Reflective Statement for the danceWEB Scholarship Program
By Michael Helland, October 2010
I had the time of my life this summer and am only beginning to fully realize the impact of the danceWEB experience. For five weeks I floated about Vienna like a pretty pretty princess, with tickets to more than 40 shows (sometimes three per night), 69 new best friends, unlimited access to classes, workshops, dance parties, and everything ImPulsTanz, including the kind of self-entitlement that makes just about anything feel possible! Alongside this state of fabulous overwhelm, I was humbled to be just one amongst a whole group of emerging art-stars, encouraging me to acknowledge my own strengths and weaknesses in a new light. Also, as my crash course in the European dance scene, I was frequently disappointed (devastated at times) by the many atrocious products moving through the EU arts market.
Last year when I applied for the scholarship I challenged myself that if I got it I would use it as a catalyst to quit my NYC life and explore my dancing abroad. So I moved to Brussels and lived happily ever after. Just kidding! Actually, it may have been the biggest mistake of my professional life. Just kidding!! Double kidding!!! Now just four months into Europe I find myself still going back to New York a lot for work, and the process of getting residency and employment abroad is full of ongoing stress and uncertainty. What still feels like a strategic move for long-term career sustainability simultaneously feels like career suicide at times. I fear the economy may be fucking everything up here and in the short-term I may have been better off in a community where I’m already established and artists are less susceptible to funding cuts – where lack of funding is an integral part of the culture, for better or worse.
Sitting in layover at London Heathrow, I’m reminded of our talks of MOBILITY – as a formal topic at danceWEB salons and in numerous conversations in between. This discourse helps softens the edges of my old NYC vs. Europe paradigm, a dualism that was easier to play into before the festival and now somehow seems entirely naïve. While my heart is now in Brussels, New York is still the city that pumps my blood, and I’m grateful for this essential movement. I left the festival with more questions than answers – maker vs. performer, underground vs. market, dance and choreography vs. performance art vs. general artistic weirdness – but I also seem to have dispensed with the need for answers, finding myself most attracted to the place of questioning, and just being and doing and not giving a fuck for a minute. Working as an artist is hard no matter where you are, and what you gain in one context is usually met with sacrifice in another, so just WERK!
More than anything, I’m grateful to feel connected to so many more artists from around the world – that is the gift of danceWEB, the dance part is mostly so-so but the WEB part is truly divine! Last week I walked into my first dance classes in Brussels and found that I already knew more than a handful of people from the summer, and then the other night I went to see Florentina Holzinger and Vincent Riebeek performing and realized that they are even more amazingly awesome than I already knew they were. Later that night we hung out with Ivo Dimchev and he asked me to do something at his space in a few months…at present there’s just so much I want to do and there are so many people I want to see, and there’s nothing stopping me besides time…so it’s happening. As I continue to train and research, even in the face of many unknowns, I feel confident and grounded with danceWEB as part of my professional foundation. Thank you, thank you, thank you, and please, wish me luck!