Diplomacy on Stage
Modern Dance, storytelling dance workshops: Bodenwieser-Mandukic
(Silja Walter/SRM Hedwig OSB)
Dance ples igra Tanz danza danse 舞踊 ...
"Man muss das Leben tanzen" F. Nietzsche
ACD– Dance Arts platform has been launched with the aim to promote the historical and current examples from Dance Arts education, research, and practice as a form of cultural diplomacy that supports the development of international and intercultural relations, health, and wellbeing.
Professionals in dance arts are actively building international bridges and are engaged in collaborative research practices in the sustainable development process.
Dance arts practice is a holistic practice and can have an impact on health and wellbeing, enable communication where words are missing, support the development of sensory awareness, social-emotional responsiveness and encourage creative thinking.
The World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Office for Europe has analyzed evidence from over 900 global publications on art activities that seek to promote health and prevent ill health, as well as activities that manage and treat complex health challenges such as diabetes, obesity, and mental ill-health and support end-of-life care while considering the health and wellbeing in a broader societal and community context.
The WHO report from 2019 has concluded, that engaging with the arts can improve health – both mental and physical – making policy considerations for countries to include the arts in healthcare programs that common medical practice has so far been unable to address effectively.
Art contributes to creating a pleasant atmosphere for meetings, but can also deliver symbolic messages with critical content, widen perspectives and opportunities to meet, collaborate, unify in the diversity of expressions and find in common in complementarity.
Dance arts in a variety of its expressions and traditional forms is listed by the UNESCO International Cultural Heritage.
One of the most important pioneers of free dance in Europe in the 20th century (expressive dance) Austrian born dancer, pedagogue, and choreographer Rosalia Chladek who researched the causes and relationships of movement have developed her own technique known as the Chladek System, which has been included in the UNESCO list and is practiced and thought nowadays in Austria, Germany, Swiss, also in France.
Holistic dance practices and their potential to build resilience, and support health and wellbeing are nowadays increasingly raising the attention of dance professionals, but also of a wider public.
In this regard, the ACD-international Dance arts team consisting of professional dance artists, dance pedagogues, researchers, theorists, and choreographers, provides performance lectures and workshops for cross-generational practice in-house and online, connecting historical ties with the needs and interests of the contemporary society, culture, and diplomacy with somatic techniques for professionals, for daily self-practice and for community-based activities.
Some notes about dance arts from ACD-research and educational program
Dance Arts CD- Austria:
a legacy from Gertrud Bodenwieser
Austrian dancer and choreographer Gertrude Bodenwieser (1890 in Vienna- 1959 Sydney), worked from 1920 to 1928 on a contract basis and from 1928 to 1938 as a professor of dance at the Academy for Music and Performing Arts Vienna.
She was inspired by the works of Isadora Duncan and Ruth St. Denis. One of her greatest successes was "Demon Machine", a dance performance created in 1924, in which a group of dancers turned into machines.
After her first international successes (Grand Prix at the Riunione Internationale della Danza, she received further medals such as in Florence, 1931; Bronze medal at the Concours International de la Danse, Paris, 1932). Bodenwieser taught dance and gymnastics at the Max Reinhardt Seminar in Vienna from 1932 to 1934. In that year the Bodenwieser Group became the first modern European dance ensemble to be invited to tour Japan.
She used her tour in Japan in 1934 to promote Austrian culture by ending her dance repertory with the Viennese Waltz. Nevertheless, in 1938 the very successful choreographer and dance teacher of Jewish descent had to emigrate from Austria to Colombia, where she and her dance troupe came to Colombia as an exquisite attraction for the "high society". They danced at the "Presidential Ball" to which the new President Santos had invited when he took office. Viennese waltzes and peasant dances were very popular. In the 10 months of "dance" in Colombia, Gertrud Bodenwieser certainly contributed a great deal to making Vienna and Austria known.
