International Platform for Contemporary Performance Training
An initiative for collaboration between practitioners and their institutions
The aim of this initiative is to establish an international network where performer trainers and researchers of performer training from various fields of performance, as well as from different countries and institutions of higher education in arts, could negotiate and share their pedagogical practices in a confidential and supportive setting.
The basic ethos behind the platform is that the performing training exercised in higher education must take the responsibility of the development of the performing arts also in the future. This is possible only in so far as that pedagogy itself is put under critical examination, i.e. if it is based on shared practices, discussions and research. The autonomy of artist pedagogy cannot be taken for granted but, instead, it is always a position which has to be conquered; dependent on our common effort to create space and opportunities for free reflection and dialogue. On the level of bodily practices, however, this sharing can never be too easy. It is difficult not only due to the lack of common vocabulary and discourse, but also because global, transnational political decisions seem to foster institutional and individual traditions and identities, as well as the growing concurrence between them. Hence: How should performer training react to the economic, political and ideological pressures of our time? In which ways could today’s performer trainers carry this consciousness, and the corresponding feeling of responsibility together?
An increasing worry about our common future might serve as a basis for a new kind of dialogue between practitioners, pedagogues and researchers. The suggested platform is a simple, efficient and inspiring way for people engaged in performer training to develop their professional skills and mutual understanding. It offers a new type of international collaboration and provides significant pedagogical, moral, and even political support.
Modes of collaboration
The leading idea of the collaboration is to support one another and gather up know-how andstrengths. As one can understand, some institutions have longer traditions, others more resources. Some are specialized in research, others in art pedagogy. In some places, performer training may involve an important social dimension, etc. From the point of view of the platform, each country, institution or department has its own particular strengths that are beneficial and interesting for the others.
The collaboration would take place in the form of 1-3-day-long gatherings held on regular basis at the respective institutions. The hosting institution would provide the necessary venues and infrastructure and be in charge of the programme and other practical details. Each meeting could have a specific theme and contain 2 – 4 workshops and several discussions. The emphasis would be on practice and critical discussion. The meetings would circle from institution to institution. They will serve as a rich ground for developing trainer exchange and/or other, more focused collaboration between different institutions.
Things to be agreed on
Who or which institution takes charge of organizing the platform (funding + administration) is a thing to be negotiated. There are many ways to finance a platform of this type. In Finland, the recent fusion in which three individual academies merged into the University of the Arts Helsinki provides us with good opportunities for resourcing. Similarly, performing arts universities in Stockholm are also at the point of merging. There are Scandinavian funds, as well as EU funding for collaborative projects between institutions from different European countries (e.g. ERASMUS). And yet, the costs of this kind of activity do not need to raise high. The initiators of the platform wish that it would be started with the help of each individual partner institution’s backup. At the occasion of the first meeting, We should together agree on our common needs and the future we are searching for.
The first date?
Since this initiative comes from Theatre Academy (University of the Arts Helsinki), our university is willing to organize the first gathering. Our preliminary suggestion for the first meeting is the second week of January 2014, between 8 and 11 January. The exact date can be discussed and will be confirmed later.
As a preliminary theme, we suggest the question of the “neutral body”, as elaborated by Mark Evans:
The actor understandably desires a body ready to work, able to generate varied, multiple and fluid meanings, in effect a body which within the parameters of theatrical taste at any particular time, can perform as ‘natural’ and able to engage in an uninhibited manner with their environment so as to create the illusion of ‘naturalness’. In this sense, the Occidental actor desires a body that is understood in theatrical terms as ‘neutral’ (Movement Training for the Modern Actor, Routledge 2009, p. 69).
– What is wrong with the ‘natural’ body?
– Can ‘neutrality’ serve as a means for avoiding ‘naturalisation’ of a body technique?
– How is the question of neutrality related to different conceptions of body?
– What kinds of techniques are there available in order to reach the level of ‘neutrality’?
– Can we work without ‘neutrality’ in performer training?
– If neutrality serves as an answer to certain pedagogical questions, what other means might there be to formulate those questions and, eventually, to answer them?
– What else should one take into account while training ‘neutral’ bodies?
We encourage pedagogues and researchers from all fields of performer training to come and share their views and experience on these questions which, as it seems to us, are poignant regardless of tradition or technique. You can suggest a workshop or a lecture demonstration the length of which can vary according to your need from 15 minutes to 3 hours. You can also suggest a “paper”presentation (maximum 30 minutes). Or you can just assist, give feed-back, learn and enjoy!
On the basis of your suggestions, we will organize a meeting of 2 and half days, maximum. A special attention will be paid on the alternation between practice and reflection. You can also suggest the ways in which you prefer your practice to be discussed. The meeting will conclude with a general discussion concerning the self-organization of the platform, its modes of work and financing. It is our serious concern to keep this meeting as informal and discursive as possible. For the same reason there will not be parallel sessions.
We warmly encourage people to participate even if they do not have a presentation or workshop in this particular meeting. Willingness of some participants to share his or her practice calls for receptiveness, curiosity and willingness to learn from others!
A few words about the background of this initiative
This initiative is a fruit of several years of pedagogical development and artistic research related to the performer training which we have carried out at the Performing Arts Research Centre of the Theatre Academy Helsinki. Since 2008, a group of researching actors, artistic doctorates and post-doctoral researchers has worked together in order to develop new insights and modes of actor training which aim to deconstruct the psychophysical tradition. Regular contacts and discussions with our international colleagues at IFTR, Psi and especially at TaPRA, have convinced us that there is a great need for the type of cooperation we have attempted to outline in this initiative. Theatre Academy Helsinki (TeaK) has during the last 7 years focused strongly on the development of research. The Performing Arts Research Centre (Tutke) has become internationally renown for the practice-based or artistic research it conducts.
This call is addressed to practitioners and researchers with firm experience and sufficient institutional background. You are free to forward the call to colleagues you think might be interested in this kind of collaboration.
If this initiative stimulates your interest, please let us know. Please tell us also if you are interested in coming to Helsinki in January and if you would like to present something at that occasion.
Professor of Artistic Research
Performing Arts Research Centre
University of the Arts Helsinki