Interview with dynamic dance duo Hanna and Heidi from H2Dance on Fest en Fest, curation and Nordic connections.

Amplified-Edition H2 Dance Img by Hanne Frostad Håkonsen

Interdisciplinary choreography duo Heidi Rustgaard and Hanna Gillgren, otherwise known as H2DANCE, are back with a second edition of their festival Fest en Fest. Fest en Fest is a festival of choreography, aiming to develop new connections and infrastructures across borders.

So, first of all, what is Fest en Fest and when can we see it?

Heidi Rustgaard and Hanna Gillgren: Fest en Fest is a new artist led festival for expanded choreography.  It is taking place the 5th February at Colchester Arts Centre, 7th to 9th February at Trinity Laban, Deptford London and 11th to 12th February at Cambridge Junction.

What do you mean when you say, ‘expanded choreography’ and what can we expect from Fest en Fest?

Heidi and Hanna: Today choreography is starting to define itself as its own field, separate from dance. This means that artists may not necessarily start their process from the body, but rather explore other material in their work such as costume, text, voice and song. For Fest en Fest, we have invited artists who’s practise in different ways are employing choreographic strategies to develop works, and some come from other disciplines than dance.

Fest en Fest wants to make space for artists and audiences to come together to present works and ideas; discuss, provoke, influence and be a force for change. Through performances, talks, lunches and parties, the event will have overlapping activities in and between a variety of in and outdoor spaces, becoming a network for interaction and connection. Expect to see some inventive, curious and new interdisciplinary pieces of live works.

Heidi Rustgaard and Hanna Gillgren
Heidi Rustgaard and Hanna Gillgren

That sounds really exciting, could you expand on what your curatorial aims for the festival were?

Heidi and Hanna: Fest en Fest aims to frame expanded choreographic practise. Through discursive and performance events in addition to social events such as parties, we want to create space for artists to come together and form a community. Inviting exciting artists from the Nordic countries and the UK, who work at the experimental end of choreographic practice, and have writing and discourse as part of their creative practice, the project looks at the overall choreography of a festival where the elements; the audience, the artists and the local community come together as main protagonists.

Within your choreographic work you deal with notions of hierarchy, how does this transfer to your curatorial work?

Heidi and Hanna: We have an ongoing fascination with meetings of differences, exploring ways in which we negotiate hierarchy, conformity, power and manipulation. We like to start our projects by inviting people of different backgrounds into workshops and conversations and have held a series of round table discussions over the last years to start to address some of the things we see as important, and to invite other artist’s views into the project. These encounters have influenced and informed the ideas of the festival. Fest en Fest never seeks to find a permanent structure but rather a constantly changing project that aims to respond to the needs of artists and address relevant concerns.

The second edition of Fest en Fest invites artists from Norway, Sweden and the UK who in different ways work with choreography, into a process that asks questions about aesthetic power structures, existing presenting models and hierarchies. Fest en Fest seeks to develop new strategies by asking the questions: Is the current festival, tour and production models still relevant and for whom? Who gets space and who becomes invisible?
The project aims to move away from an in-out model for presentation of works, and seeks to develop a new concept in the form of a choreographed event that goes away from the polished and marketable product, but opens up for experimentation and meetings between differences. We want to rethink the discussion element, and introduce free discursive lunches. Moving away from a “panel of experts”, we would like to create a space where everyone feels they can have a voice. The aim is to develop art production and presenting models based on need and relevance, where artists are actively involved in the process of who and what is shown.
The long-term goal of the project is to reveal structures that block, and to open up new and exciting potentials for artists and the field in general.

Fest En Fest Image by Rino Pucci
Fest En Fest Image by Rino Pucci

What is the significance of the partnerships for the festival, particularly the Nordic connection?
Heidi and Hanna: Being in a position where we work across boarders we wanted to look into ways for other artists to access opportunities in the UK and the Nordic Countries, something now even more urgent with Brexit looming.

We have worked between the Nordic countries and the UK for the last 20 years, and we feel that there are very little connections between UK and Nordic based choreographers in terms of co-productions, collaboration opportunities and meetings. We would like to initiate new working models, and ways of connecting artists that can stimulate discourse, exchange and more sustainable working conditions.

What excites you in the dance world at the moment and what would you change?

Heidi and Hanna: There is a shift in how artists practice, and people are rejecting the neo liberal model of product and in-out production to more sustainable slower and longer processes of work, where care and depth of connections is more relevant than ever. There is an apparent need for artists to come together in order to facilitate change and a more solid profile to gain more power and control over their working lives.

Fest en Fest is born from urgency after living and making work in the UK for a long time. We felt there is a need for creating a context for presenting experimental choreographic works in the UK, a need for creating space for artists to come together to talk about what we do and the conditions we work within and how they might affect processes and outcomes.

We wanted to create a local festival in a big city, with the aim of sharing resources and opening up institutions for artists. We would like to encourage more artist run initiatives and have artists involved in decision making on every level.