Bodenwieser has settled in New Zealand and Australia
On her arrival in 1939, Bodenwieser was met by her main group which had just completed a tour in Australia. She gave recitals, opened a studio, and prepared a tour of the Australian capital cities for 1940. Her significance has been acknowledged in the establishment of the Bodenwieser Dance Centre and the Gertrud Bodenwieser Archives in Sydney, as in exile, Bodenwieser re-launched her dance company and became the founding mother of modern dance in Australia.
In 2016, Gertrud-Bodenwieser-Gasse in Vienna-Donaustadt (Seestadt Aspern) was named after her.
Nowadays, Bodenwieser´´s legacy is still honored and practiced by her former students in Australia, as well as by contemporary art professionals such as by German performance artist and researcher Jochen Roller, who has developed an online archive that documents the attempt to re-create the last dance drama „Errand into the Maze“ of Gertrud Bodenwieser from 1954: The Source Code.
The re-creation of „Errand into the Maze“ by Jochen Roller in 2014 aims to not only reconstruct the dance steps but to re-create the political, social, and cultural context of the piece. Together with four contemporary Australian choreographers, Jochen Roller brought back the 60-year-old choreography to a dance studio in Sydney. The group interacted with former members of the Bodenwieser dance group.
In 2017, Carol Brown, a student of the Bodenweiser dancer Shona Dunlop-McTavish, has recreated The Demon Machine for the Leap into the Modern symposium curated by Professor Rachel Fensham, University of Melbourne.
Dance Arts CD-USA
(May 11, 1894, Allegheny USA–April 1, 1991, NYC)
is considered the mother of modern dance.
She danced and choreographed for over seventy years and was the first dancer to ever perform at the White House, traveled abroad as a cultural ambassador, and received the highest civilian award of the USA: the Presidential Medal of freedom. In her lifetime she received honors, ranging from the Key to the City of Paris to Japan ́s Imperial Order of the Precious Crown. In 1998, TIME Magazine named her the “Dancer of the Century.”
M. Graham was inspired by mythology, for the creation of characters in her modern dance repertory.
In the early 1930s, she introduced several dances inspired by a visit to New Mexico, including Primitive Mysteries, Incantation, Dolorosa, and El Penitente. She was also influenced by Oriental theatre and had an ability to make dramatic use of stage props, often designed by art architect Isamu Noguchi.
Greek mythology dominated her works in the 1940s, then the American past (Frontier); Indian rituals (The Rite of Spring and Primitive Canticles), and Biblical tales (Embattled Garden).
She came increasingly to use the convention of dramatic flashbacks, telescoping time. In all these works, she offered a rigorously fresh interpretation - frequently related to the contemporary conflicts of women's lives.
The significance of Martha Graham dance art for international relations has been underlined through the Burmese Prime Minister U Nu's statement about Graham's visit in 1955:
"Of one thing I am sure, Miss Martha Graham's performance will find enthusiastic audiences here as I understand that her theatre is very close to the classical Greek
theatre which has many similar features to the Burmese theatre. . .
Artists like Miss Graham can very effectively contribute to the international goodwill and therefore they are a potent force for peace"
Martha Graham Dance Company ́s „Political Dance Project“
was created to review the pieces from the 1930s, when the world was in chaos from the deprivation of the Great Depression and the rise of Fascism in Europe, and has been reinterpreted for 2010 by adding spoken word and film clips. In the '30s, Graham choreographed American Document and Chronicles as her response to the political upheaval of the time.
„We are highlighting the era of the 1930s when the nascent art form of American modern dance was fueled by the political and social activism of the time,” says Company Artistic Director Janet Eilber.“ Modern dance took on the plight of the oppressed of all races and backgrounds. Dances were created as if ‘ripped from the headlines’ – with themes that aligned modern dance to the complex social concerns of the day including the financial crisis, civil rights, workers' rights, and the rise of fascism in Europe. The performances at The Joyce Theatre in NYC were created to explore the issues of that time and how they reverberate today in the ongoing dialogue about who we are as a nation.“
Dance as a spiritual practice:
Besides its other historical meanings, dance has been also recognized as an important spiritual experience:
Dance in Hinduism, for example, is a part of a sacred temple ritual, through the elaborate language of mime and gestures.
