Argentina is one of the countries in the region where contemporary dance has managed to develop with more strength, thanks to the impulse given by it’s creators, researchers, teachers and students. Even in less favorable times, dance workers in Argentina have reacted with creativity and great activism, promoting small independent activities, usually with very little resources, which try to respond to their needs and aspirations.
Nowadays, contemporary dance is recovering little by little from the crisis in the country in the last years and now there are possibilities for a new growth phase with great expectations for the future.
Cultural activities in Argentina are concentrated in Buenos Aires, one of the main Latin-American cultural capitals offering a vibrant scene for performing arts. Due to this big cultural centralism, many artists from all over the country migrate to the capital. Nevertheless, we can mention some other contemporary dance centers in cities like Córdoba, Mendoza and Rosario. Other new alternative centers are appearing in cities like Neuquén, Bahía Blanca, Rafaela and Tucumán. In the rest of the country, culture seems to be quite forgotten and in many cities there are not even cinemas or theatres, because they all have been sold to Evangelic Churches.
There are few contexts for presenting international dance in Argentina. Nowadays, the only Performing Arts Festival which is recognized internationally is the Festival Internacional de Buenos Aires, which happens every two years. Other opportunities to watch international dance pieces come through sporadic co-productions at the Complejo Teatral de Buenos Aires.
Generally, the majority of Festivals which have a certain official support happen in Buenos Aires, and these are festivals that only programme groups and companies from there. That is the case of the Festival de Danza Contemporánea de Buenos Aires, an excellent showcase of local dance. The festival, which had in its last edition in 2007 27 companies from Buenos Aires and an approximate audience of 14.000 people, is organized by the Ministry of Culture from the City of Buenos Aires every two years.
The Festival Internacional de Video Danza is also worth mentioning and is organized by Silvia Szperling, who has done a great work on the promotion of video dance in the country.
Inside the country, we can mention festivals like El Cruce (Rosario), Nudanz (Rafaela) and Nuevas Tendencias (Mendoza). They are interesting festivals which could have greater international impact in the future if they had more financial resources. Now they are trying to create a Network of festivals. In Córdoba the Festival Bianual Internacional de Teatro del Mercosur, is a festival with a high level international program which usually includes contemporary dance.
Buenos Aires has a magnificent infrastructure of theatres, spaces, cultural centers and museums. Nevertheless, there are no official spaces with a regular contemporary dance schedule, even though they are the ones with the better conditions for dance performances. To give an example, the Complejo Teatral de Buenos Aires, which has five of the best spaces in town, only hosted performances of their own Ballet, the Ballet Contemporáneo del Teatro San Martín in 2007. Continuing with the official sphere, the Centro de Experimentación del Teatro Colón, produces in an irregular manner creative work in collaboration with choreographers and musicians.
The spaces which have offered a regular contemporary dance program in the last years are mostly independent, like El Camarín de las Musas and El Portón de Sánchez. Other spaces with a contemporary dance program are the Centro Cultural Rojas, Centro Cultural de la Cooperación, Teatro del Sur, Centro Cultural Borges, Espacio Callejón, Espacio Ecléctico, Beckett Teatro, El Cubo and Centro Cultural Konex.
Younger generations of artists are rehearsing new ways of self-management and alternative contexts for performing and producing artistic exchanges and they are coming up from the independent environment. The Gabinete Coreográfico in Neuquén and Casa Dorrego in Buenos Aires are two groups which have been collaborating for years and which organize independent meetings, seminars and the presentation of pieces. Both companies have organized Diálogos, Encuentros de Creadores Latinoamericanos, a project adopted by the Red Sudamericana de Danza to be re-applied in their countries.
The Centro Cultural La Máscara de Rafaela is another group which has been organizing for years a dance festival and seminars. The group No Se Llama has organized in 2007 in Buenos Aires and in La Plata the Encuentro de Danza y Performance. The company El Arbol Danza Teatro organizes in Mendoza the Festival de Nuevas Tendencias. The group Cuatroicuarto in Bahía Blanca organizes performances and seminars. The Colectivo MXM in Córdoba has a space where they put on pieces and seminars and La Fabriquera in La Plata has an independent space with regular contemporary dance performances as well as organizing seminars and courses.
A dance organization that should be acknowledged due to its importance in the capital and in Mendoza is the CoCoa–DATEI (Coreógrafos contemporáneos asociados – Danza Teatro Independiente) who in 1998 organized the first contemporary dance festival in Argentina. Nowadays they are working on various projects to present national and international dance programs, seminars, etc. Another dance workers organization worth mentioning would be COBAI in Rosario.
Today in the city of Buenos Aires alone there are approximately 100 contemporary dance companies. Nevertheless, there are no stable professional companies and the great majority of argentine choreographers and dancers need to work simultaneously with something else, like teaching or other types of jobs to be able to support themselves.
As to local institutions which support dance we can mention PRODANZA, Instituto de fomento para la danza no oficial, created in 2001 with the intent of supporting independent dance offering subsidies to help creative work; and since 2004, the Fondo Cultura Buenos Aires, which gives a certain sum of money to dance. Nevertheless, the subsidies, which vary between a thousand and four thousand dollars for all levels, are not enough to produce professional dance pieces.
There is also the Fondo Nacional de las Artes which gives national scholarships up to three thousand dollars to produce dance pieces. There are also other types of support like the one from the Instituto Nacional de Teatro which offers scholarships and subsidies for dance-theatre. Support and scholarships are also given by the Departamento de Cooperación Internacional, which relies on the Secretaría de Cultura de la Nación, and finally, the Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores (Foreign Relations Ministry) give sponsorship for international travel tickets.
