Stretch 2019 Turku came up with ideas for developing the dance sector locally and internationally

Sanna Kangasluoma & Katarina Lindholm, 10.12.2019

Keðja presents: Stretch 2019 event attracted 254 dance professionals from several countries to Turku, Finland, during four entire days in last October. The event offered an abundant programme with three keynote lectures, 17 workshops, five different morning classes, 11 dance performances by local companies and artists plus the New Performance Turku festival programme, dance films, parties and gatherings.

The Work Room traveled from Glasgow to Turku to attend Stretch 2019 ©Aleksi Telilä

Expanding professionalism and sustainability became the connecting themes that intertwined all three keynote speeches: Expanding professionalism of the dance sector (by Kai Lehikoinen, University of the Arts Helsinki), Do It Together – paradigm change (by Nikol Wellens, Flanders Arts Institute) and Working internationally in the age of climate crisis (by Ben Twist, Creative Carbon Scotland).

Towards a more sustainable dance field

Strengthening the dance field and supporting dance artists in their professional possibilities have been at the heart of the Keðja community from the beginning. The development needs to be sustainable in the ecological, economical, social and cultural aspect, and concerns both individuals and organisations in the field.

Stretch participants ended up suggesting some solutions and methods that can take us towards a more sustainable dance sector:

  • Slow down, reduce production and consumption, prioritize
  • “Deep working”: Concentrate on quality, not quantity, go deeper locally, and get a deeper impact
  • Collaborating instead of competing
  • Funding is needed for alternative means of traveling, ecological travelling and touring
  • Re-scheduling and re-routing festivals in order to encourage sustainable touring

But the pressure should not be only on the individuals, the focus needs to be on systemic change. If we want change, it’s necessary to work on all three fronts: with individuals, organisations and structures, as Ben Twist put it in his keynote.

Stretch united dance people from Nordic & Baltic countries, Scotland, Slovenia, Belgium, Germany, France, UK and USA, who had come to Turku to network, to make new connections, increase their knowledge and get inspiration. They were choreographers, dancers, freelancers, producers, directors, dance critics, teachers, students, researchers, administrators and people working for different dance organisations.

Sharing is at the heart of the Keðja community

Stretch Turku was the 13th Keðja encounter – the previous one was organised in Vilnius in 2016.  We were happy to see that lots of new friends found their way to Turku: for two thirds of participants this was the first Keðja event they attended.

These Nordic-Baltic encounters for dance professionals have been organised since 2008. The significance of the encounters for the international dance community is evident. It’s an exceptional opportunity to stop to think and reflect, share knowledge, and inspire each other.

“The amount of ‘humility’ and how people listened to each other was impressive. Also the mixture of perspectives was good,” commented one of the participants.

“You do not always have to think about problems or issues by yourself. Sharing is caring.”

“It gave me more hope for the future as being a dance artist,” answered one attendant when asked what the most important lesson learned from the Stretch event was.

The impact of Stretch has been important also locally. “After two years of Stretch-related partnership discussions, the Regional Dance Centre of Western Finland is now known locally as a solid collaboration partner and the dance field is more visible than ever,” says Sanna Meska, director of the Regional Dance Centre.

The next Stretch encounter will be organised in August 2020 in Gothenburg, Sweden, under the theme ‘Expanding movement – participation, community dance, audiences’.

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Main organizers of Keðja presents: Stretch 2019 Turku were the Regional Dance Centre of Western Finland and Dance Info Finland. Main collaboration partners were the City of Turku and New Performance Turku Festival. The event was funded by the Nordic Culture Fund, the Finnish Cultural Foundation / Varsinais-Suomi regional fund and the Finnish-Danish Cultural Foundation.

The Keðja partners are: Kultur i Väst (Sweden), Norrlandsoperan (Sweden), Dansearena Nord (Norway), Bora Bora (Denmark), Dance Atelier (Iceland), Union of Estonian Dance Artists (Estonia), Contemporary Dance Association (Lithuania), Artist’s Group ”Fish Eye” (Lithuania), The Work Room (Scotland), Tanzfabrik Potsdam (Germany) and Dance Theater Ljubljana (Slovenia).

Performances during the event were produced by the local companies and part of their seasonal programme: Aurinkobaletti, Barker theatre, Dance Theater ERI, Ehkä Production / Kutomo, Pori Dance Company, Fern Orchestra, Kustavi Korps / Riikka Kosola, Household Dance Protocol / Sandrina Lindgren, Closer to the Wild Heart / Maria Nurmela.