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Exploring Hungarian Dance at Dunapart4

Wed 6 December
Part of: Working with Artists
Mupa Budapest

A few days before boarding a plane to Budapest as part of my Leeds Explore[1] grant, the European Commission announced to the DCMS that the UK would not be eligible to apply for hosting a Capital of Culture in 2023 as a result of Brexit.

With Hungary also a bidding country in 2023 I had chosen to attend Dunapart, Hungary’s biennial theatre and dance platform, in order to create stronger ties and explore opportunities for artistic exchange, co-production and presentation.

Hungary has a phenomenal cultural heritage and I’d been interested in their dance scene for some time.

What to do? Should I still go?

How to have conversations with artists and producers when funding opportunities are so limited and the context has changed?

Well, in the light of our politically turbulent times it seems even more important to reach out and create cross-border relationships, so I went. Not least because artists in Hungary are working in a very difficult political climate, with an extreme right wing government that supports ‘nationalistic’ art and where state-funding is so challenging (and corrupt) that independent artists even choose not to apply to a particular fund because its implications are too problematic.

Given this context, the quality of the dance programme overall was exciting and quite frankly humbling. I’d been aware of the work of Adrienn Hod (Hodworks) and her team of exceptional performers (Csaba Molnár, Emese Cuhorka and Marcio Kerber Canabarro) for many years and it was a treat to see the latest work Solos; an existential, kitsch, chaotic, provocative yet beautiful and sometimes funny exploration of the human condition.

Similarly, other companies and works that included these performers stood out, such as the brilliant Waiting for Schrödinger by Timothy and the Things (by László Fülöp) and Tropical Escape (Molnar / Canabarro.) The latter joined a group of works directly dealing with gender of which 1.7 by the brilliant Zsuzsa Rózsavölgyi also really stood out – a hilarious, feminist lecture performance that I think a Leeds audience would really enjoy.

And then there was Eclipse, a “cheeky postpunk / trance baroque creation” performed by 6 professionals and a group of 15+ teenagers / young women. It is a completely joyous celebration of teenage-girlhood and send-up of trashy pop culture which challenges the legitimacy of representation and which I would love to stage in Leeds.

Trafó, the state funded ‘house for contemporary art’ is a lynch-pin in the support of independent makers, in turn supporting the Workshop Foundation and Artus – two other crucial places for artists to develop their work. Sin Arts produces many of the international touring artists and the dance scene is fed by the Budapest Contemporary Dance Academy which is clearly also doing a pretty good job, judging from the new talent showcased in the ‘off’ programmes in the morning.

With over 200 international delegates from the US, Uganda, Brazil and all over Europe I come away with new friends, new connections and full of new ideas for collaboration as well an enhanced sense of urgency around political activism and activism through dance.

I hope to realise some of these new ideas through working collaboratively within the Leeds Dance Partnership and continue to support the Leeds 2023 team to create and present the best, most relevant, inspirational and beautiful work by collaborating internationally.

[1] Leeds Explore made grants (£500 – £3000) available during 2017 to artists and cultural managers to extend their international capacity in order for the city of Leeds to better prepare itself to bid to become the European Capital of Culture in 2023.

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