The Torah, the Psalms, and many other Scriptures also refer to dance:
For example in Ecclesiastes 3:4: „There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. Dance has been used by Jews for a long time as a medium for the expression of joy and other communal emotions.
The spiritual path of sacred dances can open space for interfaith dialogue and for the exchange of universal values in a variety of expressions.
on the pulse of time
The Table of Silence Project 9/11 was conceived by Jacqulyn Buglisi and Rossella Vasta as a "public tribute and ritual for peace"- a reaction to the September 11th terrorist attacks and the world that day created.
In 2007, Rosella Vasta created The Table of Silence as a traveling installation meant to inspire peace and unity within the international community. Vasta built a "sculptural table" consisting of 100 white plates, with the intention of reminding the viewer that we are all invited guests at the same table. Inspired by Vasta's work, Jacqulyn Buglisi, former principal dancer of the Martha Graham company choreographed The Table of Silence Project 9/11 in 2011 to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the attacks. This is the fourth year that Buglisi's piece has been performed at the Josie Robertson Plaza at Lincoln Center. The performing company consisted of over one hundred dancers of varying ages as well as students and performers from the Buglisi Dance Theatre, The Juilliard School, and The Ailey School. Each dancer held a white plate created by Vasta. The company was accompanied by three flutists (Andrea Ceccomori, Mariano Gil, and John Ragusa), two percussionists (Jeremy Smith and Sam Budish), and three vocalists (Amanda Baisinger, Gizelxanath, and Carla Lopez-Speziale). This initiative has been also hosted this summer in Italy. Ms. Buglisi shared her gratitude to all participants and supporters with the following words:
"We have achieved this awe-inspiring Ritual Performance because of the ardent commitment, love, positive energy, and generosity of spirit you brought each day, and I embrace all of you for your unwavering belief in peace through art. I hope you will continue to be a part of the Table of Silence and join us for future workshops and performances. Touching the earth... from the sole of our foot to the soul of the earth...
One step at a time, we shall change the world..."
One remarkable example of dancers as cultural ambassadors, founded by the program Dance Motion USA is delivered by the Battery dance company from NYC whose performances are characterized by choreography and music inspired by worldwide sources, reflecting American society and its multiplicity of cultures, and is committed to promoting socially relevant arts programs.
Since 1992, Battery Dance Company has facilitated a dynamic cultural exchange with international artists. In this context, the Company has organized over 10 U.S. tours by prominent performers from India; and in New York City, has hosted dance companies from Poland, Hungary, Finland, Slovakia, Bermuda, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia. Battery Dance Company has also hosted hundreds of individual international artists, providing access to the New York City arts community, training in arts management, and first-hand experience in American values and principles. Also, the Dancing to Connect program has been implemented in 25 countries and territories throughout the world since 2006. Battery Dance Company plans on expanding to 50 countries by 2017. The Dancing to Connect Program has been generously sponsored worldwide by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, African Regional Services, and dozens of U.S. Embassies and Consulates. Additional support has been provided by hundreds of corporations, NGOs, and international organizations on the local level.
Dance refers to physical activity that is fun and participatory and becomes more organized and structured as we move towards creativity, can empower individuals and help foster self-esteem, body-mind_spirit-integrity, and offers an avenue to learn skills such as (self)discipline, confidence, and leadership.
At the grassroots of community-level Dance can bring people together, while promoting respect, tolerance, and cooperation with others, even within concurrent positions, such as by competition festivals.
ACD-team supports the European Ballett Grand Prix which has been founded and created by our partners Simona Noja- Nebyla and Boris Nebyla through media promotion as an intercultural event.
Dance schools and companies across all continents are places where all generations can learn to share individual, national, and international cultural traditions, and learn about religions and myths from various countries. On becoming professionals, dancers learn to contextualize their dedicated practice for greater purposes.
Nowadays, the contemporary dance generation arises from technical development into more conceptual and experimental movement series.
Within the current debate in the field of international relations about the meaning and use of power in a variation of soft, hard, and smart power, dance arts can be understood as a bound of all three forces: soft in the nature of its influence potential, hard regarding the practices for the development of virtuosity and performing skills, smart in the art of influence through presentation and performance of values.
