Imagine a place where professional dancers can get new inspiration, a challenging training that makes them more versatile artists, and career advice. A place where, also, dance enthusiasts can attend events that provide practical and theoretical tools to help them understand dance on their own terms. Lastly, a place where emerging artists who have something to say are given the time and space to let their artistic minds flow freely.

This kind of space exists in Hamburg, Germany. The center for contemporary dance K3, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2017, strives to increase the visibility of dance in the city. It provides a broad spectrum of opportunities for professional artists and audiences alike to experience contemporary dance in all stages of the creative process. It is, metaphorically and architectonically, a house within the house of the venue Kampnagel.

Although they are synergistically connected, K3 operates autonomously within its own unique concept.

This concept involves three main pillars: professional training, outreach programs for dance enthusiasts, and artist residencies. Very well aware that all three fields are inseparably connected, K3 wants to give equal weight to process and product. This makes the K3 experience uniquely immersive for anyone who visits.

K3 Residence. Photo by Anja Beutler.

K3’s work is a role model for fostering dance in a holistic way. In our present times, everything happens so quickly and ends just as quickly. May it be interactions on social media, the plastic packaging of the bananas you just bought, or your new phone which is fabricated to break so you will have to spend money on a new one; few things are made to last in this world. The same goes for art. How often are artists forced to go for the most efficient and lucrative route, rather than the most inspiring one, simply because commercial and external success has become the first priority? Time has become one of the most precious resources in our digitalized Western world.

A place like K3, which creates a safe space for artistic ideas to thrive, flourish, and develop organically is crucial for the state of the art, and the state of the world.

So what does a professional dance artist living in Hamburg need in order to stay inspired and challenged?

The professional training portion of K3’s concept offers ongoing classes with different master teachers four times per week; masterclasses that are often held by artists who star in guest performances at Kampnagel; as well as various advice programs surrounding topics that go beyond the dance itself, such as project management, stage engineering, medical advice, or transitioning careers. This allows artists to grow and find their own way of balancing artistry and entrepreneurship.

The outreach programs for dance enthusiasts, on the other hand, are based on the idea of connecting physical and theoretical concepts while experiencing dance. One major difference between usual dance classes and the K3 program is that the worlds of the artists and audiences intersect at an earlier point, as the activities go beyond just classes.

Events such as Moving Heads – Talks on Choreography, in which audiences are invited to an open discourse about the artists’ works and practices, establish a fairly different foundation for dance enthusiasts. By including them in all stages of the artistic process, not just in the frame of the common post-show talk where audiences are usually presented with a finished product without knowing how it got there, people are able to have a very personal experience, they can feel a sense of self-empowerment, in which they can practice thinking about artistic work and development on their own, well-informed terms.

The third pillar of K3’s program is their eight-month artist residencies. Every year, three emerging choreographers, whose artistic efforts are promising a substantial impact are given the opportunity to explore specific ideas, methodologies, techniques, and issues, which ultimately results in a performance at the end.

Residenzchoreografen 2017. Photo by Thies Rätzke.

Current artist in residence Tian Rotteveel, who explores the interfaces of sound and movement, finds that this eight-month time frame has taken off some of the pressure that artists are prone to experience in shorter creation periods which are mostly focused on the final product. He feels he is able to put his ideas into the studio and then has the time to just look at them and reflect, which makes for a more enjoyable process. He stresses the importance of artistic research, and that it is as fundamental to our society as scientific research.

Performance artist Pavlos Kontouriotis, current artist in residence as well, expresses how valuable the personal support is that K3 offers the artists. He finds the interaction between the artists and K3 very motivating because even though there are high expectations from both sides, these expectations are not focused on commercial success, but rather on how much the artists challenge themselves to grow and use the time and space they are granted as wise as possible. It allows him to take distinct aspects of his work and merge them together in a way he has not done it before.

Hamburg choreographer Jenny Beyer, who took part in the very first residency program in 2007, states that this was a “luxurious opportunity” within which she has found methods that she is still using in her present creation processes. She describes that the initial concepts might change drastically within the process, which is an effect of having more time to reflect and rearrange than usual. The experience has empowered her both artistically and personally and has brought about an abundance of new opportunities after the residency was over.

The residence program gives artists the opportunity to take the initiative, and then have these efforts being matched,” from K3’s side. That’s how dramaturge Matthias Quabbe aptly describes the relationship between the artists and K3.

It is important to them that the residency is not just a one-time opportunity for the artists to research and apply ideas, but rather a seed that, after it is planted, enables them to further walk down their very own path and to be empowered on the long run. The mission of the K3 residencies is a statement about continuity and sustainability. So far, its concept is unique, but it does not have to be. In this world that is becoming more and more short-lived and hectic, it is important to stop and think. Art is a powerful tool to counter the issues of the world. We must be careful it stays like that and does not become absorbed into the consumeristic, outcome-oriented fast food society as well. K3 sets a remarkable example of how artists and art consumers can make a statement for a more mindful and smart approach to living and creating.

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