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Questioning boundaries of perception

Tanzquartier Wien

This article was commissioned by the  Korean Arts Management Services and originally published in Korean  for the Apro.kr – a database website for the global exchange of performing arts, a project supported by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Republic of Korea.



de/valuationsmaschinerie © Graphik/Iris Julian


“There are only 20 purely dance oriented spaces in Europe and Tanquartier Wien is one of them. It has the unique approach of investigating the art form: choreography and dance,” says its Artistic Director, Walter Heun.   He describes the work of Tanzquartier Wien (TQW) [i]as an “attempt to reflect the means or way that the art form works and the manner it dissolves into the body of the recipient.” In layman’s term, it should translate to the wishes of TQW to present its well thought of dance performances to get into the system of normal audiences.  It hopes to reach out to the palate of people with or without specialised training in dance.

TQW is recognised as one of the most important dance houses in Europe with its body of work associated with thinking ahead and promoting contemporary dance and performance paralleled with theoretical discourses. Situated at the centre of Vienna’s Museumsquartier[ii], TQW is set within the backdrop of trans-disciplinary crossings of art.  Since its establishment in 2001, its actions have embodied responses towards tracing contemporary developments, pioneering tendencies in dance creation and direct artistic encounters.

With an annual subsidy of 2.9 Million Euros provided by the City of Vienna, TQW offers a range of programmes including but not limited to presentation of choreographic works, dance theory and media research, public lectures, artistic/academic debates and dance classes among others. And although the budget appears to be quite meagre to run such an iconic platform, Heun points out, “This budget gives us the artistic freedom to realise our work.” TQW maintains a performance venue with a holding capacity of about 300 seats called the G Hall, a studio complex with 3 dance spaces and a public library.  Its regular season runs from September until June at the G Hall with performances, workshops and productions organised by TQW with local and international artists.  While daily training is offered all year round at the studios.  In the summer months, the legendary international contemporary dance festival, ImpulsTanz[iii] complements TQW’s gap season.



Tanzquartier © Angela Bedekovic


To manage and facilitate the hectic calendar year of TQW, Heun leads a team of 26 full-time staff members, with another 15 people working on a contractual basis.  “We have theorists and dramaturgs working in the team adjoining the artistic programming and laboratories. We can create scientific and artistic research. And likewise, bridge art and science,” explains the 48-year old dance organiser.  “TQW is not a sheer venue to present work.  We don’t just rent spaces for presenting works. We produce, co-produce and commission works.  We also have a library containing around 1,500 works that have been shown here.  We are now working on the digitalisation of these materials and to make the books and recordings more accessible online,” continues Heun.

When the heir to a near decade of TQW dance and research fortress was asked about the challenges he faced upon entering the empire in 2009, [iv] Heun’s response was, “The challenge was not as big as I thought it would be. When I worked with the civic theatre structure (classical ballet) in Switzerland, I got used to major artistic and structural changes. It was more difficult because the regular audiences were highly established people. This demanded constant attention in writing a programme that was challenging enough for them. Tanzquartier Wien, on the other hand, has established itself as a centre for theory and research within the borders of investigation. The artistic profile is quite high.  The main challenge for me was to continue that profile and create a way to communicate it. ” He expressed his desire to build the attitude towards a house or a fresh imagery accessible to the greater members of society. According to TQW’s new artistic leader, “Instead of coming in and saying that I’m the new guy and I’m going to change everything, together with the TQW team, I aspired to create accessibility and promote an attitude that’s not arrogant and welcoming without being didactic.”

TQW is currently working towards an image as an open house or “hospitable environment” embracing encounters for and with the choreographic practice, while continuously encouraging openings for critical reflections on dance and performance without being pushy about it.  In its attempt to take a holistic step as a home for its artists and the general public, it calls further on the involvement of its audiences into the process of exploration and discourse. As the centre enables the crossing of paths, TQW aspires to articulate the existing gaps, asymmetries, sense experiences and perceptions through active forms of discussion.

With artistic processes positioned at the core of TQW’s work, accountability goes beyond receiving, initiating and protecting the approaches along with its outcomes. They also factor in the risks that these methodologies carry with them. Alongside, artistic research serves as the starting point for curating local and international guest-performances as well as co-productions, artists’ residencies, workshop and training programmes, mediating the process of creation and production. In the words of Heun,  “As a singular meeting place for artistic research established for many years, this is something (about Tanzquartier) I want to protect and develop.” Theoretical knowledge of dance and performance is another pillar in TQW’s programme development.  It is the shared avenue examining the symbiosis between the artistic and intellectual encounters.

Response and Responsibility



Uhlich © AndreaSalzmann



According to the Munich-trained dance organiser, “The interesting thing in Vienna is that there is a dichotomy in perception in choreographic art and dance.  `Dancy-dance’ in opposition to `conceptual dance.’ I think there is a notion that the former is more crafty with the later as intellectual.” He carries on saying, “We look at both aspects of the choreographic practice in opposition to choreography and in other art forms.  Taking the standpoint from above that allows more space for tolerance towards different approaches.  At the same time, setting less boundaries.”


TQW’s thematic attention is currently focused on the analysis of choreography as a formative principle and structure in space and time vis-à-vis the examination of perceptions through the spectators’ engagement in a continuous intensified dialogue. It is leaning towards the role of choreography on the day-to-day formation of culture, society and politics.