Politicians have recognized the potential of dance art education, as expressed in the speeches of the former US chancellor Mrs. Hillary Clinton's vision on dance education and „Smart power diplomacy“.
The symbolical character of dance arts correlates with the nature of the stage (political, social, cultural, art,...) and its purposes. For example, in the field of medical sciences and health care settings, dance arts practices can support mental health, widen physical abilities, and support recovery after injuries, at a cross-generational base.
Dance projects up to 2017
initiated and supported by ACD:
"Smiljana Mandukic- Gertrud Bodenwieser: Demonen.Machinen.Spuren.
Intercultural ties and inter(national) Dance Arts Heritage" for the Festival Koreografskih Minijatura 2017 in Belgrade, Serbia
Art4Orange Stille Post 25/11: preventing gender-based violence, supporting mental health and wellbeing, dance practice as a social and spiritual care practice
inTalks- blogs, webinars, interviews with dance professionals on Dance arts in the context of the current global discourses, such as C-19-responses, dance arts&health, dance arts UNESCO cultural heritage, a.o. topics
LiLa Dance workshops for professional dancers, musicians, and actors
All examples and thoughts on dance arts as a form of cultural diplomacy shared on this platform are rooted in my professional experience, long-term practical research, and project cooperation with fellows from Martha Graham Contemporary Dance School in NYC, teachers, and colleagues from Austria, Croatia, and beyond.
My dance arts practice has been always a part of life, at all life stages.
Interested in dance arts beyond its performative character on stage, I have tackled diverse scientific grounds, especially in social sciences and humanities. Ranging from Intercultural education and diplomatic negotiations, gender roles, performative identity, linguistic translations, and bodily movement, to dance arts as a form of cultural diplomacy and its potential for health&self-care,
my art projects with children, youth groups, professional dance students, and seniors have always been framed within some societal- or political context.
Such an approach is challenging and can limit the space for free, joyful dance experiences, but it can open a more diverse space for dance experience and enable participants to explore a deeper sense of movement and cognition, find their own path to dance as a societal practice and experience of elevation.
The experience of migration in my early 20-es during the war in my country has led me to reflect on my art practice as a tool for the creation of a safe space in which the world order can be re-constructed and re-shaped, or even destroyed, and re-built again, and again.
In my Dance&Poetry projects with youth groups who experienced war, violence within their families, or just came by interest to join the talk&movement sessions, we could share, and exchange our deepest emotional drama, concerns, and inspirations, visions, and also practices, which are helpful in challenging situations.
Recorded individual stories in their native language have been annually performed in the theatre.
Vienna Votivchurch became a place for more than a decade where I found my stage and could create a number of events with the Viennese international art community.
The thematic scope was ranging from intercultural relations, gender roles, interfaith, peace&conflict, to written works of women prophets and diplomatic relations through art.
International cooperations, such as with colleagues in Rio de Janeiro, in Villapiana, Italy, in Belgrade, in the Swiss, virtual inTalk sessions, reports from conferences, and lectures on dance as a form of cultural diplomacy are documented in ACD-Agency for Cultural Diplomacy media pages and can be reviewed as a base for further development of project partnerships.
UN Agenda 2030 and the 17 SDGs are the base and framework for the development of ACD-Dance Arts projects. Connect&act
 Jogan Shankar (2004). Devadasi Cult - A Sociological Analysis (Second Revised Edition). New Delhi - Ashish Publishing House
 Gagne, Robert, Kane, Thomas, VerEecke, Robert (1999). Introducing Dance In Christian Worship
 Landa, M. J. (1926). The Jew in Drama, p. 17. New York: Ktav Publishing House (1969). Each Jewish diasporic community developed its own dance traditions for wedding celebrations and other distinguished events.
 Rehm Rush. 1992. Greek Tragic Theatre. Theatre Production Studies ser. London and New York: Routledge
 Friedlander, Shems; Uzel, Nezih (1992). The Whirling Dervishes. SUNY Press.