets« (Letters on the Art of Dancing) in 1760, which have since become one of the most important writings on the ballet and eventually became part of the standard repertoire of dance studies. His explicit criticism of masks, which stifled the »affects of the soul«, can be - broadly conceived - a certain transfer to the present day. The masks that additionally illustrated the allegorical figures in the court ballet at that time are of course a completely different kind of mask. Nevertheless, today's medical masks also suffocate stifle expressions of affect in everyday life and impair interpersonal encounters. Dance can take up and negotiate this social and emotional gap. For now, thanks to regular testing, ensembles may rehearse again and, at least with online premieres, are allowed to get closer to the audience.

Dance has played a particularly important role at the Ludwigsburg Festival under the directorship of Jochen Sandig. ´Even though the pandemic made many plans impossible, Edivaldo Ernesto's and Marco Blaauw's performance of »I can't breathe« in the summer of 2020 took on a very topical special position. In July 2021, the dying swans of Gauthier Dance//Dance Company Theaterhaus Stuttgart will come to the Festival as the »Dying Swans Experience«. As a replacement for »The Day WTC« we will have a film about its creation, »Pina Bausch Sacre« holds an equally impressive film premiere, and finally, a visit by Sasha Waltz & Guests is in the offing, about which more will be revealed soon. For the World Dance Day, some of our guests were already Ambassadors: Germaine Acogny  in 1992, Sasha Waltz in 2007 and Israel Galván in 2015. Together with the current ambassador and the the ITI, we share the hope that the cultural landscape will soon flourish again without borders and that we can celebrate dance without restrictions.

Photo © Roman Novitzky

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