Yorkshire Dance

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What happens when artists curate events?

Tue 7 November 2017
Part of: Artists Curating Dance | 2016-2017
Leena Kela - Alphabets of Performance Art © Sara Teresa

The SLAP festival last month curated by Sophie Unwin and Lydia Cottrell in York marked the end of our Artist Curating Dance programme, supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation. We look back on a year of 5 excellent, provocative events which included Gillie Kleiman’s Juncture, Grace Surman’s Playtime, Amy Bell’s Bend It and the Basic Tension event at Live Art Bistro where Adam Young invited Jamila Johnson Small to share her practice.

As well as a budget to go and see work, the curating artists came together through a series of 3 meetings co-facilitated by producer Paul Burns to share ideas about what it means to curate, to ‘take care’ and share questions with an audience.

The artists each took entirely different approaches, some raising additional money and presenting a mini-festival, some inviting other artists to co-curate and some explicitly connecting their curatorial questions with their own artistic practice.

One of the project aims was to diversify the dance offer to local audiences and this was definitely achieved, with over 25 different artists presenting often genre-defying, experimental work. In addition it provided a rich source of professional development for the curating artists:

“Returning to the role (of artist curator) has, with the support of a peer group and organised discursive meetings as part of Artists Curating Dance, given fresh insight, allowed me to take more risks, and consequently, to trust my instincts. I valued the research period, loved having time to have meaningful conversations with artists and academics, and space to see work which all fed into an inspiring curatorial process and successful event.” Grace Surman

“The project has helped to nurture relationships with the other artist curators, Yorkshire Dance and the artists I worked with in my own project. Being exposed to the concerns and aspirations of artists working in contemporary dance has allowed me to develop a new language for my own practice. I am interested in the body as a site for material and wish to push the boundaries of my own abilities.” Adam Young

Putting artists at the helm of curating is something we are committed to long-term and we are shaping up plans for taking this strand of work forward. Meanwhile, congratulations to the SLAP team who have been nominated for a York Cultural Award – Best Event or Festival.

“I can’t think of better evidence that we need more of this kind of work!” Wieke Eringa

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