The twentieth edition, and… well, how to sum it all up? Is there any magic power in the number of performances and names? Or is it rather in the number of spectators, foreign partners, or the hours spent in the rehearsal room? This special year, related to the jubilee, assumes a dive into the history of the festival. This year, we will give the stage mainly to Polish artists to weave a fragment of the history of dance from the archives of their memory. This is not the time of a big celebration, a revolving stage, hot names brought here straight from the Golden Lion gala in Venice. It is a time of modesty, concentration, looking at life in dance and our professional field – as it is. It is a year of affirmation of life, ordinary joy, awakening, and enduring. Sharing with what we have worked out, wondering what we can share.
Let us bring light out of darkness!
Please excuse me, my dear friends, but this editorial is going to be a bit different, more self-referential and personal. I have not travelled anywhere for the past 12 months, and before that I had always created the festival program on the plane or at the railway stations of big cities. I searched and made a fuss, dug around, and sniffed for novelties. I did all that so that you could see what the world’s greatest dance centers were showing at the time and so that I could admire myself for being the first – as the festival programmer – to discover the most current artistic comments on the world, politics, changes, problems we need to deal with as Westerners (or maybe Eastern Westerners?), on what hurts us, touches us, pisses us off, or captivates us. Sometimes they were aesthetic deliberations, sometimes provocative statements, but I always made sure that they were most recent and up-to-date. Those days are over, I no longer have to fly to work by plane. Like most of the world’s inhabitants, I experience peace and anxiety at the same time. I cannot make up my mind.
The C/U Festival is known for the performances of foreign artists. Over the years, it has built its recognition on presenting important trends of the world, and above all, the European dance scene. Although in recent years we have balanced the presence of foreign artists with productions of Polish artists, each time I was developing the leading theme of the subsequent edition, I was guided by big names. What does internationality mean today? For me, it’s building up knowledge about living together; sharing the experience of the process of meeting with oneself that every artist goes through in the face of the unforeseen destruction of the system to which he or she belonged. Today, thanks to my imprisonment within the country, I can take a deep and fresh look at the Polish dance scene and see how artists deal with everyday threats and menaces.
When I am writing this text, everything is closed again, but when I’ll finish, it may be open and then closed again … I prepare the program in the lockdown. Last year, we created the festival in the spirit of freedom, because everything was uncertain. Today – in conditions of captivity, because we have already learned the taste of the proposed illusion of freedom. Closed theaters, closed borders, a constant lack of systemic support for artists, new legal loops, new restrictions, a continuous process, incessant “maybe”.
Today I feel at peace that I no longer have to chase the novelties, impose, uphold, give the nods, bend, curse, contemplate – all to make this festival beget something. Today I feel very grateful that I can go through this time together with the C/U team and many other people who are experiencing the same emotions and undergoing a similar process of re-education, redefinition, revitalization, re-culturation, re-collection (in Latin recolligo means ” to collect or receive again, to regain “, in the reflexive form se recolligere means” to cool down, come to your senses “), that is, reconsidering and collecting anew what is mine, what is ours.
The last year, apart from numerous question marks, has brought an unforeseen wealth of opportunities, too. It has turned out that our imagination was provoked, and the expectation of doing things on a grand scale and going along beaten paths – successfully harnessed. This year has brutally revealed the unsustainable nature of what we used to call normality. We haven’t exhausted the opportunities it has shown us yet, but it is slowly opening up our weary minds. I want to get out of this narrow space of my mind. I need to express myself, so let us bring light out of darkness! Let us choose the celebration of LIFE! I choose LONG LIVE ME!
This is the main theme of this year’s big anniversary edition. The twentieth edition, not that it’s been twenty years, though. The fate of the festival was different and it had its ups and downs, probably like every other event organized not by an institution, but an NGO being at the mercy of the system. Back then, when the total slowdown and multi-stage hiccup of uncertainty were already taking place, there came the time to reflect on the “what am I doing here?” question. Where did this festival come from? Whose idea was it? Who brought it to life and raised it? The history of twenty-five years does not seem very distant, but time is running out quickly and with each passing year it distances us from the source and distorts our understanding of it. So I delve into the essence, the source of the festival. It may sound pathetic, or selfish, or not sexy, but I have come to the realization that… I just wanted to go on stage, I wanted to dance, I wanted to be admired, I wanted to make my life real, because otherwise, I didn’t exist. Yes, it’s true. I didn’t exist. A dancer, a stage artist is born in relation to the viewer. Back then, in 1995, the festival offered one of the few opportunities to go on stage. Today the situation is similar. The people of the dance have disappeared a bit, they have become invisible, anonymous, eliminated. Not by choice, but without a choice. This craving, the desire to go on stage, the hope to materialize the body and mind, is, therefore, the same today as mine twenty-five years ago. I understand perfectly this need to make it real. That is why I’m preparing this edition with great pleasure, connecting to it myself, also as an artist. I feel this hunger for going on stage, for self-determination, for strengthening the voice of the generation that started the revolution in dance after 1989; it was after it that it all started. Interestingly, the twentieth edition of C/U takes place again during the transition to an undefined new order.
the artistic director of C/U