Choreographer & Cinedans programmer Andreas Hannes: “We should understand our added value to society and stick with it.”

Two months of (artistic) lockdown have brought choreographers and dancers in a precarious position. In a dynamic field that is usually centred on live action, urgent questions have arisen around working for the stage. Movement Exposed talked to Andreas Hannes, artistic programmer and producer at Cinedans and an up-and-coming choreographer with Dansmakers Amsterdam.

How did you experience the change in position of the independent artist and how do you see the future of that position?
Immediately, what I recognize is the multiple risks at play: there are measures, there are theatres responding to these measures and at the end of the chain, there is the independent artist. We are the ones that have to somehow deal with all of these things. Also, the theatres are, in my opinion, a little panicky on how to deal with the protocol. They are taking decisions that contradict some of my beliefs around curation. You cannot be in the building for a long time, and they cannot sell a lot of tickets either so they don’t pay you enough now. Those are things I can see from the get-go. Another concern that I have is, if your piece cannot be adjusted to the measures, it will be replaced by whoever can. So we are entering a period that’s risky and opportunistic, which might make a lot of independent makers suffer. And now we’re not even talking about art per se, this is just about policymaking.

In my case, just to give an example, I had my whole tour cancelled. I had my whole year planned, I had a momentum that’s now lost.

One of the tours might be postponed to 2021, but they’re already asking me what precautions I will be taking if there’s a second wave of Corona. It puts the work at risk. I wonder how much these precautions will influence artistic quality and value. Even the production houses aren’t very considerate, because their biggest care is their own survival. If I make a piece for four dancers and the theatre doesn’t have a big space, I know I will have an issue. So what do I do? Do I make a completely new piece? If I do, there’s no support to do that. I don’t have the money to hire my dancers for rehearsals to adjust or to make something else. Opportunities will be available to so few people. Especially in Amsterdam.

Can we still rely on our “old” concepts? Be it artistically or structurally? And should we?
We should continue working with what we had, those concepts are still valid. Things develop over time, we should trust that they do. What we shouldn’t trust is spur-of the-moment decisions, because we are still in the middle of things. Why were artists given money to make, rather than to reflect on where we’re at? For me it doesn’t make sense to talk about a “new normal”. That’s PR. We need a lot more reflection and discussions.
,br />Why discard ideas from before? They should be developed in conversation with what is happening now, certainly, but we should hold on to our ideas, cherish them and understand them within this context. We’re still making pieces about significant events in the past and that’s because we are still reflecting on those events, we need a long time. I think the longer the reflection, the more impactful and to the point our work will be.

How can artists stay afloat? Now, but also later, when we will feel the backlash of the current situation.
I refused for a while to submit to the situation. And I still do in a sense. I want to resist. I find a lot of efforts, when everything went online and became a “corona project”, were simply a response and didn’t take into account practices, people, or the history of the performing arts. I work with Cinedans as well, so I have a different view on what it means to be in an online space, but I felt it was important to stick to the added value of my work: I’m a choreographer who uses live performance.

Going into an online space takes a lot of consideration and research. I think we should come together and talk about it. There are artists who have a history with online space and others who don’t, so, especially in the first month, I felt we should be talking about how our practice is changing with this online focus. But at the same time, I’m very hesitant to change my work for something like this? I have to be very deliberate in how I’m going to do it.

How would you imagine the place of the audience in your future work?
That’s a difficult question. I think the first real question right now is: is the audience willing to come to the theatre? How long will it take for people to feel comfortable enough? I’m wondering if this situation won’t really hit our field, if we won’t lose more general audiences and audiences that would come under certain circumstances. That concerns me more than social distancing.

I wonder if we’ll need to come up with new tactics to attract audiences. It could be a good challenge: if we really know the value of performing arts, how do we communicate it? I think it’s a good time for the PR around the performing arts to change. It is quite weak in The Netherlands, and I think audiences are underestimated. We need to step up, as artists and institutions, and make a statement of why we invite people and why it’s important for them to show up.

I wonder if the cafes will be the next theatres… what are the places where we can get together? This will dictate a lot of people’s choices.

Do you see aspects in the field and profession that need change?
There can and should be space for reflection and imagining a different future. We should understand our added value to society and stick to it, stick to what we are doing. A lot of reflection could be taking place right now, we should reassess the ways we can be together. Being together through art, being together in reflection and in movement.

Photo: Lester Arias