For the season 2022/23, Sõltumatu Tantsu Lava hosts a research residency in dance criticism!

This time, STL’s research residency focuses on writing about dance, encouraging the analysis of dance art, contemporary dance productions, and the work of choreographers. From September 2022 to March 2023, regular meetings will be held for the residents, which will introduce the specifics of contemporary dance, the work tools necessary for a dance critic, and allow to deepen knowledge of dance as a specifically body- and movement-based art form, looking at its connections with other performing arts components.

The residency takes place in part in cooperation with the Proloogkool School of Criticism run by art scholar Maarin Mürk, in order to encourage discussion, writers’ exchange of ideas and mutual support. There will be an introductory lecture and an closing meeting, as well as public discussions analyzing the position of criticism in various fields.

RESIDENTS: Lisanna Lajal, Kärt Koppel, Kerly Ritval, Joosep Susi, Ele Viskus.

Program of the residency:

  • 13 meetings each month from September 21st to March 15th, every second week on Wednesdays at 16:00–18:00; including:
    • writing 4 texts
    • analysis of 4 productions
    • 3 meetings with critics
    • 8 lectures-seminars
  • Additionally joint readings and collective performance visits
  • The working language is Estonian, except one seminar and one lecture in English

In addition to writing texts and joint readings, the substantive backbone of the research residency is also provided by 4 lecture-workshops for residents, which give the participants the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the working tools of a dance critic in the form of practical and personal meetings. There will also be some joint visits to the performances (schedule to be specified).

Why dance criticism?

In the Estonian cultural media, the circle of dance writers is small, in the reception of dance productions, excuses for lack of knowledge and confessions that writing about dance are feared are often emergent. However, the number of contemporary dance productions in the Estonian theater scene is growing, the number of choreographers and creators who have graduated from higher dance education is steady, and the field is increasingly visible. It would urgently need to expand the circle of dance writers that is currently very small in Estonia.

Dance critic Iiris Viirpalu has thoroughly analyzed the tasks of dance criticism and related problems in the article “Semiotically about dance criticism” published in Tantsu Kuurkiri (Tantsu Kuukiri, October 2016). The manifestations of dance criticism and coverage of contemporary dance here have been analyzed by, for example, Madli Pesti („Luua, näidata ja vaadata – miks küll?“ Tantsu Kuukiri, oktoober 2015), Evelin Lagle („Nüüdistantsust Eestis: kehaliste dimensioonide avardumisest ja žanriköidikute survest vabanemisest“ in the edition „Eesti tantsukunst: nüüd ja ->?“, 2015), Leenu Nigu („Piiriküsimuse ammendumine tantsukunstis. – Teatrielu 2014“, 2015), Anneli Kann (“Dance representation in the Estonian cultural press”, MA thesis, University of Tartu 2016).

Iiris Viirpalu has observed that one of the tasks of criticism is to grasp its multiplicity and the dance field as a whole, to bring out and compare its contentual lines, describe and analyze its codes (Viirpalu 2016). In addition, criticism also creates the institution of dance, contributing to the reception of the art form and its interpretation in culture. Expert dance criticism provides an opportunity for a wide-ranging discussion, enlivens the dance creators’ relationship with the audience, creates dialogic communication and provides feedback to the people involved in the creation process of the production. It also secures the position of dance in culture in general, brings it into the wider picture, encourages thinking about it, and in the case of success, constructive feedback gives the author the opportunity to look at their work from the side, see the bottlenecks and polish some details. It is also worth thinking about the burning question: where to next? In the absence of a sharp-eyed reviewer, there is a danger of a letting-go-mentality: because no one adequately comments and no dialogue occurs, the stakes can be lowered, the minimum can be done, and the audience’s demands can drop in the same way. (Iiris Viirpalu „Kriitiku abikäsi“ (“Critic’s helping hand”), Sirp 03.05.2013)