Agencies like the British Council, Goethe Institute, Alliance Française and the Centro Cultural de España have supported various projects related to dance, support that has decreased in the last years. The Servicio de Cooperación y Acción Cultural from the French Embassy (SCAC) continues to be an important collaborator.
In Argentina, since 1987, History, Theory and Modern Dance Aesthetics can be studied in the arts faculty at the Facultad de Filosofía y Letras at the Universidad de Buenos Aires; and since 1992, there is the Programa Danza at the Instituto de Artes del Espectáculo of the same university, which is doing important research in the field.
There are two universities offering careers for dancers and/or choreographers in dance-theatre or contemporary dance: the IUNA - Instituto Universitario Nacional de Arte, which has a contemporary dance company and the Universidad Nacional de Tucumán. At both universities these careers have only been recently created and academic policies have still not been totally defined.
There are some municipal schools where students may become contemporary dancers and/or teachers: the Taller del Teatro San Martín in Buenos Aires, the Escuela Experimental de Danza Contemporánea at Neuquén, the Escuela de Danzas de Bahía Blanca in La Plata and Morón in the Buenos Aires province; and the private school Arte XXI in Buenos Aires.
The production of documentation related to contemporary dance in Argentina is scarce. We may emphasize the following books: “Archivo Itelman”, texts on various themes written by the choreographer Ana Itelman and compiled by Rubén Szuchmacher; “La Danza moderna argentina cuenta su historia”, a book full of stories told by choreographers of different times, written by Marcelo Isse Moyano. “Puentes y atajos - Recorridos por la danza en Argentina”, a publication of the Asociación de Coreógrafos COCOA with articles written by argentine dancers and choreographers and "Creación coreográfica" a book on the creative processes written by Oscar Araiz, Gerardo Litvak, Gabriela Prado and Susana Tambutti.
There is only one publication, published in Argentina and Mexico, that specialized in contemporary dance; the magazine DCO, co-directed by Gustavo E. Rosales and Analía Melgar. Until 1999 another specialized magazine existed, Tiempo de Danza, and it’s complete collection may be found in public libraries in New York and Berlin.
Marcelo Isse Moyano is the creator and administrator of a blog called Danza Independiente Argentina, a site dedicated to independent dance in Argentina. www.danzaindependienteargent...
In 1995 Balletin Dance was created and a monthly publication covering all types of dance is available on the web at www.balletindance.com.ar
The beginning of the continuous development of modern dance in the country arrived with the North-American choreographer Miriam Winslow in 1941 and her decision to stay and create a dance company in Argentina. At the beginning of the sixties, modern dance had expanded and there were already many creators and groups who tried to find new ways, one worth mentioning would be the Instituto Di Tella, which gathered vanguard artists of all fields. At the end of that decade was created the only official contemporary dance company in Argentina, the Ballet del Teatro San Martin. It is important to mention Ana Itelman, who was one of the most important choreographers of the country since the fifties and choreographer (in the seventies and eighties) of the Grupo de Danza Contemporánea del Teatro San Martín.
The seventies were not a good decade for modern dance in Argentina due to the lack of freedom because of the military dictatorship. Before the military coup , in 1975, Margarita Bali and Susana Tambutti created Nucleodanza, an independent group with a large and successful national and international history. The sudden interruption provoked by the military coup and the silencing of revolutionary artistic trends bombarded the historic terrain which received its seeds during the XlX th century and the beginning of the XXth century.
At the beginning of the eighties modern dance reappeared in a festival called Danza Abierta, where various famous and new artists demonstrated a creativity that ended up by faced upto the political regime in the country. After democracy came back in 1983, the argentine modern dance developed in terms of quality and quantity and opened to the world.
In the eighties various argentine artists left Argentina to look for new ideas which still had not reached the country, for example the work of Cunningham, Nikolais, Release, Contact and the whole Judson Church movement in New York. Back in Argentina, those artists like Graciela Concado, Teresa Duggan, Marina Giancaspro, etc., began working at the Margarita Bali School as teachers and were linked to those new trends.
Since the beginning of the nineties until 2001, there have been many factors which increased the level of argentine dance: the exchange rate whereby the argentine peso and the dollar had the same value, facilitated the international exchange; the favorable economic situation meant that there was a lot of institutional support for travelling and to create new companies; the Fundación Antorchas gave until 2003 a great amount of professional subsidies for the creation and improvement of the Teatro San Martín and it’s co-productions, which facilitated the creation of pieces with professional standards.
After the 2001 crisis, Argentina devalued its currency and this interrupted the international contact and exchange. Nevertheless, the political will of the city of Buenos Aires, maintained and improved the conditions in our cultural sector, not only fomenting the Festival de Danza de Buenos Aires every two years, but also increasing 100% the budget for subsidies for the Prodanza and creating a cultural fund for Buenos Aires.
In 2001 various independent artists who created the Asociación COCOA Datei, wrote (with the help of Margarita Bali) the bill for the fomenting of non official dance which originated PRODANZA, an attempt to counterbalance the lack of professionalism and value given to dance which is still present today.
Text written by: Lucía Russo and Bonito&Compri, August 2007
Sources : Marcelo Isse Moyano, “Archivo Itelman” compiled by Rubén Schuchmacher and “Puentes y Atajos” edited by COCOA.
Collaborating readers: Marina Giancaspro, Mariela Queraltó, Gabriela Romero, Lucas Condró, Carolina Herman, Silvio Lang, Marcelo Isse Moyano, Marcelo Allasino.