DANCEWEB STUDENTS IN THEIR SALONS
By Agnieszka Ryszkiewicz
What's going on there?
Is it a periodic gathering of people of social or
intellectual or artistic distinction? Yes.
Is it a place to exhibit works of art? Yes.
Is it a large room, used for receiving and entertaining guests? Yes.
It's a SALON!
Salons in the meaning of gatherings
are commonly associated with French literary and philosophical gatherings of
the 17th and 18th centuries. Men and women participated in formal and informal
discussion centered around a specific topic. The central preoccupation was
decided by the salonnière – the woman who ran the salon. Invited were those engaged in politics,
literature, art, business etc. This type of gathering was held initially in the
salonnière's bedroom and by the end of the
17th century was moved to the drawing room (salon in French). The
participants sought to increase their knowledge through conversation and
readings, often consciously following Horace's definition of the aims of
poetry, "to please and educate" (aut delectare aut prodesse est)[i].
It is a tradition that all
participants of the Danceweb programme once a week gather for a SALON. DD
Dorvillier, in the role of the salonnière
reassembles all her 67 grandparents and occasional guests on the 17th, 26th,
30th of July and the 10th of August. The first gathering was organized
according to the custom, at the salonnière's
home. The leading idea was to encourage the mixing of its participants coming
from different social backgrounds and sexes around both the issue and table of International Foods.
Each of the carefully chosen guests
(67 selected out of 1,100 applications) offers to bring to the Luftbadgasse
apartment a dish from his/her home country. Conversations are being engendered
over some African beans, the Israelian version of Knodels, American cookies or
smoked salmon. The wonderful hostess navigates smoothly around the bar
moderating the discussions and throwing jokes. As the evening advances, the
mixing intensifies, it becomes clear that tonight's meeting serves more to delectare (please) than to educate. A
journalist is there to report what is happening at this first semi-formal
gathering of contemporary "precieuses" or rather, using Jennifer Lacey's idea
of the figure of Assistantes – at the gathering of the "Precieuses(')
Assistantes".[ii] By and by, the Salon will smoothly migrate towards a
On Saturday, July 26, at noon, the
Volkstheater hosts a large group of young dancers, choreographers, writers and
other artists. The second salon is preceded by presentations of the
dancewebbers' own work and resembles an unofficial art vernissage. The initial
idea of that day's salonnière (in
this role now – Trajal Harrell) was to discuss the presented works.
Nevertheless, as the Danceweb Salon is rapidly getting famous, new guests
affluence and influence its form and content. Therefore the structure has to be
flexible enough to profit from and use the presence of its sublime guests. The
lonely journalist has been reinforced by a circle of young international
critics – the Critical Endeavour team – who are eager to present their
occupation and challenges they face within and outside of the frame of
ImPulsTanz. Three other guests introduce themselves as PAFists and insist on
displaying a slide show of PAF (Performing Arts Forum). They try to make the
Whereas the special guests present
some special effects, the regular corps of the salon – DD's grandparents – find
time to talk about the development of the Public Service Projects they have all
recently been working on. As previously, the hosts take the responsibility of
arranging and directing the discussions, of giving and withdrawing voice and
power from talker to talker. The second salon changes its shape from a
Viennese, low-key version of the Paris Salon into that of a discourse or
self-generating essay on contemporary art and related matters.
The third meeting happens at night.
DD Dorvillier, the 20th century Madame de Rambouillet, decides for a
strict structure of her salon. Digression: due to the noble Mme R., the salons
evolved in France into a practice that focused on and reflected enlightened
public opinion by encouraging the exchange of news and ideas. They functioned
as a great channel of communication. Therefore, why not try to turn the Arsenal
for one night into the Hôtel de Rambouillet?
Bringing focus on the importance of
communication and an efficient way of making information circulate, the salonnière proposes a system to satisfy
the needs of her guests. Today's salon is socio-political and is dedicated to
the presence of contemporary dance in different countries. As the 67 can hardly
consent on a common choice, the hosts organize their guests in 11 circles of 6,
and give each of the invited grandparents 10 minutes to talk. A whistle
ruthlessly announces the change of orator. A schoolish formula – maybe never to
be thought of in French 17th century artistic and intellectual circles – possibly. But the simplicity of the game proposed by DD Dorvillier and Trajal
Harrell has permitted some functional issues to arise. Residency spaces' names
are exchanged, websites noted down, prices and salaries compared, encouragement
and compassion shared, politicians condemned.
Exhausted but satisfied, all the
spokesmen of their countries regain their bicycles and drive to the lounge for
another gathering. Wondering about the different formulas proposed by the
coaches and put into life by themselves, the 67 go through, again and again,
possible definitions of the place where they found themselves right now. What
is this frame, these invitations to reflect, these musts to talk, these offers
of listening … Where are they and what status do they have?
Is it a bird?
Is it a plane?
Is it a twist?
A last salon is to come. A salon
that will seal 5 weeks of intense time of "pleasure and education". A salon
that some dream will maybe be a beauty salon …
[i] The conscious relation to Horace was proposed by Wikipedia
[ii] "Les Assistantes" by Jennifer Lacey
and Nadia Lauro
[iii] All information to be found on
(August 20, 2008)