Every festival needs a party. Juncture, the festival I’ve curated with and for Yorkshire Dance, will have a special one indeed – a karaoke party created especially for the festival by Live Art Bistro’s Adam Young. This is no accident – karaoke is a place where non-professional performers get on stage, perhaps jokingly copying a favourite star, showing off for friends, cringingly (or drunkenly) going along with it, or simply enjoying the feeling of singing and being watched.
The performances and films in Juncture are collected together because each of them involves the participation of non-professional dancers. Like our different ways of enjoying or enduring karaoke, each of the works is very different – from precise and delicate Assembly by Nicola Conibere, to sexy and determined Laura Laura by immigrants and animals, or from bold and nostalgic Wallflower by Quarantine, to joyous and confessional Dancing On My Own, a new film we’ve commissioned from Sara Lindström. I’m not interested in this work because of the things we have already been told thousands of times about non-professional dancers – things that fit neatly into funding applications and goody-two-shoes versions of what art is for. I’m not driven to give my energy to this work because it celebrates so-called “real people”, gives people “transformative experiences” or does some kind of “bringing together”. We know this work can do this sort of stuff. That’s all right. Great, even. But it’s not what I’m after.
I focus on this work because I think it is rad. I don’t mind that this word has the throwaway silliness of Saved by the Bell – humour and lightness are important. I do think that the work is radical, though, in the best and most ambitious sense – it destabilises norms, challenges ethics, demands more of thought and of action, responds to and ultimately breaks from what we think is absolute. I am optimistic about this work – I think these different connections between professional and non-professional act in the real world to confront our ideas about who is an amateur and who is an expert, and what those terms even mean. The practice demands we rethink what a professional is. It wants us to consider the values important in things we do as labour and those we do as leisure. The works make us question money and its flows. This practice makes me, perhaps makes us, think about who benefits from whose activity.
Bringing works like these together, despite the challenges of making it happen, has been hugely rewarding. Through the process I’ve come to see that what we’re doing is so, so rare. As far as we know, nobody has ever brought together so many works of this kind into one festival. This is a unique opportunity for us to think about some of the important and fascinating questions each of the works raises, alone and in relation to the others, and have a great knees-up, and even a singalong, as we go.
Juncture 2016, Yorkshire Dance’s festival of contemporary dance curated by Gillie Kleiman, is on 25-30 October at venues across Leeds. Full details can be found at juncturedance.com