Once a month a group of arts lovers and dance fans get together to watch works-in-progress by choreographers at the Centre de Création Chorégraphique Luxembourgeois – known as Trois C-L. It’s a chance for the organisation’s resident dancemakers to test their ideas, receive feedback and establish a real dialogue with audiences. And for the spectators, it’s a unique opportunity to gain access into the creation process, the nuts and bolts of crafting work for the stage.
The event sees Trois C-L open its studios and rehearsal spaces to the general public, and also exhibits the work of filmmakers, photographers and other artists. ‘Many attendees are members of the general public who want to see more than just a piece on stage, but want to better understand what contemporary dance is and how it works,’ explains Trois C-L artistic director Bernard Baumgarten. ‘For professional [attendees], such as theatre directors, it’s an opportunity to discover work-in-progress and then perhaps be more inclined to support the artists. We try to bring the audience closer to the artist so there’s an exchange.’ The open house is one of the ways Trois C-L supports Luxembourg’s choreographers, cultivating a home-grown contemporary dance scene in the small country.
The centre’s three-strand approach includes a lifelong learning programme, which offers dancers and choreographers a free daily class. This provides technical skills training as well as a meeting point where artists can forge their own dance community. Secondly, dancers who are from Luxembourg or reside there can apply to use a studio at Trois C-L’s venue; these residents then showcase their ideas at the open house. Finally, the organisation has a commissioning and producing budget which supports the creation of new dance.
Finnish choreographer Anu Sistonen – who is based in Luxembourg – will stage her new work Flood at the city’s Grand Théâtre in June. A two-part work exploring the element of water, Flood incorporates video and live piano.
The Trois C-L ‘Boost’ scheme is an international exchange programme. ‘Every year we take one Luxembourg-based artist and send them around Europe to different residencies, to work there, discover new audiences and professionals – to give them a chance to develop their personal signature,’ says Baumgarten. ‘The artist has a group of three people around them to give feedback – a choreographer to analyse their work; a theorist to analyse their idea; and a director of a European [arts] centre who sees it from the audience’s point of view. These three people are in constant contact with the artist throughout the year, exchanging ideas and helping them develop work.’
The Boost artist for 2012-13 is Japanese-born choreographer Yuko Kominami. Her support team is made up of the writer Roland Huesca; Martine Dennewald, programmer/interim co-artistic director at Künstlerhaus Mousonturm in Frankfurt; and Arthur Staldi, co-director and choreographer from the Berlin-based LaborGras company and studio.
International exchange is certainly important for Trois C-L, but Baumgarten says the organisation’s central mission is to support artists from Luxembourg and the immediate surrounding region. ‘We have no history of contemporary dance in Luxembourg. We had to start from the bottom 15 years ago and really try to develop the scene.’
The country’s native dance artists moved away to study and work abroad. ‘Here in Luxembourg nothing happened,’ says Baumgarten. ‘So the government said, we have all these talents, let’s bring them back here, so we can make a dance scene here. That was the vision behind why we were formed in 1994. Our main goal is to develop choreographic abilities here in the country.’
Cultivating a healthy following for contemporary dance is also a key goal for Trois C-L. The organisation’s website has a page called ‘all the dance in Luxembourg’ – which gives users just that: listings of every contemporary dance performance the country has to offer.
‘We have many theatres here in Luxembourg which propose dance in different variations, from contemporary to classical. Until a few years ago, audiences were really closed to the dance world, to these international [visiting] companies. They enjoy what they see but were always just a passive audience. In parallel to that, we offer this opportunity to understand much more about the creation process, and I think that’s really what we add to what’s already happened here in Luxembourg.’
Luxembourg is a very wealthy, multi-cultural nation which attracts star performers and touring companies to its stages, but Baumgarten says the culture ministry is also supportive of contemporary dance and, crucially, its production at home. ‘I think there’s a very healthy balance between [supporting] international touring companies and national creation.’ The vast majority of the centre’s approximate €500,000 annual budget stems from government and city funding.
Yet despite the huge number of banks and major corporations that have offices in Luxembourg, Trois C-L attracts no private sponsorship whatsoever. ‘It’s very rare in Luxembourg and is more dedicated to big events like [at] the Philharmonie or Grand Théâtre,’ says Baumgarten. ‘Sponsorship from banks or international insurance companies – it’s difficult for us to get that money.
‘We are not really what they’re looking for because we’re creation-based, and support underground, young choreographers, most of whom don’t have an international reputation. And also we are not a theatre, so we can’t have a reception here for 100 people. We’re working studios. It’s difficult to offer them something. You know how it is, business is business, if I give you something, I need something back, and we can’t offer them anything.’