In addition to the existing TQW activities, a fresh initiative called Scores was launched with the aim of profiling more the artistic practices and bringing in new audiences.  Scores project is a 4-5 day meeting where artists from various countries for dramaturgical workshops, creating a platform for exchange, providing artists a place to meet.  It is a series of artistic-theoretical discourse offering a research platform. Scores transcribes in various formats such as performances, dialogues, research sketches, work-in-progress presentations, lectures, trainings and workshops the gesture of choreographic vocabulary in reference to a body. All happenings taking place in this context follow a “pay as you wish” principle as part of the drive to reach out to the widest audience possible.

Only on its third series, Scores has already collaborated with prominent names like 
Lola Arias / Ulises Conti[v], Evangelia Beskedis[vi], Didi Bruckmayr[vii], Ramsay Burt,[viii] Impure Company / Hooman Sharifi[ix], Laurent Chétouane, [x]João Fiadeiro[xi], Monika Gintersdorfer / Knut Klaßen[xii], Tarek Halaby[xiii], Latifa Laâbissi[xiv], Gabriele Klein[xv], Barbara Kraus[xvi], Boyan Manchev[xvii], Tanja Ostojić[xviii], Sabile Rasiti  & Petra Sabisch[xix], Olga de Soto[xx], Marcus Steinweg,[xxi] Brigitte Wilfing[xxii], Gabriele Wittman[xxiii], Ivana Nencheva / Natalia Todorova / Ani Vaseva / The Fridge[xxiv] among others.


Audience Development

First marketing tool of the theatre are its employees.  To create a good team spirit, to create a sense of identification or association with our programme, they share its development,” prides Heun about the steps taken by TQW towards audience development.  He elaborates on the subject and shares, “For most of our communication materials, we choose the wording carefully.  We try to be more precise that when you read the text, you know exactly what to expect. By the choice of the wording – different expectations arise.  If I programme for a larger audience, I try to create a better communication platform and take people in a journey. I started presenting works suitable for those who have not seen a dance performance before and tools for those in the edge. For one night, we have full-house of 900 audiences for Trisha Brown, then afterwards we have an intimate piece from Ivana Mueller for 60 people.”

Having his eye on the different scenes in other cities, Heun observes, “It is amazing how different dance audiences look at performance. Much of the work done and presented here is on the investigative side, which means we can take a lot of artistic risks. Apart from Vienna, there are only a few cities like Berlin or Brussels where this is possible.”

Concerning opportunities for international artists or institutions wishing to collaborate or have their works presented at TQW, asked Heun what steps or priorities they might have in terms having foreign guests in the house, he comments, “We don’t split our programming according to country.  Instead he plugs in and says,  “For travelling artists, there is a possibility to take classes. They can go to our website and check which classes are going on. There is usually one is a warm up class and then a dance class during the day. If you are coming to Vienna come to class and have a look.”  So for those aspiring to be in TQW, the best advise would be to come, look, feel and experience for yourself whether you are in the same wave length as TQW in examining the boundaries of perception



Some Useful Links:

[i] Tanzquartier Wien< http://www.tqw.at


[ii] Museumsquartier< http://www.mqw.at


[iii] ImpulsTanz< http://www.impulstanz.com


[iv] Sigrid Gareis is TQW’s Founding Artistic Director (2001-2009).  Walter Heun took over TQW’s artistic management on 1 July 2009.


[v] Lola Arias / Ulises Conti< www.myspace.com/lolaariasyulisesconti


[vi] Evangelia Beskedis< http://www.adgallery.gr/eng/pages/mpa.html


[vii] Didi Bruckmayr<http:// http://www.myspace.com/bruckmayr


[viii] Ramsay Burt< http://www.dmu.ac.uk/faculties/humanities/departments-staff/staff/ramsay-burt.jsp


[ix] Impure Company / Hooman Sharifi< http://www.hoomansharifi.com


[x] Laurent Chétouane< http://www.laurentchetouane.com


[xi] João Fiadeiro< http://www.re-al.org/


[xii] Monika Gintersdorfer / Knut Klaßen< http://www.goethe.de/kue/the/pur/muk/enindex.htm


[xiii] Tarek Halaby< http://www.wpzimmer.be/default.asp?path=cldjswxv


[xiv] Latifa Laâbissi< http://www.multipistes.org/spip.php?article34


[xv] Gabriele Klein< http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabriele_Klein


[xvi] Barbara Kraus< http://www.barbara-kraus.com/biographisches/biographischesgb.html


[xvii] Boyan Manchev< http://www.postcommunist.de/home/index.php?kat=kollegium&subkat=manchev&lang=en


[xviii] Tanja Ostojić< http://www.van.at/see/tanja/


[xix] Sabile Rasiti  & Petra Sabisch< http://www.corpusweb.net/sabile-rasiti-a-stephanie-rauch.htm


[xx] Olga de Soto< http://www.artscene.cfwb.be/danse/eng/aides/99/olga/olga.htm


[xxi] Marcus Steinweg< http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marcus_Steinweg


[xxii] Brigitte Wilfing< http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nV9eLaEyeM

[xxiii] Gabriele Wittman< http://www.tqw.at/de/newsblog


[xxiv] Ivana Nencheva / Natalia Todorova / Ani Vaseva / The Fridge< http://the–fridge.blogspot.com/p/blog-page_29.html

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